Tanium, the provider of unified endpoint management and security built for the world's most demanding IT environments, recently announced the results of a survey of 250 US CXOs revealing the ongoing effects of COVID-19 on enterprises and government organizations. Even as 85 percent of IT leaders surveyed said they experienced an increase in cyberattacks due to the pandemic, an even greater number––86 percent––said they were forced to delay security projects in order to manage the transition to remote work.
The study—which polled executives from across the United States—focused on how organizations are adapting to distributed working and how they are planning for the next “new normal” once the pandemic recedes.
COVID-19 exposed enterprise security gaps
One key finding of the study was the contrast in how prepared leaders felt for the shift to remote work pre- and post-transition. While 88 percent said that they felt ready to shift to a fully remote workforce, almost all––96 percent––said they were caught off guard by the security challenges they faced within the first two months. The top three challenges were: increased security risks from video conferencing (26 percent), identifying new personal computing devices (22 percent), and overwhelmed IT capacity due to VPN requirements (22 percent).
Rising cyberattack volumes compounded enterprise security management challenges. As threat actors sought to cash-in on the disruption, 85 percent of IT leaders said they saw an uptick in attacks due to the pandemic. The most common of these were attacks involving data exposure (43 percent), business email or transaction fraud (35 percent), and distributed/denial-of-service attacks (DDoS) (32 percent).
Storing up problems for later
But even as cyberattacks increased and post-compromise activity spiked––signaling the existence of critical security gaps prior to the pandemic––nearly all of the executives surveyed said they had to delay or cancel planned security projects. Identity and asset management (41 percent) and security strategy (40 percent) were the top areas where leaders had to cancel or delay projects as a result of workforce distribution efforts.
Organizations also reported that patching was a particular challenge, in part due to VPN failings: 39 percent of CXOs had trouble patching or maintaining patches during COVID-19. More than a quarter (29 percent) admitted to effectively side-lining this crucial IT security best practice at a time when Microsoft alone released 100+ fixes in successive Patch Tuesdays.
Visibility and control will play a central role in the new reality
With most (76 percent) respondents believing the negative impacts of the global pandemic will last for several months to come, thoughts are now turning to how they can securely transition to a more permanent flexible work model––and there are significant challenges.
Respondents were concerned that home IT, or BYOD, would be difficult to implement long-term for multiple reasons, including compliance regulations (23 percent), managing cybersecurity risks (22 percent), and balancing cyber risk with employee privacy (20 percent). For many, the challenges posed by BYOD are so great that 44 percent of respondents said they would prohibit personal devices entirely when employees return to work.
For these reasons, respondents overwhelmingly identify security as a top priority in the months to come. Sixty-five percent of respondents said they will make cybersecurity their number one priority for remote work going forward. In order to reduce risk when returning to work on-site, 50 percent of respondents plan to invest in endpoint management tools to improve visibility of IT assets, and 49 percent plan to make improvements to patch management processes.
“The almost overnight transition to remote work forced changes for which many organizations were unprepared,” said Chris Hodson, Chief Information Security Officer at Tanium. “It may have started with saturated VPN links and a struggle to remotely patch thousands of endpoints, but the rise in cyberattacks and critical vulnerabilities has made it apparent that we’re still far from an effective strategy for the new IT reality. Whether companies choose to permanently move their operations, return employees to the office, or some combination of both, it’s clear that the edge is now distributed. IT leaders need to incorporate resilience into their distributed workforce infrastructure. A key part of this is making sure organizations have visibility of computing devices in their IT environment,” added Hodson.
Tanium commissioned independent market research specialist Censuswide to conduct the research upon which this report is based. A total of 251 CXOs and Vice Presidents were surveyed in June 2020 across the United States. The respondents were from organizations with at least 1,000 employees internationally and could be from any sector.
Tanium offers a unified endpoint management and security platform that is built for the world's most demanding IT environments. Many of the world’s largest and most sophisticated organizations, including nearly half of the Fortune 100, top retailers and financial institutions, and the six branches of the US Armed Forces rely on Tanium to make confident decisions, operate efficiently and effectively, and remain resilient against disruption. Tanium ranks 7th on the Forbes list of “Top 100 Private Companies in Cloud Computing” for 2019 and 10th on FORTUNE’s list of the “100 Best Medium Workplaces.” Visit us at www.tanium.com and follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.