In technology terms, 2020 has been the year of the hacker. Criminal gangs turning to the internet to help make up for a lockdown downturn in "real life" crime opportunities, plus security gaps as white-collar workers shift home, has been a recipe for a spike in cyber-attacks.
The first half of this year saw a 42 per cent rise in online heists, according to Crown agency Cert NZ.
But a new study of 1000 local small-to-medium enterprises, carried out by Perceptive and Porter Novelli for 2degrees from July 13 to 20, found 55 per cent admitted to having no security resource.
For a majority, cyber-protection was low on their priority list, despite a string of high-profile attacks from Toll in January to the NZX last week.
"As we've seen in the news in the last couple of weeks, businesses big and small are regularly being targeted by cybercriminals, so nobody is unaffected by this," 2degrees chief business officer Andrew Fairgray says.
"Protecting yourself against cyber threats is like insurance. Some work and a small amount of cost upfront could pay dividends if the worst happens.''
The 2degrees exec says those working from home amid the pandemic should, if possible, connect to the cloud via a VPN that logs them on to their office network.
Passwords should be kept varied, and security software should be up to date. A computer brought home from work should not be used to connect to dodgy sites. Failing to follow any of these steps could make a remote worker an easy mark for a hacker looking to breach a company's network.
Where should a small-business owner start? "Get a trusted, professional adviser - not your mate," Fairgray says.
Cert NZ is among neutral parties offering free advice online, specifically aimed at individuals and small businesses.
Embracing new ways of working
On the brighter side, the survey found that small-to-medium business had successfully embraced many of the pandemic's challenges, becoming more flexible in the process.
Some of its key findings:
• More than half of Kiwi SMEs (58 per cent) have introduced new ways of working since lockdown in April.
• Businesses with employees were more likely to change their working approaches (66 per cent), than sole traders (56 per cent).
• Two out of three SME decision-makers (67 per cent) are now comfortable with employees working from home following the April lockdown – a 9 per cent increase from pre-lockdown.
As for Fairgray's company, it's eating its own dog food, as the tech industry saying goes.
After the March and April lockdowns, it followed its peers in introducing a hybrid work week, with many staff moving to a three-days-at-home, two-in-the-office model.
Staff have been free to mix and match, as long as two days minimum are spent in the traditional workplace.
Fairgray says the transition had been made easier by all of the company's support staff working within NZ.
The pandemic has also had a direct impact on 2degrees' new office in Auckland's CDB, which it will move into in the New Year.
The new digs will only have desks for around 700, on the assumption that at any given time a significant number will be working remotely (earlier this year, the telco culled around 10 per cent of its 1200 employees as it followed corporate NZ with Covid cost-cutting).
And spokeswoman Katherine Cornish says the office's layout would also be influenced by the new way of working, which sees now more scarce office time often devoted to person-to-person catch-ups.
"It's likely that we will end up creating more spaces for collaboration - workshops, team huddles and brainstorms. There will also be zones for different teams to meet when they're in the office."