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The coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent lockdown has led to a quick and abrupt shift toward remote working among many organizations. Such a fast transition naturally has been a challenge for both remote workers and IT staff as they strive to work under these new and changing conditions. A report released Wednesday by identity management firm Hitachi ID points out some of the biggest challenges for IT triggered by the transition to remote working.

SEE: Life after lockdown: Your office job will never be the same–here’s what to expect (cover story PDF) (TechRepublic)

Based on a survey of 100 CIOs in North America conducted by Hitachi ID and social research firm Pulse, 95% of the respondents admitted that their IT teams have been bogged down by remote working efficiencies during the COVID-19 crisis. Among the challenges, employee password lockouts was the top issue cited by 71% of those surveyed. Specifically, IT support is being hit with more requests for sign-in assistance on the part of employees.

Cited by 55% of the respondents, an inability to access internal applications is another roadblock for employees that requires assistance from IT. Other issues thrown at IT support include those concerning multifactor authentication, insecure or undersized VPNs, cybersecurity attacks, and the reliability of their on-premises servers.

Image: Hitachi ID

Adding to the day-to-day challenges for IT are budgetary constraints. Among the CIOs surveyed, 77% said that they’ve reduced their budgets, while 74% are prioritizing their spending toward projects that address operational efficiency. In the face of the reductions, some 40% said they’re still maintaining spending on Identity and Access Management (IAM), which attempts to ensure that only the right people have the necessary access to critical or confidential data, computers, networks, and other resources.

Among the CIOs who reported issues with password lockouts and access to internal applications, 82% said they’ve reduced their IT budgets during the coronavirus pandemic, 79% said they’re investing in tools that boost operational efficiency, and 36% said that if they’d had more time to plan a migration toward remote working, they would have invested in SaaS-based IAM.

Asked which tools they would have invested in to better prepare for the COVID-19 crisis, 67% pointed to collaboration tools, 59% cited security awareness training, and 43% multifactor authentication. Other tools that made the list include server infrastructure and single sign-on. Further, 52% said that their on-premises tools have proven more effective during the crisis, while 48% said that SaaS or cloud-based solutions have been more effective.

“Due to the sudden shift to remote work, many organizations have been facing IT challenges,” Hitachi ID told TechRepublic. “The biggest among them, according to our survey, was employee password lockout. Implementing identity management practices will ease the stress on IT teams and allow them to focus their efforts elsewhere. Organizations should encourage employees to use strong passwords and synchronization, enable adaptive multifactor authentication and federation, establish privileged access management, and implement audit and certification and reporting standards.”