Covid-19’s Reordering of Corporate Security

Dec. 16, 2022
The virus and its subvariants have effectively hastened digital transformation and changed how organizations think about risk, resilience

Before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in early 2020, many organizations were dipping their toes in the water relative to digital transformation, which effectively calls upon companies to rethink how they can leverage technology to manage every aspect of their business more effectively.

This included security, which has long lagged behind other technology sectors relative to adopting cutting-edge innovations and with good reason. Protecting a company’s people and assets requires solutions that must work as intended because failure could mean the difference between life and death under certain circumstances.

But just as business leaders around the world were warming up to some of these next-generation solutions, the rise of Covid-19 meant that organizations had to quickly pivot to the challenges presented by the spread of the virus, which resulted in some of these offerings being pressed into duty much sooner and at greater scale than originally intended. In fact, according to the results of a survey published by management consulting firm McKinsey & Company in the fall of 2020, the average share of products and/or services offered by organizations globally that were partially or fully digitized jumped from 35% in Dec. 2019 to 55% in July 2020. Additionally, 37% of those surveyed reported increasing use of advanced technologies in their operations, which 50% of respondents believed would continue to be used through recovery from the pandemic.

The new paradigm in employee health and safety created because of the pandemic also led to new applications for tried and trusted security technologies. For example, rather than just monitoring office ingress and egress, exterior perimeters, and busy corridors, video surveillance systems were modified to measure the temperatures of those entering the building to mitigate against virus transmission. Similarly, access control systems that were once used to simply open doors based on pre-defined user privileges were now helping companies monitor building occupancy levels to stay in compliance with local health codes.

Covid-19 has also helped to rewrite the risk playbook and what constitutes true business resiliency. The threats present within the four walls of a business are dramatically different than those that are introduced in a remote environment, such as home offices, where the same levels of security are not in place.

Here are a few ways security has changed – both technologically and structurally – in the wake of the pandemic and how it will have a lasting impact on the industry.

Cloud Presents Opportunities and Threats 

While mitigating the impacts of Covid-19 has resulted in new applications for various security technologies, the pandemic has also served as a proving ground of sorts for cloud and video surveillance-as-a-service (VSaaS) offerings. Sure, the technology and its benefits, such as being able to switch from a capital expenditure to an operational expenditure model for video surveillance infrastructure and the ability to remotely access and monitor a site from anywhere in the world, were already primarily known throughout the industry before 2020, however; the lockdowns that governments instituted in the wake of the virus’ spread provided an opportunity for the cloud-based solutions to prove their mettle.

With security teams being forced out of their offices and operations centers at the onset of the pandemic, the remote viewing capabilities provided by cloud video enabled organizations to still have visibility into their physical premises to prevent vandalism, theft, and other security threats. Even with some companies bringing personnel back into offices as the risk of severe disease and death associated with Covid-19 infections waned, demand for cloud video has remained strong.

According to a recent report published by Novaira Insights, the market for cloud video management software in the Americas exceeded $150 million in 2021. Additionally, the market research firm estimates that the number of cloud-connected cameras in the region will grow over twice as quickly, on average, as traditional network camera shipments over the next five years.

However, with the new capabilities and benefits provided by the cloud also come a new set of risks. An ever-growing amount of data being generated and stored in the cloud means malicious actors will also be looking at ways to access it for their gain. One misconfiguration here or the use of a default or poor password is all it takes for hackers to obtain complete control of such a system to either hold it hostage for ransom or leverage it for other nefarious purposes.

As more organizations adopt cloud technologies, they must ensure good cybersecurity hygiene is practiced not only within their organization but throughout their supply chain as well. Some of the biggest data breaches on record have been caused not because the organization was compromised but by the carelessness of one of its vendors.

The Work from Home (WFH) Conundrum

Perhaps the biggest struggle that many companies have had over the past several years has been when to bring people back into the office. There have, of course, been several false starts with declining virus numbers spurring organizations to open their doors only to have a new variant close them indefinitely. Enjoying the perks of a commute-free lifestyle has also led many workers to question the necessity of returning to the office; some have begun pushing back against such efforts.

Regardless of where you come down on the matter, there is little doubt that the transition to remote work has created a new set of issues for companies relative to business resiliency and security posture. On the one hand, businesses know that office-based employees can maintain communications and operations in a remote setting in the event of another pandemic or a natural disaster. However, the lack of a physical worker presence also presents myriad threats.

Take the banking sector, for example. Although many financial institutions have sought to reduce their physical footprint recently, the pandemic saw banks close branch locations in record numbers. According to a study published by the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) earlier this year, U.S. banks closed nearly 200 branches per month on average in the 20 months after the virus began to spread across the country, which is double the rate of 20 months prior to the pandemic.  

The increase in online and self-service banking that resulted has left the industry vulnerable to increased opportunities for fraud as there are fewer people and technologies, like video surveillance, which would have served as a potential deterrent. In fact, a recent analysis by ABA Banking Journal of a LexisNexis Risk Solutions report on the cost of fraud found that online banking comprised 33% of fraud costs for U.S. banks in 2021, which was up from 26% the previous year. Meanwhile, in-person fraud dropped from 29% in 2020 to 21% in 2021.

It is clear the pandemic has created new paradigms in security across verticals. The key for security leaders moving forward will be in how they choose to evolve with these changes and adapt their technologies and policies accordingly.

About the author: Tariq Mahmood is EMEA Sales Director for Fraud and Security Solutions at Verint Systems.