Endpoint Security

May 6, 2020

min read

The Next Normal Is Emerging

If there’s one thing the coronavirus pandemic has brought to light, it’s the essential role mobile technology plays in the world. As we look past the current shelter-in-place measures, a “new normal” is expected to emerge where more of us work remotely most of the time or even all the time.

Last year, Lookout took a bold step to reduce our office space in San Francisco as more of our employees chose to work from home. I'd like to think we were visionaries, but we were just following common sense. We were maintaining thousands of square feet of the world's most expensive office space with a dedicated workstation for every employee. On any given day, however, only 50-60% of employees would show up while the rest worked from home or were on business travel. It became hard to justify this expense given the low utilization. Instead, we downsized to half the space and installed fewer flexible workstations, many of which can be shared by those who come in only occasionally. While this may have been a progressive idea just a few months ago, “flex-space” is expected to become the new normal.

The pandemic experience has shown companies they can operate effectively with virtually no footprint. In turn, many of the tech executives I talk to are planning to scale back on real estate now that work from home has shown positive results.

In fact, a recent (March 30, 2020) Gartner, Inc. survey of 317 CFOs and Finance leaders revealed that 74% intend to move at least 5% of their previously on-site workforce to permanently remote positions post-COVID 19.* The economic impact of the pandemic has put pressure on companies to find ways to trim costs. And they’ve realized the positive effects of having a remote workforce.

Source: Gartner (April, 2020)

But this shift also has cybersecurity implications. Having employees working from home means they’re relying more on mobile devices for day-to-day productivity and accessing data outside the protective perimeter of the corporate office.

Attackers have already started to exploit remote workers even before the pandemic. Through 2019, we observed a consistent uptick of mobile threat encounters. Phishing attacks targeted at enterprise mobile users world wide grew from five percent to almost 16 percent. On personal-only devices, the encounter rate is three times higher. And now with everybody working from home and using mobile devices to stay productive, the rate of mobile-specific attacks will only accelerate in 2020. Our threat research team has already found two major surveillanceware campaigns that are exploiting the coronavirus crisis to deliver malware.

The trend of employees choosing to work from home has been going on for a number of years thanks to the adoption of cloud technology and mobile devices. But digital transformation timelines have been exponentially accelerated by this pandemic-driven shift to a remote workforce. Businesses are now realizing that they can continue to operate normally even when their entire workforce is away from the office. With an economic recovery still weeks or months away, it’s only natural that corporate leaders are looking to remote work as a way to cut costs.

To read more about a pragmatic approach to embrace a remote workforce, read this piece by David Richardson, vice president of product here at Lookout.

*Gartner Press Release, “Gartner CFO Survey Reveals 74% Intend to Shift Some Employees to Remote Work Permanently,” April 3, 2020.