Remote workers present 'security risk,' IT execs fear

Trepidation comes despite pressure to open corporate networks to remote workers and a range of external "outsiders"
  • Leo King (Computerworld UK)
  • 13 March, 2008 09:20

IT executives fear there is a growing security risk from remote workers.

But they are still coming under pressure to open corporate networks to remote workers and a range of external "outsiders", a survey by policy networking software firm AEP Networks has revealed.

Ninety-one per cent of the 381 UK and North American IT executives polled admitted there was a bigger risk of sensitive data being exposed to "unauthorized eyes" when networks were made accessible to remote workers and external users such as contractors, partners and customers.

Eighty nine percent highlighted the greater threat of malicious content such as viruses because of wider network accessibility and 85 per cent noted the increased possibility of hacking.

But opening up networks was fast becoming an inevitability, executives said. 97 per cent said today's networks were more accessible to a variety of internal and external users and devices than five years ago, and 94 per cent either already allowed or planned to allow access to remote workers.

A large number also permit or plan to permit access to suppliers, customers, company guests, outsourced workers, contract staff, and external IT support and maintenance.

"On the one hand, IT is rightly under pressure to open the network door to partners, suppliers and customers to improve efficiency and enhance business processes," explained Reginald Best, chief operating officer at AEP Networks. "On the flip-side, they're sweating over how to prevent unauthorized access, protect company information and deflect malicious attacks."

IT security budgets are increasing in specific areas over the next 12 months, the survey revealed. 48 per cent of respondents said their business would invest in secure remote access, 41 per cent in network access control, 37 per cent in identity-based network security solutions and 35 per cent in encryption. Best said it was important that companies also developed policies to regulate network access.

"It effectively allows you to 'shut the network door' to anything that appears undesirable," he concluded.