Nearly half of organisations fail to change security strategy after a cyber attack

According to the CyberArk Global Advanced Threat Landscape Report 2018, nearly half (46%) of IT security professionals stated they rarely change their security strategy substantially – even after experiencing a cyber attack.

This level of cyber security inertia and failure to learn from past incidents puts sensitive data, infrastructure and assets at risk.

Security Starts with Protecting Privileged Accounts

An overwhelming number of IT security professionals believe securing an environment starts with protecting privileged accounts – 89% stated that IT infrastructure and critical data are not fully protected unless privileged accounts, credentials and secrets are secured.

Respondents named the greatest cyber security threats they currently face, including:

  • Targeted phishing attacks (56%)
  • Insider threats (51%)
  • Ransomware or malware (48%)
  • Unsecured privileged accounts (42%)
  • Unsecured data stored in the cloud (41%)

IT security respondents also indicated that the proportion of users who have local administrative privileges on their endpoint devices increased from 62% in the 2016 survey to 87% in 2018—a 25% jump and perhaps indicative of employee demands for flexibility trumping security best practices.

The inertia that could lead to data compromise

The survey findings suggest that security inertia has infiltrated many organisations, with an inability to repel or contain cyber threats – and the risks that this might result in – supported by other findings:

  • 46% say their organisation can’t prevent attackers from breaking into internal networks each time it is attempted
  • 36% report that administrative credentials were stored in Word or Excel documents on company PCs
  • Half (50%) admit that their customers’ privacy or PII (personally identifiable information) could be at risk because their data is not secured beyond the legally-required basics


Inertia and a ‘hands-off’ approach to securing credentials and data in the cloud create cyber risk

The automated processes inherent in cloud and DevOps mean privileged accounts, credentials and secrets are being created at a prolific rate. If compromised, these can give attackers a crucial jumping-off point to achieve lateral access to sensitive data across networks, data and applications or to use cloud infrastructure for illicit crypto mining activities. Organisations increasingly recognise this security risk, but still have a relaxed approach toward cloud security. The survey found that:

  • Nearly half (49%) of organisations have no privileged account security strategy for the cloud
  • More than two-thirds (68%) defer on cloud security to their vendor, relying on built-in security capabilities
  • 38% stated their cloud provider doesn’t deliver adequate protection


Changing the Security Culture

Overcoming cyber security inertia necessitates it becoming central to organisational strategy and behavior, not something that is dictated by competing commercial needs. According to the survey:

  • 86% of IT security professionals feel security should be a regular board-level discussion topic
  • 44% said they recognise or reward employees who help prevent an IT security breach, increasing to nearly three quarters (74%) in the U.S.
  • Just 8% of companies continuously perform Red Team exercises to uncover critical vulnerabilities and identify effective responses

Rich Turner, Vice President EMEA, CyberArk, said: “When target organisations haven’t moved with the times, cyber attackers often have an easy time of it and are able to penetrate traditional perimeter defenses without undue effort. Companies must show greater urgency to change the game, which means treating the risk associated with cyber security in the same way as wider business risks such as competition and the economy.

“Understanding how changing service delivery models – like cloud and DevOps – affect the attack surface is a crucial component of cyber risk. Business leaders have a critical role to play in transforming the risk mindset and building cyber resilience across the enterprise.”

The full report can be viewed here.

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