Businesses could be leaving remote workers vulnerable to cyberattacks, with new research revealing nearly a quarter of computers supplied by employers lack any security software.

With more employees than ever working from home, making sure that devices connected to the corporate network are secure has become a key priority for businesses.

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Or so they claim: according to Kaspersky, 23% of desktops and 17% of laptops supplied by UK employers have no antivirus or cybersecurity software installed. At the same time, 23% of employees provided with a company smartphone said they don’t have adequate antivirus software on their device.

This figure is particularly alarming given that an estimated 48% of the UK’s 32.9 million workers have been working remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“When company devices are used outside the workplace, they are at greater risk of cyber threats,” said David Emm, principal security researcher at Kaspersky.

“Therefore, it’s troubling to discover that nearly a quarter of corporate computers and smartphones lack antivirus software, leaving them potentially vulnerable to attack.”

Much has been written on the increased risk businesses face amid the shift to remote working, which has led to a sharp increase in scams, phishing attacks, and other forms of malicious IT security threats.

IT leaders are struggling to deflect this influx, with a recent survey from email security company GreatHorn revealing that organizations are dealing with some 1,200 phishing attacks every month.

Companies have scrambled to implement internal controls and safeguards in the meantime, with IT leaders shifting their focus to fostering cybersecurity-savvy cultures in the workplace and a renewed focus on protecting critical capabilities and services.

Of course, this means little if employers continue to supply their workers with devices that leave both them and the wider company open to cyber threats. “It’s important that all businesses pre-install staff computers and devices with security software to ensure they are protected at all times,” said Em.

“Employers must also make sure staff know how to install or check the status of antivirus software while working on personal, or company devices from home, to secure corporate information and networks.”

BYOD (bring-your-own-device) has also become more commonplace since the pandemic, no doubt because many businesses have struggled to supply every one of their employees with a dedicated work device.

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This comes with its own share of issues, namely that more employees are doing work and sharing business-related information using their personal devices. More than half (57%) of respondents to Kaspersky’s survey said they used their personal smartphone to check work email, while 36% relied on their personal laptop or desktop for work.

Personal devices are even less likely to be protected than employer-supplied equipment: according to Kaspersky, almost half (47%) of personal smartphones lack antivirus software, along with 43% of tablets, leaving those devices potentially vulnerable to cyber threats.

Overall, the antivirus company found that UK consumers were more likely to protect their computers from cyberattacks, while leaving their mobile devices unsecured, with 79% of laptop owners and 80% of desktop users installing antivirus and security software on their devices.

Comparatively, 31% of respondents said they had not considered protecting their smartphone with antivirus software, while over one fifth (21%) believed their phone could not be hacked.