Aug 5, 2021 - Technology

How remote work raises the risks of cyberattacks

Illustration of a coffee mug being attacked by cursors.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The pandemic-driven shift to remote work has been accompanied by a rise in cyberattacks on corporations — and that's not a coincidence.

Why it matters: Cyberattacks can cost companies millions and the broader economy billions. With remote work likely to stay — especially with the surging Delta variant — companies need to prioritize and retool cyberdefense for a more distributed working world.

By the numbers: Between 2019 and 2020, ransomware cyberattacks rose 62% worldwide and 158% in North America, according to a recent report by the cybersecurity firm SonicWall.

  • The FBI saw cyberattack complaints rise nearly 20% between 2019 and 2020, while the collective cost of ransomware attacks reported to the bureau rose more than 200% in 2020 to roughly $29.1 million.

The big picture: There are a number of factors behind the ransomware wave, including the rising value of cryptocurrency, but "it's not a coincidence that there are never-before-seen amounts of ransomware attacks happening exactly as shutdowns forced people to go remote," says Paul Martini, CEO of the cloud cybersecurity company iboss.

Between the lines: By one estimate, almost 90% of cyberattacks are caused by human error, often non-IT employees who unintentionally expose their company to bad actors.

  • When employees primarily worked in the office, IT departments could build a fortress that could protect workers — and the data they needed — from themselves.
  • "But now that they're working from home, they're connected to a highly untrusted network," says Martini. "This fortress and this technology [IT departments] have built to scan data is completely irrelevant because the data is not going through that equipment."

What to watch: Cybersecurity startups have benefited from the rise in concern, pulling in more than $12.2 billion in funding in 2021 so far, already more than double what was raised in all of 2016.

  • Martini argues that since cloud computing undergirds remote work, companies need to take a cloud approach to cyberdefense, to ensure that security can follow data wherever it goes.
The future of work is not remote. The future of work is everywhere — and security has to be too.
— Paul Martini, iboss
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