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Focus on IT Departments: The coronavirus pandemic and increased cybersecurity risks

The coronavirus outbreak will have a long-lasting impact on our economy, businesses and working lives.  
Hopefully as we enter a second lockdown we have all learned some valuable lessons and many organisations have adapted the way they operate.  

Initially this included facilitating remote work on a scale never seen before. Next, we saw a determined switch to online services and the planning for staff returning to work under socially distanced conditions as a priority.

The IT department 

At the centre of these operations are beleaguered IT departments. 

All over the country they have been: 

  • Frantically facilitating remote work on a company-wide scale  
  • Handling frontline support needs for a radically dispersed workforce  
  • Reviewing project priorities in the face of financial pressure and changed business requirements 
  • Negotiating supply chain risks and collapse 
  • Responding to increased online provision of customer support and sales 
  • And reconfiguring office spaces for a safe return to work  

In many ways the IT department, along with HR and Finance, have become one of the front-line emergency services for UK’s businesses. 

The increased risk 

But with most eyes on the effects of the virus and on fire-fighting measures to enable continued operations, another threat looms large. 

And it is one at great risk of falling off the radar of outstretched IT teams as they are pulled in many directions all at once. 

  • With so much change to networks taking place the possibility of a cyberattack has never been higher.  
  • Yet, precisely because so much change is taking place, it has never been harder for internal IT teams to continually monitor and respond to emerging threats and weaknesses. 
New ways of working  

On 23 March 2020 everything changed. 

As lockdown measures were announced in parliament offices around the country, homeworking became a way of life for almost half of British workers, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) which found in June 2020 that 49% of workers were home-based. 

Cardiff University research teams found that nine out of 10 workers who have worked from home during the pandemic want to continue to do so on a regular basis.  

The pandemic has unleashed a new era of homeworking that does not look like it will go away any time soon.  

Of course, it’s not just ways of working that changed for IT. In the blink of an eye, everything changed. 

While most businesses were remote work-enabled to some extent, the sheer, sudden scale of the displaced workforce introduced issues of capacity, performance and productivity (particularly in relation to collaboration) that needed urgent attention. 

Issues that arose included: 

  • Home networking infrastructures weren’t designed for everyone in the family accessing at the same time – as lockdown entailed 
  • Business network perimeters suddenly encompassed all employee home networks – necessitating the securing and patching of numerous remote endpoints, many of which were not corporate-owned 
  • IT service desks could no longer ‘drop by to fix problems – which inevitably increased time-to-repair and led to growing wait times  
  • The remote access systems in place often proved not up to the task for such a large scale, displaced workforce – leading to more support requests 

On top of these immediate burdens and emergency measures there quickly followed a need to address the economic crisis that all UK businesses were facing. IT departments needed to quickly reprioritise projects, ensure that organisations were best positioned to weather the downturn while preparing for a return to a socially-distanced workplace. 

A recent McKinsey analysis has placed the main concerns now facing IT as: 

Stabilising emergency measures 

Having enabled remote work at pace it is critical that these emergency measures are reviewed to understand what needs updating or replacing to overcome productivity issues. 

Ensure that contingency measures and risk reduction plans are in place for a potential breakdown of parts of vendor ecosystems. 

Scaling down in response to the economic crisis

With revenues hit hard it is inevitable that cost pressures on IT will increase. Against this backdrop, emergency decisions made during lockdown will often have increased operational and capital expenditures.

Agilely pivot to new areas of focus

With the massive spike in online demand looking set to continue, IT departments will be instrumental in bolstering online channels to support new interactions and services for customers.

The key to this will be creating interfaces between internal IT systems and external social platforms while accelerating the integration of new vendors and distributors. 

Concurrently, existing portfolio projects must be systematically reviewed and, where necessary, scaled down or paused. 

Is the ever-present cybersecurity threat still driving IT – or is it now riding shotgun?  

The pressures on IT are – as we have seen – immense. 

With some departments facing job losses on top of an increased workload many have had to either scale down cybersecurity work or adopt a less proactive approach. 

Yet, in many ways, this is a time of heightened not reduced risk. 

The risk of endpoint penetration has multiplied enormously as access points to the network multiply.  

Which is why many businesses are turning to Managed Detection and Response services (MDR) to ensure 24/7 monitoring of their entire, extended network and proactive reductions of risk. 

IT teams cannot provide the investment in resources, technology or people that are needed to maintain the prevention, rapid detection and immediate response to increasingly sophisticated and diffuse attacks. 

Falanx Cyber’s MDR 

Partnering with Falanx Cyber offers beleaguered IT teams the chance to focus on strategy and delivery, knowing that they have in place continuous protective monitoring of your entire, distributed network by the latest tech and a team of UK security-cleared analysts. 

We use proactive hunting to discover existing threats or weaknesses to your network, including identifying threats from your remote users and third-party networks 

We go beyond traditional techniques, which only analyse your networks’ and devices’ endpoints, and analyse your servers, apps and cloud services 24/7 

Our UK-based Security Operations Centre (SOC) uses a world-class Security Information and Event Management system (SIEM) to collect information about all devicesfrom login attempts to data transfers 

If anything appears suspicious, our team of highly experienced security professionals will immediately take the most effective action for you  

MDR is freeing IT teams at a time when security risks and potential weaknesses are on the increase. 

It allows you to focus on changing business priorities and budget allocation. It ensures you place security first even as you are being pulled in many other directions. 

It monitors and proactively detects vulnerabilities across your immediate and dispersed network. 

Isn’t it time you talked to the MDR experts? 

To find out more about how Falanx Cyber’s MDR can maximise your security monitoring and response whilst minimising the internal burden, call our team on +44 (0) 20 7856 9450 or email us at