Remote working is leading to increased cybersecurity risks for SMEs, according to new research from data center specialists ServerChoice.
The research found that changes in working patterns has led to infrastructure being left unmonitored, and business data being more vulnerable to exploitation.
Lockdowns have led to many technical staff at SMEs working remotely, which opens up businesses to greater risk.
In fact, two-thirds of SMEs (66%) now find it harder to monitor their infrastructure, while 25% have opted to leave infrastructure unmonitored altogether, posing a significant risk if they should fall victim to a cyber attack in future.
In addition, the researchers state that the increased distance between technical staff and their infrastructure, and the subsequent delay time in maintenance and disaster response, presents a greater opportunity for cybercriminals to exploit vulnerabilities.
These factors are recognised by business leaders, with 77% seeing remote working as an increased risk to operations.
Some industries are more at risk than others, according to the findings.
Education, healthcare, and financial industries are regular targets of cybercriminals, as their data is vital for day-to-day operations.
More specifically, the findings show that the healthcare industry has been impacted most by remote working, with 89% of healthcare leaders stating that remote working has added extra risk for their infrastructure.
Manufacturing has been the least impacted, with 29% of leaders saying that there has been no effect on infrastructure risk as a result of remote working.
In retail, many SME vendors are still adapting to the increase in online transactions brought about by the pandemic, making this sector also more susceptible to breaches of security.
However, despite the pressure these industries are under, ServerChoice's research reveals many SME leaders are still leaving infrastructure unmonitored.
In fact, 1 in 5 retail and education SMEs still leave their infrastructure unmonitored, and 16% of healthcare businesses and 18% of financial services businesses do the same.
ServerChoice commercial director Adam Bradshaw says, “Although it may not appear on a balance sheet, data is one of the most valuable assets for any business. Offices and laptops can be replaced, but a company's proprietary data cannot.
Bradshaw continues, “Our research has found that remote working is exposing SMEs to additional risk of compromise and some businesses are being forced to leave infrastructure unmonitored.
"This is a big risk. It could lead to data breaches that expose sensitive data or even leave systems open to encryption and ransomware attacks."
Bradshaw encourages SMEs to invest in cybersecurity. He says, “It is imperative that SMEs treat their data and IT infrastructure like any other asset and properly secure it.
"If SMEs are unable to secure their infrastructure due to remote working or a lack of expertise, they must find a custodian who can do it on their behalf, or run the risk of having their data comprised in the future.