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Keeping Your Data Safe in the “Gig Economy”

 

researchHQ’s Key Takeaways:

  • The recent unexpected growth in remote and gig working heralds a new era of data protection.
  • Workers operating from increasing dispersed and remote locations make achieving refined, secure access management a significant challenge.
  • Remote working threatens to decrease an organisation’s centralised visibility over its employees and data, putting sensitive company information at risk.
  • Solutions such as real-time cloud monitoring and cloud access service brokers (CASB), help overcome this new era of challenges, yielding greater visibility and protection.

 

As workforces continue to evolve and adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic, the door is open for organizations to hire workers from anywhere around the country to offer their skills remotely as needed, often as a freelancer or gig worker. While this outgrowth of the burgeoning gig economy stands to benefit many businesses in need, it’s important that you assess your risk of utilizing gig workers and freelancers.

The “gig economy” refers to the trend of workers becoming independent contractors who freelance who use their skills to work for different companies at one time. The growth in online platforms and the acceptance of corporate remote workers make it easier than ever to work for multiple companies at the same time. The gig economy represents a big change in the way we think about and manage remote workers. More than one-third of US workers (36%) participate in the gig economy, either through their primary or secondary jobs, and more than 90% of Americans are open to freelancing or independent contract work. The entire world is wondering what the “New Normal” will look like, but most agree that we won’t see 100% of staff return to the office environment. Given the acceleration of remote workers and the growth of the gig economy demands a change in your data protection strategy.

Think about Uber, which uses algorithms to match gig workers with riders. Uber created an entirely new industry sector using gig “freelancers” to comprise the workforce. These independent contractors (currently under dispute in California) set their own schedules and use the Uber platform to connect with riders. This caused a fundamental shift in workers from full-time taxi drivers to an army of part-time Uber and Lyft drivers.

Changing concerns about access and control

How does the gig economy differ from the contractors we have today? From an access and controls perspective, there may not initially seem like a lot of difference. Or is there?

In the past, we have hired contractors from a contracting firm where we vet the firm and require background checks on the contractors. Unlike regular vendors or contractors, who we require to have endpoint security controls in place such as endpoint detection and response (EDR), encrypted hard-drives, patch management, strong passwords, and use encrypted tunnels to access our systems, the new gig economy workers often do not have these controls on their systems. This is because they’re using their own personal device to work for multiple companies, which don’t adhere to any of the security requirements and cause headaches for security teams.

In the gig economy, workers have flexibility with their schedule and workload, and organizations can benefit from the expertise of skilled workers in our fast-paced business digitalization environment. However, there are several unique security concerns and challenges to consider, such as: How much access do freelancers have to sensitive information? Are they accessing necessary data securely? How do security teams monitor threats for workers that may also be working for their competitor?

Freelancers are likely working with many different companies at one time. With each of these companies and projects, they may store sensitive information on their systems.  If they are a specialist that you hire, they can reuse research, programming ideas, marketing concepts, etc., for another company, maybe even your competitor. This trend of utilizing gig economy workers is on the rise, and the pandemic has only accelerated things.

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