Hidden dangers of the modern day remote worker

It is a jungle out there, particularly now that millions of employees work remotely, placing new demands on their organisations' IT infrastructure and often albeit unknowingly, posing a threat to security every day.

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A recent analyst study from Forrester Research indicates that within three years, there will be over one billion remote workers worldwide, so the problems of secure, fast, and reliable remote access will only escalate.

From a remote worker perspective, up-to-the-minute information is the life blood of their jobs. Regardless of whether they are at home in Watford or working from a café in Stockholm, speed, performance and dependability are vital for them to successfully do their work.

However, from an IT department’s perspective, they must support the needs of all employees while diligently maintaining security policies. This is becoming increasingly challenging now that the majority of the workforce has stepped beyond the corporate environment.

As a result of this change, there are many problematic issues that the remote user faces on a daily basis, but just what are they and what can be done to provide fast and secure remote access?

The day-to-day troubles for the remote worker

A remote worker, who happens to be a senior VP for a large organisation, is sitting at an airport waiting for his flight. Unfortunately, it’s delayed, nothing new there then, so he uses the airport’s WiFi to check on the status of the accounts he is about to visit. He tries to access his company’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) application, but it’s moving so slowly he’s sure there is a problem with the system. He gives up on ERP and tries to access sales force automation (SFA) and customer relationship management (CRM) and experiences the same problems.

He phones the IT help desk, waits for someone to pick-up, and they tell him the systems are fine. That’s not what he is seeing, but what can he do?

What's more, because of his company’s security policies, he is not able to use his laptop. So he then arrives to his meeting only to find himself having to use the PC in the client’s conference room, not exactly ideal.

Understandably, he’s still not comfortable accessing his company’s systems from his client’s computer, although he has no choice as otherwise he risks disappointing the client.

It’s not an uncommon scenario, but it graphically illustrates the need for reliable and quick performance when accessing the company’s web-based applications or file shares from outside the office. However, performance is not the only issue. There are also numerous security threats that the remote worker is open to often without the IT department having visibility of what they are or where they are coming in from.

There are many security threats that lurk in seemingly “safe” and well-known web sites. For example, an employee could have remote access to business critical applications from five different access points – none of them are owned or secured by his company.

Without the proper processes and policies in place, the employee could repeatedly expose the organisations systems and laptop to security risks such as malware, Trojans, botnets and phishing attacks, not to mention jeopardising their own identity. The rising popularity of Web 2.0 applications such as LinkedIn and Twitter also further compounds the risk of exposure.

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