Pandemic work methods to linger on
Remote employment requires special security and technology considerations, writes Suchit Leesa-Nguansuk
In the post-pandemic world, remote work is likely to become normalised as businesses and employees familiarise themselves with working from home, gaining more confidence that the approach will not compromise workers' productivity.
The trend could decrease office rents and change work processes and technology. Many organisations are expected to ramp up cybersecurity protection to ensure remote work is trouble-free.
"The crisis has accelerated the adoption of video conference meetings," said Vatsun Thirapatarapong, managing director of Cisco Systems Thailand and Indochina. Cisco provides the WebEx video conferencing platform.
He said video conferencing would also receive a boost from a new Thai law that helps ensure the legality of e-meetings. With the legislation, there is no longer a requirement that a legal e-meeting have at least one-third of participants at the same place for a quorum.
To ensure smooth workflow, corporations need secure devices, collaboration tools, readiness among the digital workforce and technology to facilitate work processes, such as e-signatures and e-documents.
In March, Thailand's online meetings via Cisco's WebEx system reached 239,896, up 766% from February, the biggest jump in Asean. More people in Thailand engaged in e-meetings as employees worked from home.
The number of participants using the WebEx video conferencing platform surged 3,013% to over 1 million people from February to March.
Cisco has used video conferencing technology for nearly a decade and discovered employees can save an average of US$1,100 a year in travel expenses. The flexible working conditions make them 22% more likely to be engaged positively.
Mr Vatsun said the company is looking to serve large online conferences and virtual classrooms, as well as online training, which is gaining popularity as exhibitions and schools close.
Augmented reality and virtual reality technologies should be deployed more by businesses to improve the customer experience in getting to know products, he said.
Prinya Hom-anek, a cybersecurity expert, said after the pandemic, video conferencing will become a normal communication feature.
"Businesses need to think about how to secure remote meetings among workers," he said.
More security layers should be adopted, not just passwords, Mr Prinya said, as employees may need both a one-time password and mobile device management (MDM) software for authentication.
MDM is mostly used for sensitive data, such as for banks and critical missions.
"For confidential meetings, businesses should use enterprise-graded video conference solutions, rather than ordinary consumer-graded solutions that could be susceptible to attacks by hackers," he said.
Businesses should heighten security measurements, particularly to guard against data leaks, said Mr Prinya.
Tatchapol Poshaynonda, country director of Palo Alto Networks, an American cybersecurity company, said the firm's survey in Asia-Pacific shows 47% of respondents' biggest cybersecurity challenge is the lack of cybersecurity awareness among employees.
The company discovered recent phishing and malware scams have been using the pandemic as a way to reel in victims. Malicious emails had links with subjects about the coronavirus.
In the past few weeks, thousands of domains have been registered with words like "covid", "virus" or "corona". Mr Tatchapol said not all of these domains are malicious, but they should be treated as suspicious websites.
IT and business security news site Threatpost's survey of 500 readers in March shows 70% of respondents are new to remote working or working from home.
Some 75% said they were prepared to work from home and 20% indicated they are struggling.
The survey found 28% are extremely worried about cyber-attacks and 17% said security was not an issue at all.
According to the poll, end-user security awareness is the top concern among respondents (43%), followed by housing sensitive data off-premises (20%).
Mr Tatchapol said work from home measures require enhanced cybersecurity protection -- stepping up from physical security to full functionality of enterprise security in the cloud.
To do that, enterprises need people who are aware of security literacy, auditability processes and technology, he said.
Mr Tatchapol said organisations are expected to gear up for digital transformation, particularly e-commerce, logistics and e-money, after the pandemic subsides, so security investment should not be ignored.
Security measures will be embraced more in business continuity planning among companies facing business disruption as a result of the pandemic, he said.
From the first week of February, cybersecurity solution provider Kaspersky has warned the public of digital files, such as those with .pdf, .mp4 and .docx extensions, that are disguised to contain information about the coronavirus. In actuality, they contain security threats.
Analysts also warned about attacks by phishing emails containing information about the virus.
In Asia-Pacific, Kaspersky said it detected 93 coronavirus-related malware in Bangladesh, 53 in the Philippines, 40 in China, 23 in Vietnam, 22 in India and 20 in Malaysia.
Single-digit detections were reported in Singapore, Japan, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Myanmar and Thailand.
Kaspersky experts said security measures for video conferencing must be adopted both during meetings and in storing conference recordings.
Mark Risher, senior director for account security, identity and abuse at Google, said its security systems have detected a range of new online scams, including phishing emails disguised as messages from charities or NGOs in the fight against the pandemic, healthcare providers or office administrators.
"Our systems have also spotted malware-laden sites that pose as sign-in pages for popular social media accounts, health organisations and even official coronavirus maps," said Mr Risher.