Training, Security Staff Acquisition & Development

Younger remote workers see security as a hindrance

A person wearing a protective mask uses a laptop computer in Bryant Park on March 23, 2021, in New York City. Cybercriminals have taken advantage of remote-based employees who spend much of their time accessing cloud-based work applications to distribute malware via a technique known as HTML smuggling. (Cindy Ord/Getty Images)

The hybrid workplace model that many organizations undertook during the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t going away anytime soon. 

According to an HP Wolf Security report from May, 23% of office workers worldwide are expected to predominantly work from home post-pandemic, with an additional 16% expecting to split their time equally between home and the office.

But another report from HP Wolf Security, released Thursday, looks at the relationship between workers and security teams as organizations shifted to the hybrid model. It isn’t pretty, especially with workers between the ages of 18-24. 

Nearly half of those surveyed in the age group (48%) — the future of the workforce, as the study noted — viewed security policies as a hindrance. More than half of the 18- to 24-year olds, 54%, were more worried about deadlines than exposing the business to a data breach, and 39% were unsure what their organizations’ data security policies were. Nearly a third of this cohort, 31%, had tried to circumvent security measures.

“If security is too cumbersome and weighs people down, then people will find a way around it. Instead, security should fit as much as possible into existing working patterns and flows, with technology that is unobtrusive, secure-by-design and user-intuitive,” Ian Pratt, HP’s global head of security for personal systems, said on the HP Wolf Security blog. “Ultimately, we need to make it as easy to work securely as it is to work insecurely, and we can do this by building security into systems from the ground up.” 

The study, aptly titled “Rebellions and Rejections,” draws on data from a global YouGov online survey of 8,443 office workers who shifted to remote work during the pandemic and a global survey of 1,100 IT decision makers, conducted by Toluna.

The negative views weren't one-sided, either, with 80% of IT teams saying they experienced pushback and an equal 80% saying security has become a “thankless task.” 

A whopping 91% of IT teams responded that they felt pressured to compromise security for business continuity, and 76% said security took a back seat to continuity during the pandemic. More than 8 in 10, or 83%, in this group said work from home has become a “ticking time bomb” for a network breach.

The study’s authors with HP Wolf Security recommended reducing user friction by implementing security controls with transparency, usability and digital transformation in mind.

“To create a more collaborative security culture, we must engage and educate employees on the growing cybersecurity risks, while IT teams need to better understand how security impacts workflows and productivity,” Joanna Burkey, HP’s chief information security officer, said in the blog posting. “From here, security needs to be reevaluated based on the needs of both the business and the hybrid worker.” 

Stephen Weigand

Stephen Weigand is managing editor and production manager for SC Media. He has worked for news media in Washington, D.C., covering military and defense issues, as well as federal IT. He is based in the Seattle area.

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