A recent survey reveals a troubling degree of security inertia lurking among scores of organizations. But there are a few bright spots.
A wise person once said, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." However, in a recent survey done by CyberArk for its Global Advanced Threat Landscape Report 2018 (registration required), almost half (46%) of 1,300 IT executives in seven countries say they rarely change their security strategy — even after a cyberattack.
The survey findings suggest that atroubling degree of security inertia lurks within scores of organizations and effectively renders them unable to repel or contain cyber threats. Such complacency puts sensitive corporate data, IT infrastructure, and assets at risk. In fact, an overwhelming 46% of respondents say their organization can't stop the bad guys from infiltrating internal networks each time they try. More than a third (36%) say that their company's administrative credentials are stored on personal computers in Word or Excel documents. Further, half (50%) of the respondents admit that their customers' privacy or personally identifiable information could be at risk because their data is not secured beyond the legal minimums.
Flexibility Overrides Security
Whether organizations use cloud computing, build large-scale data silos, or connect thousands of IoT devices, going digital inevitably means facing a whole range of new cyber threats — with safeguarding privileged accounts being the starting point, according to the study. Most IT security pros say that protecting an IT environment starts with safeguarding privileged accounts. Nine out of 10 (89%) of experts surveyed say IT infrastructure and critical data are not fully protected unless privileged accounts, credentials, and secrets are under digital lock and key. Regarding cybersecurity threats, respondents worry most about targeted phishing attacks (56%), insider threats (51%), ransomware or malware (48%), unsecured privileged accounts (42%), and unsecured data stored in the cloud (41%).
IT security respondents also say the proportion of users with local administrative privileges on their devices increased from 62% in 2016 to 87% in 2018 — a 25% jump. This seems to indicate that employee demands for flexibility are overriding best data-protection practices.
The automation that is part and parcel of the cloud and DevOps mean privileged accounts, credentials, and secrets are being created at breakneck speed. If breached, these provide attackers with an ideal platform from which they can gain access to sensitive data across networks, data and applications, or cloud infrastructure they can use for illicit cryptomining activities. More organizations are acknowledging this security risk but nevertheless adopt a lax approach to cloud security.
When it comes to the cloud, 49% of organizations surveyed have no privileged account security strategy. More than two-thirds (68%) shift the responsibility for cloud security to the vendor and the built-in security features of its cloud solution. Another 38% say their cloud provider doesn't provide adequate protection.
Reforming Security Culture
Security is often misperceived as a cost factor or necessary evil rather than a differentiating factor or competitive advantage. Consequently, banishing cybersecurity inertia will involve making it key to organizational strategy and behavior. To that end, most respondents to the survey (86%) say security should be a routine board-level discussion item, which suggests that currently there is a potentially disastrous disconnect between cybersecurity and the C-suite.
Despite the survey's bleak outlook, some organizations are evolving their security strategies to meet the current challenges. About 44% of them, worldwide, recognize or reward staffers who help ward off an IT security breach — and the number is even higher (74%) in the United States. Another 8% of companies perform red-team exercises to reveal weak spots in their IT and develop effective responses. But much more work needs to be done. Rather than viewing security simply as a cost, digital business champions will recognize it as a key aspect of every project and activity, use it to differentiate themselves from their less-secure competitors — and leave them in the dust.
First appeared in DARKReading