Teleworking hits security barriers

The widespread uptake of working from home is being slowed down by concerns over security issues

Over 80 percent of companies now have staff who work from home on a regular or occasional basis, according to the latest research, but security is still seen as a major barrier to more widespread uptake.

A survey carried out by security specialist SonicWALL shows that 83 percent of companies now allow teleworking, with 43 percent having staff who access the company's network from home, usually via the Internet.

Big businesses are more likely to encourage the practice than their smaller cousins: home working is now prevalent in 98 percent of large companies (£20m or more turnover) compared with 91 percent of small-to-medium sized enterprises (£5-20m turnover) and 79 percent of small businesses (£1-5m turnover).

The perceived advantages of teleworking are reduced travelling time (mentioned by 61 percent of respondents to the survey), office space savings (39 percent), improved staff morale (37 percent) and improved productivity (26 percent).

More than half the respondents (51 percent) think working from home will become more common -- but a similar number (52 percent) said they were concerned about the security issues associated with allowing remote access to the corporate network.

Cost (44 percent) and security concerns (31 percent) were seen as the major barriers to allowing home working by those companies that do not yet allow remote access.

When it comes to the security measures put in place by those businesses which do allow it, almost three quarters said they review who is authorised to access the company's computers from home and just over a third (35 percent) check who else has access to the home worker's PC.

However, as many as 50 percent never perform this check and a quarter don't even examine the home worker's equipment before granting access.

When asked about security measures between the home PC and the company's computer networks, two per cent said they had no security measures at all. A significant majority said they rely on either virus checkers (85 percent) or firewalls (71 percent) for protection.

Other security measures were used less frequently. For example, fewer than half (44 percent) made sure the home PC employed content filtering while just one third said they used virtual private networking (VPN).

Harry Gostling, UK country manager for SonicWALL, said in a statement: "These results clearly show that there is much to do in helping businesses understand the Internet security risks and the range of security solutions available today. The fact that two thirds of British businesses are not encrypting their data via VPN technology should cause widespread concern."

The company polled managing directors, financial directors and other senior managers of 400 UK businesses with an annual turnover of between £1m and £100m.

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