ActiveCampaign’s Tony Newcome and John Lamphiere discuss the rise of VPNs, remote work security challenges, and the importance of workforce flexibility for the future.
The Covid-19 pandemic and the massive shift to remote working have changed the cybersecurity landscape, creating new challenges for IT departments
While some changes were temporary during the shutdowns, remote and hybrid working are expected to continue in one form or another well into the future. Combined with an increase in cybercriminal activity, IT and security teams face great pressure to keep their organizations secure.
The pressure can also be difficult for small businesses. A recent survey by technology services provider Datapac suggested that 83% of SME owners in Ireland plan to increase the level of IT services they outsource over the next year. It came as Ireland’s National Cyber Security Center and the Garda National Cyber Crime Bureau warned that ransomware groups were increasingly targeting SMBs.
“Now we’re sort of emerging from the post-apocalypse here and heading into the new reality where I think offices are becoming more hybrid in their functionality”
Tony Newcome is the CTO of ActiveCampaign, an American marketing software company that established European headquarters in Ireland in 2019.
Newcome told SiliconRepublic.com that the rise of cyberattacks and phishing campaigns makes it important for IT departments to improve their information security practices.
“Getting even stronger around multi-factor authentication, or even moving the physical keys that you can use to help better secure your network and perimeter, is going to continue to be a priority for this industry,” Newcome said.
“Cybercriminal activity isn’t going down and I think that’s something as a company, especially a company like ActiveCampaign where we protect customer data, it’s extremely important.”
VPNs are here to stay
Newcome noted that VPNs came under strain at the start of the pandemic 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 VPN usage declining any time soon.
“Now we’re sort of emerging from the post-apocalypse here and heading into the new reality where I think offices are becoming more hybrid in functionality, not everyone is going to come to the office yet , you’re going to have to keep keeping them. VPNs are solid,” Newcome said.
John Lamphiere is the regional vice president and head of EMEA for ActiveCampaign. He joined the company in 2021 and oversaw the expansion of its Dublin base.
Lamphiere said the company has focused on “flexibility across our entire workforce,” meaning there is a mix of employees working from home and in the office.
He said VPNs help secure things for remote and hybrid staff, but also help simplify things for employees so they can focus on their jobs.
“The focus is on people being able to do their job effectively and not necessarily having to think about it, here are 10 steps I go through to make sure I’m safe because that’s not what they think first,” Lamphiere said. .
He added that the fact that 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 everything needed to do your daily work means you need access to our systems. But you can’t do any of that unless you’re safe in that VPN corridor,” Lamphiere said. “So I don’t see any alternative to that in the short or long term.”
Newcome described VPNs as a “piece of the puzzle”, with a combination of cybersecurity initiatives needed to keep organizations secure. He added that previously companies didn’t have to worry about what their staff were connecting to, because they “connected to your network”.
“As soon as you’re mobile now, you need to make sure your systems aren’t running unless you’re on a certain IP address range,” Newcome said. “So that’s something we’ve really taken seriously and extended those capabilities to the ActiveCampaign platform for our clients as well.”
Flexibility for staff
Newcome and Lamphiere believe hybrid working will become the norm in the future, with some people wanting to work from home more than others.
Lamphiere said while productivity has been shown to endure in remote work environments, he believes the “ideation” and learning of more experienced individuals has suffered.
“I think the future for me will be, the bread-and-butter chore stuff that comes with any given job, there’s always going to be flexibility in that,” Lamphiere said. “However, once or twice a week or a month, there’s a huge upside to saying okay, we don’t do any of that task management stuff, today it’s all about ideation or this collaborative environment.”
Newcome said employers used to just offer staff a place to work and say “that’s where you’re going to sit”. But a new conversation has developed around the added value for staff, as there must be motivating factors to bring people into the office.
“That doesn’t mean all companies are going to adopt that mentality,” Newcome said. “But I think those who are successful will definitely recognize that it’s 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 think for as many industries that can offer flexibility, I think flexibility will be a theme for quite some time.
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