IT teams face a new cybersecurity reality in the changing world of work –

ActiveCampaign’s Tony Newcome and John Lamphiere discuss the rise of VPNs, the security challenges of remote working and the importance of staff flexibility for the future.

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The Covid-19 pandemic and the mass shift to remote working has altered the cybersecurity landscape, creating new challenges for IT departments

While some changes were temporary during lockdowns, remote and hybrid working look set to continue in some form into the future. Combined with a rise in cybercriminal activity, IT and security teams face a lot of pressure to keep their organisations secure.

The strain can also be difficult for smaller companies. A recent survey from technology services provider Datapac suggested that 83pc of SME owners in Ireland plan to increase the level of IT services they outsource in the next year. It came as Ireland’s National Cyber Security Centre and the Garda National Cyber Crime Bureau warned that ransomware groups are increasingly targeting SMEs.

‘Now we’re kind of emerging post-apocalypse here and moving towards the new reality where I think offices become more hybrid in their functionality’

Tony Newcome is the CTO of ActiveCampaign, a US marketing software company that established a European headquarters in Ireland in 2019.

Newcome told that the rise of cyberattacks and phishing campaigns makes it important for IT departments to improve their information security practices.

“Getting even stronger around multifactor authentication, or even moving the physical keys that you can use to help better secure your network and the perimeter, is going to continue to be a focus for this industry,” Newcome said.

“Cybercriminal activity is not waning and I think that’s something as a business, especially a business like ActiveCampaign where we protect customer data, that’s incredibly important.”

VPNs are here to stay

Newcome noted that a lot of strain was put on VPNs initially when the pandemic first began and many people started working from home. A VPN, or virtual private network, is a service that protects the internet connection and privacy of its users. Newcome doesn’t see the use of VPNs decreasing any time soon.

“Now we’re kind of emerging post-apocalypse here and moving towards the new reality where I think offices become more hybrid in their functionality, not everyone’s still going to come into the office, you’re going to need to continue to keep those VPNs strong,” Newcome said.

John Lamphiere is the regional vice-president and EMEA lead for ActiveCampaign. He joined the company in 2021 and has overseen the expansion of its Dublin base.

Lamphiere said the company has developed a focus on “flexibility across our entire workforce”, which means there’s a mix of staff who work from home and in the office.

He said VPNs help to keep things secure for remote and hybrid staff, but also help to make things simple for employees so they can focus on their job.

“The emphasis is on people being able to do their job effectively and not necessarily have to think about, here’s 10 steps that I go through to make sure that I’m secure, because that’s not what they think about first thing,” Lamphiere said.

He added that the fact VPNs can keep things “super secure” and “super easy” means he doesn’t see a current alternative as a security tool.

“For us, access to anything that is required to do your day job means that you have to access our systems. But you can’t do any of that unless you’re secure within that VPN corridor,” Lamphiere said. “So I don’t see an alternative to that in the shorter or the longer term.”

Newcome described VPNs as a “piece of the puzzle”, with a combination of cybersecurity initiatives needed to secure organisations. He added that firms didn’t previously have to worry about what their staff were connecting to, as they were “connecting to your network”.

“The instant you’re now mobile you have to actually make sure, well your systems don’t actually work unless you’re on a certain IP range,” Newcome said. “So that’s something that we’ve really been taking serious and extending those capabilities into the ActiveCampaign platform for our customers as well.”

Flexibility for staff

Both Newcome and Lamphiere believe hybrid work will become the norm for the future, with some people wanting to work from home more than others.

Lamphiere said that while productivity has been shown to endure in remote working environments, he feels that “ideation” and learning from more experienced individuals has suffered.

“I think that the future for me will be, the bread and butter task-related stuff that’s related to any given job, there will always be flexibility in that,” Lamphiere said. “However, once or twice a week or whether that’s monthly, there’s a huge benefit in saying okay, we don’t do any of that task management stuff, today is all about ideation or it’s about that collaborative environment.”

Newcome said employers used to simply offer staff a location to work and say “that’s where you’re going to sit”. But a new conversation has developed around providing value for staff, as there needs be motivating factors to get people into the office.

“That doesn’t mean every company is going to adopt that mentality,” Newcome said. “But I think the successful ones certainly will recognise that this is part of how you support your employees. It’s about them and their productivity and not necessarily about ‘Can I see you working day to day’.

“There will be a lot of people kicking and screaming along the way and it won’t go away overnight. But I do think for as many industries that can offer flexibility, I think flexibility will remain a theme for a while.”

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