As lockdown measures tighten once more, many organisations are considering a future where workers may never fully return to the office. 

The COVID-19 crisis hit suddenly and with little warning. As a result, many businesses made the transition to working from home suddenly, without remote working policies and little real guidance for their employees. 

There’s no doubt these hybrid home-office workplaces bring challenges when it comes to privacy and security. But with such a rapid transition, do we understand exactly what those risks are?

The Research

CyberSmart is looking for the answer. Starting this week, we’ll be putting our expertise in SME cybersecurity to good use. We’re joining a research group examining the risks to trust, identity, privacy and security in new work environments as a result of COVID-19.

The three-month project is part of SPRITE+, a consortium funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. The project was one of several selected for funding through a SPRITE ‘sandpit’. It aims to bring together industry experts and academics involved in research, practice, and digital policy. 

Why is CyberSmart getting involved? 

Many SMEs are struggling to protect their people and operations in our changing world. So we’ve chosen this project because of its relevance to our customers. We hope it’ll help us better understand new risks and develop the strategies to counter them. 

As our own Ben Koppelman, CyberSmart’s Head of Research and Innovation put it:

“This is important research for CyberSmart to be involved with. We want to provide an evidence-based approach to understand what new security risks have emerged due to the dramatic shift to home working.  And we want to explore the new measures taken to manage these risks.”

We’ll also be looking at how businesses can balance the security of the company with the private lives of employees. Ben added, “We want to know if employers are placing new security demands on their employees and if these demands create tensions with employees’ privacy needs.” 

The project group, made of academics from four different universities and two industry experts, will begin with a literature review. We’ll follow this up by gathering evidence directly from organisations and their employees. To gain a picture of the whole economy, we won’t just be focusing on SMEs. We’ll try to compare how home working has affected both large and small enterprises.

The academics will take the reins on research. However, we’ll offer support as an industry partner, provide access to SMEs, and contribute to the risk analysis. 

Looking to the horizon

The project is part of our horizon scanning work. We’ve been hard at work behind the scenes to better understand how COVID-19 is impacting digital transformation. In time, this research will inform our own innovation plans. But, more importantly, it’ll help us offer new security guidance to our customers. 

Are you looking to improve cybersecurity but not sure where to begin? Start by getting certified in Cyber Essentials, the UK government scheme that covers all the fundamentals of cyber hygiene.

 

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