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Distributed workforces greatly increasing cyber risk, research says

Absolute Software, the only provider of self-healing, intelligent security solutions, has unveiled new research revealing the increasing complexity in enterprise device environments, including operating system (OS) fragmentation and volume of applications, is impacting security and compliance posture.

The findings in Absolute’s ‘2023 Resilience Index’ contradict the long-held belief that having more security solutions directly equates to more protection. Leveraging the analysis of anonymized data from millions of customer devices across the globe, this report provides insights and benchmarks for organizations looking to strengthen cyber resilience in today’s widely distributed, hybrid workplaces.

“Security that is not installed or working effectively cannot protect you,” said Christy Wyatt, President and CEO of Absolute Software. “The criticality of these security controls, especially among remote and hybrid workers cannot be overstated and the ability to keep them healthy is often oversimplified. Even market-leading, world-class software requires repairing for many reasons: changing in the environment around it, or new forms of risk introduced by adversaries or even by the use. By applying intelligence and automation to heal them, we can remediate the risk, restore the user experience, and ensure compliance.”

The work-from-anywhere model is exacerbating the strain on IT and security teams – compounding existing device health and security challenges with a broad mix of networks, hardware, OS versions, and patches. More than 80 per cent of devices analysed use the Microsoft® Windows® OS, with the large majority on Windows 10 – and within that device population, there are 14 different versions and more than 800 builds and patches to manage. Absolute’s telemetry data also shows there are 67 applications installed on the average enterprise device, with 10 per cent of those devices having more than 100 applications installed.

Other key insights from the ‘2023 Resilience Index’ include:

Distributed, highly mobile users compound complexity: The average number of enterprise device locations across Absolute customers has grown 15 per cent year-over-year, with an average of four locations per device observed in February 2023.

Hybrid working means heavy reliance on third-party networks: In hybrid work models, critical applications like Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) and Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) need to be deployed, installed, and up to date. However, Absolute data shows this critical tool is either not installed or is not at the required version level on more than 30 per cent of devices.