What challenges enterprise cyber security executives?

Last updated: 20 July 2017

Data Security Confidence IndexHere’s an understatement for you: this is an interesting time to be a cyber security or risk management executive at an enterprise.

In reality, this is the most challenging period ever for organizations when it comes to safeguarding data and systems. There is a rising number of data breaches—nearly 1.4 billion data records were lost or stolen in 2016, according to Gemalto’s Breach Level Index—and serious threats such as ransomware are making worldwide headlines on a regular basis.

On top of that, companies are having to deal with a growing number of data protection regulations. This includes the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a set of rules created by the European Parliament, European Council and European Commission to strengthen data protection for individuals within the European Union (EU).

Despite these and other developing challenges swirling around the cyber security landscape, many organizations are relying on the same old security solutions they’ve had in place for years. For example, a majority of IT professionals still think perimeter security products are effective at keeping unauthorized users out of their networks, according to a new Gemalto report conducted by independent research firm Vanson Bourne.

The report, Gemalto’s fourth-annual Data Security Confidence Index, also shows that companies are under investing in technology that adequately protects their business.

To gather data for the study, Vanson Bourne surveyed 1,050 IT decision makers across the U.S., U.K., France, Germany, India, Japan, Australia, Brazil, Benelux the Middle East and South Africa on behalf of Gemalto. The sample was split between manufacturing, healthcare, financial services, government, telecommunications, retail, utilities, consultation and real estate, insurance and legal, IT and other sectors from organizations with 250 to more than 5,000 employees.

A huge majority of those surveyed (94%) think perimeter security tools are quite effective at keeping unauthorized users out of their networks. But at the same time, about two thirds (65%) are not extremely confident that their data would be protected should their perimeter be breached. This represents a slight decrease from the survey conducted last year (69%). And despite the broad lack of confidence, nearly six in 10 of the organizations report that they think all their sensitive data is secure.

This shows that at many organizations, perimeter security is the focus but a good understanding of technology and data security is still lacking. Many of these businesses are continuing to prioritize perimeter security without realizing it has been largely ineffective against sophisticated cyber attacks.

The latest Gemalto research findings show that 76% of the decision makers said their organization had increased investment in perimeter security technologies such as firewalls, intrusion detection and prevention systems (IDPS), antivirus software, content filtering tools and anomaly detection systems to protect against external attackers.

Despite this investment, however, two thirds of the survey respondents (68%) think unauthorized users could access their networks, rendering their perimeter security ineffective.

These findings suggest a lack of confidence in the solutions being used today, especially when you consider that more than one quarter of the organizations (28%) have suffered perimeter security breaches over the past 12 months.

The reality of the situation gets even worse when you take into account the fact that, on average, only 8% of the data breached was encrypted. That means the vast majority of the stolen data was completely exposed to attackers—an unacceptable situation for organizations that should be doing all they can to protect sensitive information.

Furthermore, according to the report more than half of the respondents said they do not know where their sensitive data is stored, and more than one third of businesses do not encrypt valuable information such as payment or customer data. In other words, if this data is stolen, a cyber criminal would have full access to the information and could use it for crimes such as identify theft, financial fraud or ransomware.

It is clear that there is a divide between organizations’ perceptions of the effectiveness of perimeter security and the reality. By believing that their data is already secure, businesses are failing to prioritize the measures necessary to protect their data.

Businesses need to be aware that hackers and other bad actors are going after companies’ most valuable assets: their data. It’s important that they focus on protecting these resource, otherwise reality will inevitably bite those that fail to do so.

Inadequate security not only exposes organizations’ data to attackers, it leaves enterprises open to the risk of non compliance with regulations such as GDPR. There seems to be a global trend toward reforming and enhancing data protection laws, and many companies are not sure how to approach these new requirements.

That’s especially true of data privacy, which has traditionally been an afterthought, rather than included in products “by design.” This necessitates a longer-term change in approach and mindset.

With GDPR, which becomes enforceable in May 2018, organizations need to understand how to comply by properly securing personal data to avoid the risk of administrative fines and reputational damage. However, more than half of the survey respondents said they do not think they will be fully compliant with GDPR by May next year.

With less than a year to go, companies need to begin introducing the correct security protocols in their efforts to reach GDPR compliance, including encryption, two-factor authentication and key management strategies.

Investing in cyber security solutions has clearly become more of a focus for businesses in the last 12 months. However, what is of concern is that so few are adequately securing the most vulnerable and crucial data they hold, or even understand where it is stored. This is standing in the way of GDPR compliance, and before long the businesses that don’t improve their cyber security will face severe legal, financial and reputational consequences.

That’s not all. Organizations that don’t bring their security infrastructure up to date might also face the wrath of their customers, employees, business partners and other stakeholders. Fortunately, they can take steps to bolster security before it’s too late.

Discover more and download the Data Security Confidence Report.

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