COVID-19 has greatly accelerated remote working, digital transformation and cloud adoption in Singapore, according to a new study by Barracuda, a provider of cloud-enabled security solutions. However, results show that companies in the city-state still have a long way to go in securing newly remote workforces, with more than half of Singapore businesses (51%) reporting at least one data breach or cybersecurity incident since moving to work remotely during the COVID-19 lockdown.
Commissioned by Barracuda and conducted by independent research agency Censuswide, the July 2020 study found that COVID-19 has accelerated the introduction of remote working by at least five years for 67% of organisations in Singapore.
Taking in 1,055 responses from business and IT decision-makers across multiple industries in Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, and India, including 204 respondents in Singapore, the Asia-Pacific study found that business leaders in Singapore are optimistic, with 61% of leaders reporting increased productivity since shifting to a remote workforce, and 81% planning to retain remote working for employee productivity and business continuity once the pandemic is over.
According to the study, COVID-19 has also been the catalyst for 83% of organisations in Singapore to accelerate digital transformation plans in the next six months to ease the burdens placed on the traditional business model by remote working.
A key component of this transformation is cloud computing. On average, 78% of Singapore businesses have fast-tracked plans to move all data to a cloud-based model, particularly in the education (89%), IT and telecommunications (88%), manufacturing & utilities (86%), finance (75%), and healthcare (75%) sectors. 79% believe this shift will help reduce overall IT costs to support business growth.
However, results reveal the emergence of security challenges as businesses rush to adapt to the new normal, with more than half of Singapore organisations having already suffered at least one data breach or cybersecurity incident since shifting to a remote working model. 48% of companies said they expect an incident to occur in the next month and 64% are concerned about unknown threats that could cause business disruption in the next 6 months. Businesses also reported an increase in email phishing attacks over the same period (51%).
Alarmingly, a large number of organisations in Singapore (48%) do not have up-to-date cybersecurity strategies or solutions in place to cover all of the vulnerabilities posed by full-time remote working. This is made more difficult by 53% of organisations allowing employees to use personal email addresses and personal devices to conduct company work.
“Remote working is here to stay, but security must be addressed, and should not be an afterthought, said James Forbes-May, Vice President, Barracuda, Asia-Pacific.
“Singapore businesses remain optimistic and resilient, and as a hub of innovation and technology in the region, it’s encouraging to see businesses of all sizes here using this difficult time to accelerate exciting transformation plans. While many companies in Singapore are used to facilitating remote workers, the scale required due to the pandemic has left many company CIOs and IT departments overstretched, as they jostle with business continuity planning as the key priority.
“As a financial business centre, companies in Singapore are particularly vulnerable to attack from fraudsters keen on exploiting any available weakness. Making sure your team is educated around potential threats like phishing scams and ransomware, while also having a cloud-enabled cybersecurity solution in place to monitor all traffic across the network, will be key to staying safe in these unprecedented times.”