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Confidence in security challenges of hybrid work improving

With the past two years resulting in a permanently altered working environment, changes in security were both necessary and notable. Controlling access to applications, data, and systems is an increasingly important aspect of securing any environment and protecting it against both internal and external threats.

According to Thales, after two years of the pandemic, confidence in addressing certain security risks and threats arising from hybrid and remote work has improved among businesses and organisations around the world. 

When it comes to secure access to applications, data, and systems, 84% IT professionals this year said they have some degree of confidence in their current user access security systems to enable remote work securely and easily, compared to 56% in 2021. In addition, 60% said this year they were highly confident compared to just 22% last year.

These are among some of the key findings from the 2022 Thales Access Management Index, a global survey of 2,600 IT decision makers, conducted by 451 Research, part of S&P Global Market Intelligence.

Firms Gaining Confidence Addressing Security of Remote Work

Overall, the report findings suggest that firms remain concerned about the security risks of remote work, but those concerns seem to be less severe. At the same time, firms are also growing more confident in the ability of authentication and access management systems to manage those risks. Only 31% of IT professional surveyed reported having very high concerns about the security risks and threats of remote work in 2022, down from 39% in 2021, while those who said they were somewhat concerned the most popular response increased from 43% to 48% in 2022.

Multi-Factor Authentication on the Rise But Not Widespread

While multi-factor authentication (MFA) usage remains most prevalent for remote workers (68%) and privileged users (52%), the report shows that MFA adoption is on the rise for internal and non-IT staff with MFA adoption increasing to 40% compared to 34% in 2021. However, widespread MFA adoption by businesses is still yet to be the norm with just over half (56%) have adopted MFA in their organisations.

Lingering Effects of Pandemic Drive Interest in Access Management, MFA and ZTNA

The survey inquired about direct impacts that the pandemic and remote work had on deployment plans for new access security technologies. Responses revealed a six-percentage-point global increase in plans to deploy stand-alone MFA, up from 31% in 2021. The pandemic also impacted plans to deploy cloud-based access management, selected by 45% of respondents worldwide compared to 41% in 2021.

These two increases illustrate respondents growing awareness that threats come from all angles, and that proper authentication and management of access and privileges is necessary for an adequate security foundation.

Last year, Zero Trust Network Access/Software-Defined Perimeter (ZTNA)/(SDP) was the top choice, selected by 44% of respondents. In 2022, ZTNA was the second choice at 42%.

"The past few years have cemented remote work and work-from-anywhere as a permanent part of the security landscape, and they have also introduced new security risks and challenges," says Francois Lasnier, Vice President of Access Management Solutions at Thales. 

"However, growing familiarity with remote work has ultimately broadened awareness on an enterprise level of daily business security risks and has strengthened both confidence and ability in security teams and products to handle those risks and threats properly."

Garrett Bekker, Principal Analyst at 451 Research adds, "Just as the threat landscape has evolved, the tools and methods to handle the landscape have, too.

"However, even with innovative tools and boosted confidence levels, security plans and approaches still need to adapt to the ever-changing threat environment," he says. 

"A greater shift towards a Zero Trust model would place access management in a central role in corporate security strategies, with a related reliance on MFA as a critical supporting enabler."

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