Over half of organizations with cybersecurity strategies fail to test them


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Last month, IBM Security announced the results of a global study exploring organizations preparedness when it comes to withstanding and recovering from a cyberattack. The study, conducted by Ponemon Institute and sponsored by IBM Resilient, found that a vast majority of organizations are still unprepared to properly respond to cybersecurity incidents, with 77 percent of respondents indicating they do not have a cybersecurity incident response plan applied consistently across the enterprise.

While studies show that companies who can respond quickly and efficiently to contain a cyberattack within 30 days save over US$1 million on the total cost of a data breach on average, shortfalls in proper cybersecurity incident response planning have remained consistent over the past four years of the study. Of the organizations that do have a plan in place, more than half (54 percent) do not test their plans regularly, leaving them less prepared to effectively manage the complex processes and coordination that must take place in the wake of an attack.

The continued difficulty cybersecurity teams are facing in implementing a cyber security incident response plan has also impacted businesses compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Nearly half of respondents (46 percent) say their organization has yet to realize full compliance with GDPR, even as the one-year anniversary of the legislation quickly approaches.

“Failing to plan is a plan to fail when it comes to responding to a cybersecurity incident. These plans need to be stress tested regularly and need full support from the board to invest in the necessary people, processes and technologies to sustain such a program,” said Ted Julian, VP of Product Management and Co-Founder, IBM Resilient. “When proper planning is paired with investments in automation, we see companies able to save millions of dollars during a breach.”

Other takeaways from the study include:


Automation in Response Still Emerging – less than one quarter of the respondents said their organization significantly uses automation technologies, such as identity management and authentication, incident response platforms and security information and event management (SIEM) tools, in their response process.
Skills Still not Paying the Bills – only 30 percent of respondents reported that staffing for cybersecurity is sufficient to achieve a high level of cyber resilience.
Privacy and Cybersecurity Tied at Hip – 62 percent of respondents indicated that aligning privacy and cybersecurity roles is essential or very important to achieving cyber resilience within their organizations.

Automation Still Emerging

For the first time, this year’s study measured the impact of automation on cyber resilience. In the context of this research, automation refers to enabling security technologies that augment or replace human intervention in the identification and containment of cyber exploits or breaches. These technologies depend upon artificial intelligence, machine learning, analytics and orchestration.

When asked if their organization leveraged automation, only 23 percent said they were significant users, whereas 77 percent reported their organizations only use automation moderately, insignificantly or not at all. Organizations with the extensive use of automation rate their ability to prevent (69 percent vs. 53 percent), detect (76 percent vs. 53 percent), respond (68 percent vs. 53 percent) and contain (74 percent vs. 49 percent) a cyberattack as higher than the overall sample of respondents.

The use of automation is a missed opportunity to strengthen cyber resilience as organizations that fully deploy security automation save US$1.55 million on the total cost of a data breach, contrasted with organizations that do not leverage automation and realize a much higher total cost of a data breach, according to the 2018 Cost of a Data Breach Study.

Skills Gap Still Impacting Cyber Resilience

The cybersecurity skills gap is further undermining cyber resilience, as organizations are understaffed and unable to properly manage resources and needs. Survey participants stated they lack the headcount to properly maintain and test their incident response plans and are facing 10 to 20 open seats on cybersecurity teams. In fact, only 30 percent of respondents reported that staffing for cybersecurity is sufficient to achieve a high level of cyber resilience. Furthermore, 75 percent of respondents rate their difficulty in hiring and retaining skilled cybersecurity personnel as moderately high to high.

Adding to skills gap, nearly half of respondents (48 percent) admitted their organization deploys too many separate security tools, ultimately increasing operational complexity and reducing visibility into overall security posture.

Privacy Growing as a Priority

Organizations are finally acknowledging that collaboration between privacy and cybersecurity improves cyber resilience, with 62 percent indicating that aligning teams is essential to achieving resilience. Most respondents believe the privacy role is becoming increasingly important, especially with the emergence of new regulations like GDPR and the California Consumer Privacy Act, and are prioritizing data protection when making IT buying decisions.

When asked what the top factor was in justifying cybersecurity spend, 56 percent of respondents said information loss or theft. This rings especially true as consumers are demanding businesses do more to actively protect their data. According to a recent survey by IBM, 78 percent of respondents say a company’s ability to keep their data private is extremely important, and only 20 percent completely trust organizations they interact with to maintain the privacy of their data.

In addition, most respondents also reported having a privacy leader employed, with 73 percent stating they have a Chief Privacy Officer, further proving that data privacy has become a top priority in organizations.