The cybersecurity game changed in 2020. Remote work surged, along with things like employee health monitoring and data sharing around COVID-19. Cybercrime surged as well. Companies had to worry not only about outsider threats but also insider threats; data breaches due to employee negligence or inexperience in their new remote roles cost businesses big time. In 2021, how will 2020’s legacy impact the future of work, privacy, and IT spending in the enterprise?

In 2020, hordes of workers were forced to transition to remote work quickly. GWA (Global Workplace Analytics) estimates that these work-from-home initiatives saved U.S. employers more than $30 billion dollars a day during the COVID-19 shutdown. To what extent will this trend continue in 2021? GWA’s research suggests a little over half (56%) of the U.S. workforce currently holds a job that is compatible, either fully or partially, with remote work, and by the end of 2021, up to 30% of the workforce will be working from home multiple days per week.

This massive shift in how people work prompted the adoption of technology tools that made remote work possible. A study from EY says 45% of organization needed to adopt new technology or contract new vendors to make the rapid shift to remote work possible in 2020. Unfortunately, in the midst of a public-health emergency, EY says some organizations had to cut corners in their haste to make working-from-home work. In fact, around 60% of participants in the study said they either skipped or expedited a privacy or security review during the adoption process.

Cybercrime incidents skyrocketed last year, with the FBI IC3 (Internet Crime Complain Center) reportedly receiving an increase of three or four times the number of typical complaints per day after the pandemic began. IBM says insider threats were a huge factor in 2020, with negligent employees or contractors causing 2,962 of the 4,716 incidents reported last year. The cost of cybercrime also increased. A McAfee report released in December said global losses from cybercrime now total more than $1 trillion, which is a 50% increase from 2018. IBM’s 2020 Cost of a Data Breach Report suggests the average total cost of a data breach is $3.86 million. Besides monetary losses, the hidden costs of cybercrime, according to McAfee include system downtime, reduced efficiency, and damage to a business’s reputation.

For multiple reasons, the pandemic has shifted people’s attitudes toward privacy, and one of the takeaways of 2020 in 2021 will be the need to rethink data privacy on an enterprise level. In EY’s latest Global Consumer Privacy Survey, 54% of consumers said COVID-19 has made them more cognizant of the personal data they share—and this doesn’t necessarily mean they’re less willing to share, depending on how the data is used. In fact, half said the pandemic has made them feel more willing to offer up personal data if it’s being used for research and/or community wellness.

Finally, how will IT spending in 2021 change as a result of all of this? A Kaspersky report suggests even during the pandemic, cybersecurity remains an investment priority for businesses. Cybersecurity’s share of IT spending grew from 23% in 2019 to 26% in 2020 for small and medium-sized businesses, and it grew from 26% to 29% for enterprises. Almost three-quarters (71%) of organizations said they expect their cybersecurity budgets to increase in the next three years, despite overall IT budgets cuts in response to the pandemic, which suggests they’ve got their priorities in the right place.

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