Cybersecurity professionals deserve a pat on the back

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All the heroes that have gone above and beyond the call of duty during the COVID-19 pandemic are too numerous to count. From medical professionals to the people that showed up every day for work in a grocery store, the debt of gratitude owed is beyond measure.

However, there are also millions of IT and cybersecurity professionals that have made countless unseen sacrifices to keep businesses running and, just as importantly, keep people at home. They may have not put their lives on the line, but they have risen to the current challenge in a way that required an amazing amount of fortitude.

A survey of 256 cybersecurity professionals published by (ISC)², a non-profit association for cybersecurity professionals, provides some insight into the challenging times we all live in now.

A full 81 percent of cybersecurity professionals said their job function has changed during the COVID-19 pandemic, with nearly half (47%) reporting they have been taken off some or all of their typical security duties to assist with other IT-related tasks, such as equipping a mobile workforce.

Overcoming security challenges

The challenge is all those additional tasks are being taken on at a time when cybercriminals are taking advantage of the current crisis to launch more cybersecurity attacks than ever. Nearly a quarter of the survey respondents (23%) said cyberattacks against their organizations have increased since transitioning to remote work.

What makes thwarting those attacks so difficult is not only are most employees working from home, so are the cybersecurity professionals. A full 90 percent of the cybersecurity professionals surveyed are working remotely full time, the survey finds. A total of 96 percent said their organizations have closed physical work environments.

Confidence in their ability to secure remote systems is high, but there are cracks. Only 15 percent of respondents indicated their information security teams do not have the resources they need to support a remote workforce. Another 34 percent said they do have the resources they need, but only for the time being. In addition, 41 percent said their organizations are employing best practices to secure their remote workforce, while another 50 percent admitted they could be doing more.

Impact on the new normal

A separate survey of 300 IT professionals published by xMatters provides some additional insight. Beyond the need to support internal employees working from home, IT and cybersecurity professionals are also trying to cope with increased consumption of the digital services their organizations provide. The xMatters survey finds 88.4 percent of respondents said there has been a rise in the use of their company’s digital service offerings over the course of the past six weeks. As a result, 79 percent said their organization put an even greater focus on infrastructure security and privacy.

While 75 percent of IT professionals said they believe their organization is equipped with the tools and processes to support the increased use of digital service offerings, half (50%) said their IT environments were now more complex. Nearly half (49%) also said they are currently working increased hours and are experiencing a diminished work-life balance. In comparison, 38 percent said they may be working the same number of hours, but their workday has shifted or they are completing tasks during non-traditional work hours.

It’s hard to say to what degree all this represents the “new normal.” Some say the pandemic may last two years. The one thing that is certain given how suddenly all these transitions were made: There will be a greater appreciation for the talents of IT and cybersecurity professionals once that new normal is finally determined.

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