Guarding critical data when employees WFH

Issue 4 2021 Access Control & Identity Management

To say that the Covid-19 pandemic has changed the face of business forever would be the under-statement of the century. As a result of this pandemic, working-from-home scenarios have increased dramatically. Don’t leave this page just yet, this is not so much about ‘remote working’ as it is about the sheer volume of people and businesses that have been affected by these changes.

Claude Langley.

While countless organisations across various industries had been practising working-from-home scenarios long before the pandemic struck, other organisations were forced into taking this drastic step. Not only did they have to ensure the physical health and safety of their employees amidst the spreading of FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt), secure their working environments by buying masks, a variety of new hand soaps, sanitisers, temperature meters and all the other pandemic-paraphernalia, but most organisations were also scrambling to try and ensure business continuity. This meant making plans and putting new processes in place to ensure that the business could continue as smoothly and normally as possible. For many this meant putting employees on rotating shifts, buying and setting up home-offices and serious headaches for their IT teams.

Also, don’t forget about PoPIA (South Africa’s new Protection of Personal Information Act). The implementation of this act could only add to the headaches (and heartaches, I am sure, for many) IT and security teams at organisations across the country had to burn the midnight oil to ensure that those employees who (depending, of course, if the position allows for it) were able to, could work from home and business could (nearly) continue as normal.

In the meantime, another lockdown struck us with a potential further one at the end of the year. More businesses and employees have turned to permanently working from home. Just when the dust started to settle and the ‘new normal’ started to feel like it has always been the norm, the country was literally and figuratively on fire during the recent looting and political unrest and even more employees and businesses were directly affected.

Businesses leaders now know that this pandemic is not going to go away any time soon. So typical of our passionate South African culture, most have taken pro-active steps to ensure that their employees can work from home amidst the chaos. In fact, a recent study highlighted that South Africa has emerged as one of the countries that would embrace fully remote work, with 44% saying they’d like to continue working fully remotely, compared to the global average of 24%. Around 38% of the country’s active workforce is now able to work from home, compared to the mere 4% before the pandemic. Employers estimate that 33% of their employees would still be working from home in three years’ time.

However, this ‘new normal’ brings it owns headaches and challenges. Employees working from home and being efficient is one thing – employees working from home with access to critical and sensitive data, posing potential security risks, can unfortunately open Pandora’s box.

While most of our country’s businesses have taken steps to put policies in place to ensure the safety and security of data, many continue to rely only on passwords. Although passwords continue to be a crucial element of living in a modern world to help protect our identities, they often come with a level of frustration, since our increasingly connected and digital world requires remembering countless passwords for different systems.

As 40% of professionals in South Africa have expressed their desire to move to full-time remote working, with a further 27% wanting at least 50% remote working this year, it is possible for businesses to implement solutions that will allow those employees working on digital devices outside of the safety of the traditional office environment, to have a single-sign-on (SSO) solution, which supports password-less authentication. Employees can authenticate their identities with the touch of a finger as biometric fingerprint readers can be employed to validate employees’ fingerprints and offer an end-to-end solution to transform how organisations protect their digital integrity.

The past year and a half has taught us many hard lessons. We have changed our way of life to suit the needs of the evolving global community. We must embrace these changes if we are to prosper in our new world and find new ways of ensuring our digital freedom and security.


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