It’s fair to say that none of us were prepared for 2020. The events which have taken the world by storm have resulted in dramatic changes to almost every aspect of our lives, from leisure and socialising through to work and study. For businesses, it’s been an especially challenging time, with those which were yet to embrace digitisation left scrambling to catch up as the world moved online.

Firms which had budgeted their IT expenditure based on last year’s priorities now found themselves faced with additional unavoidable expense. And, along with the move to digitised interactions with clients and colleagues alike, IT security needs have also evolved. As we now try to navigate safely into the New Year, it’s a good time to reflect on some of the key security issues which have been brought to light.

An overnight transition

The move to remote working has long been touted as an objective for many organisations, with many benefits cited. However, the sudden need to get staff working outside of the office saw many businesses wholly unprepared for the new security measures required. The widespread use of personal and mobile devices meant that security packages needed to recognise the practices of a remote workforce, with ensuring secure network access becoming a priority.

Scalable software solutions were needed fast, to avoid the use of untested software by employees at home. For organisations with customer service departments taking payments over the telephone, maintaining compliance through security measures became paramount, with new services required to extend these protocols now that staff were away from their call centres.

New priorities for a new age

The current IT security trends focus on the specific challenges created by the pandemic situation, and include end-user security training, multi-factor authentication, as well as vulnerability management, identity and access management and disaster recovery. These trends reflect the growth in remote working, and a recognition that educating team members has a vital part to play in keeping businesses cyber secure.

Access and authentication become critical when employees are working in different locations and using different devices. Such measures can be compounded with tools such as software that enables remote data removal, an invaluable addition to the armoury as it removes the threat of a breach should an employee be burgled or leave their laptop on the train.

Ransomware is also a burgeoning threat and organisations are becoming increasingly aware that specific security measures are needed to protect themselves. With this year seeing a reported 139% increase in ransomware attacks in the US alone, it’s clearly a threat that needs to be addressed. In addition to the investments in staff security training, further measures such as detection software are key, alongside regular system backups and network segmentation with dynamic access control. Indeed, Manchester United Football Club credits its ransomware protection measures as the reason it avoided a major data breach following the ransomware attack in November.

New year, new developments

As we look ahead now to 2021, there seem to be positives to draw from our experiences this year. CIOs are likely to see more boardroom recognition of the necessity of expenditure on security measures, and the protocols already invested in this year should help provide a solid foundation for creating a holistic cyber security environment.

Meanwhile, new technological developments could play an important role in offering all of us a more secure cyber environment. Advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning are making security software more agile and intuitive than ever before, and the increasing prevalence of cloud systems can offer excellent security benefits, when managed correctly. It’s a good time to review how security lessons learned this year can help guide us all to a flourishing future.