Flexibility boom presents security challenge

Embrace remote working but stay secure...

Embrace remote working but stay secure...

The promised benefits of greater productivity and a better work-life balance mean employers and employees alike are embracing more flexible methods of working but that enthusiasm to 'do it today' can increasingly be at odds with security concerns.

A lack of proper policy governing laptop use, the movement of data outside the organisation and the introduction of portable devices onto the corporate network are all problems created by a transitory workforce.

Access management specialist Citrix claims independent research out today shows almost unanimous support for the idea that flexible working will deliver greater productivity and a more motivated workforce, which in turn will lead to increased revenues.

But while that might be true, one security vendor has warned this burgeoning enthusiasm may lead to rushed implementations which ignore greater security threats.

Ross Paul, product manager international, at Websense, told silicon.com this clamour for mobile working, supported by analyst stats which show laptop sales now outstripping desktops, raises serious security concerns.

Paul said: "Most customers tell us their biggest threat comes from laptops", citing staff who use laptops as their home PC for games, chat and downloading, and then bring them into the office infected.

He said: "If employees are taking their laptops home and surfing the web in their own time they could have almost anything on there from Trojans to spyware to keyloggers.

"Any kind of infection on a PC requires remediation and remediation costs money. But perhaps even more worrying is those applications that can steal personal data and corporate information."

Companies who have spent years securing their perimeters are now in danger of undoing all their hard work if they don't put in place education and solutions for dealing with portable media and remote working, warned Paul.

However, Paul said he has spoken to many companies who are losing vast amounts of data every day from laptops which become infected outside the firewall but said they "only tend to respond once something bad has happened".

Interestingly, according to the Citrix findings, much of the opposition to remote working relates to the perceived death of 'the office culture' and the breakdown of teamwork rather than concerns over security.

Other respondents were more worried about a lack of motivation if they weren't under the watchful eye of their bosses.

But few on either side of the debate would argue that the principle of remote and flexible working isn't sound and to be embraced.

Stefan Sjöström, vice-president of EMEA at Citrix Systems said in a statement: "Employees and board level executives seem to be convinced of the benefits to their businesses and it should not be long before we see a more mainstream adoption of flexible working practices."