Cisco: APAC companies seeing highest jump in cyber threat alerts globally during remote working

  • 69% of organizations in Asia Pacific experienced a 25% or more jump in cyber threats or alerts since the start of COVID-19
  • 54% of organizations across the region said they were only ‘somewhat’ prepared and 7% were not prepared to support remote working at the outset of COVID-19
  • For 85% of organizations, cybersecurity is now extremely important or more important than before


Organizations in Asia Pacific are seeing a big increase in the cybersecurity challenges they face amid the shift to mass remote working, a new study by Cisco shows. According to the study, 69% of organizations in the region have experienced a 25% or more jump in either cyber threats or alerts since the start of COVID-19, making it the region with the largest proportion of organizations to experience this increase globally. Six percent of organizations did not know if their cyber threats or alerts have increased or decreased, highlighting the scale of challenges that organizations are facing due to the abrupt and massive shift to remote working.


Cisco’s Future of Secure Remote Work Report revealed many Asia Pacific organizations were unprepared to make the accelerated transition to a remote workforce at the outset of COVID-19, with 54% of organizations only ‘somewhat’ prepared and 7% not prepared to support the transition.


The study is based on a survey of over 3,000 IT decision makers globally, including over 1,900 respondents across 13 Asia Pacific markets. It highlights the cybersecurity challenges companies faced as they shifted the majority of their employees to a remote working arrangement in a really short period of time.


With users connecting from outside the corporate walls, secure access – defined as the ability to verify identity and establish trust no matter how, where, or when users log in, is the top cybersecurity challenge faced by the largest proportion of Asia Pacific organizations (63%) when supporting remote workers. Other concerns raised by organizations include data privacy (59%) and maintaining control & enforcing policies (53%).  


“The challenges have shifted the goalposts around cybersecurity. As organizations transition to become cloud-first and remote-first, and employees expect to work from anywhere on any device, security needs to be the foundation behind the success of any digitalization effort. This means having visibility of the users, devices, and the corporate applications and data they are accessing, and a flexible yet holistic cybersecurity posture to protect users and businesses from the network, to the endpoint, to the cloud,” said Kerry Singleton, Managing Director, Cybersecurity, Asia Pacific, Japan and China, Cisco. 


Endpoints are a growing challenge for organizations to protect, as users connect from their home Wi-Fi or use their personal devices to connect to corporate applications.  Over one in two respondents stated that office laptops/desktops (58%) and personal devices (57%) posed a challenge to protect in a remote environment,  followed by cloud applications at 52%.


An opportunity to transform for the future 


One trend emerged in recent months is that a hybrid workplace – where employees move between working remotely and in the office – is the future. The findings of this study further underlined that. One-third (34%) of organizations in Asia Pacific said they expect more than half of their workforce to continue working remotely post-pandemic. This compares to an average of just 19% of organizations with more than half of their workforce working remotely before the pandemic.  


For Thailand, there has been a drastic increase in the proportion of organizations that are expecting more than half of their workforce to be working remotely to 42% after COVID-19 which accelerated digital transformation across industries. However, there is still a high lack of employee awareness/ education with 71% of Thai organizations saying it was a challenge faced in reinforcing cybersecurity protocols for remote working. On a more positive note, 61% of organizations indicated that the COVID-19 situation will result in an increase in future cybersecurity investments and cybersecurity has become a top priority. The report highlights that to succeed in the post-COVID-19 era, organizations must rethink their strategies and offerings to accommodate a new security landscape for the future of work.


Taveewat Chantaraseno, Country Manager (interim), Thailand and Indochina Cisco Systems (Thailand) Limited added, “Security and privacy are among the most significant social and economic issues of our lifetime. With this new way of working here to stay and Thai organizations looking to increase their investment in cybersecurity, there is a unique opportunity to transform the way we approach security as an industry to better meet the needs of our customers and end-users.”

With users connecting remotely, the top cybersecurity challenge faced by most Thai organisations is secure access(78%). Other concerns raised by organizations in Thailand include verifying identity (65%) and maintaining control and enforcement policies (63%). Endpoint protection is the main challenge for organizations to protect, with 69% of respondents stating that personal devices are a challenge to protect in a remote environment. This is followed by cloud applications at 63%, office laptops/desktops at 58% and customer information at 51%.


The good news is that as businesses prepare for this hybrid workplace, cybersecurity now tops corporate priorities, with 85% of organizations in Asia Pacific saying that cybersecurity is extremely important or more important than before the pandemic. What is even better is that they are translating this into concrete action. The study highlights that 70% of organizations in the region plan to increase their future investment in cybersecurity due to COVID-19. This is the highest number globally, compared to 68% in the Americas and 52% in Europe.  


There are still challenges, though, that need to be addressed. While almost all (97%) organizations have made changes to their cybersecurity policies to support remote working, further education and culture change is needed. According to the study, 61% of Asia Pacific organizations said that a lack of employee education and awareness was the biggest challenge faced in reinforcing cybersecurity protocols for remote working, followed by having too many tools/solutions to manage (53%).