09:01 AM
Connect Directly

C-Suite Divided Over Security Concerns

Survey shows 60% of CEOs plan to invest the most resources in malware prevention, but CISOs, CIOs, and CTOs are on a different page.

More than 60% of CEOs believe malware is the biggest threat to their organization, but just one-third of CISOs, CIOs, and CTOs agree. 

It's just one data point in a new study by identity management company Centrify that shows a major disconnect on this and many other security issues between CEOs and their technical officers (TOs), which include CIOs, CTOs and CISOs. 

CEOs and TOs also diverged on whether they knew if their organization had experienced a breach. Only 55% of CEOs say their organization experienced a breach, while 79% of TOs say so. On the technology front, 62% of CEOs say two-factor authentication technologies are difficult to manage, while only 41% of TOs concur with that statement. 

"Part of the problem is that the technical people tend to try to keep the breach quiet," says Tom Kemp, CEO at Centrify. "I think overall, the TOs need to do a better job managing up, because with SEC regulations and various state breach notification regulations, organizations really do have to report if they have been breached today."

Kemp points out that 42% of TOs point to identity breaches as one of the primary threats to their organizations. And 68% of executives whose companies experienced significant breaches indicate it would most likely have been prevented by either privileged user identity and access management or user identity assurance. Only 8% of all executives whose companies experienced a significant breach say that anti-malware technology would have prevented the more significant breaches with serious consequences.

Frank Dickson, an IDC analyst who focuses on identity and access management, points out that the 2017 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report found that 81% of hacking-related breaches leveraged stolen and/or weak passwords.

"Our goal is not to eliminate malware, our goal is to eliminate breaches," Dickson says. "By strengthening authentication, it lets us build security into the network," and potentially eliminate the vast majority of breaches.

Lawrence Orans, a research vice president at Gartner who focuses on network security, says he doesn't think it's helpful to set security up as a choice between identity management versus malware detection.

"For example, malware could be used to steal credentials and execute an even broader attack," he says. "And it actually makes sense that there would be a disconnect between the CEO's understanding of new security technologies versus the TO's: that's what the CEO has the technical people for in the first place."

Centrify's Kemp maintains that TOs need to educate their CEOs on identity management issues, citing the three main tenets of so-called zero trust security:

  • Verify users. Companies can do this with single sign-on software that's layered in with two-factor authentication.
  • Validate devices. Have a procedure for determining if the devices are enrolled with the IT department with the right OS versions, patch levels, and antivirus software. IT must also check past usage, including a user's geography. (A user can't be in New York one minute, then San Jose five minutes later).
  • Limit access and privileges. Companies should move to a least-privilege model in which users only gain access to a system if they need it for their jobs, and only for a defined time period.

The study was based on a survey of 800 senior executives conducted in November 2017 by Dow Jones Customer Intelligence, a unit of the Wall Street Journal/Dow Jones Advertising Department. More than 75% of the executives surveyed are CEOs, CTOs or technical officers such as CIOs, CTOs and CISOs; the rest are their direct reports.

Related Content:


Black Hat Asia returns to Singapore with hands-on technical Trainings, cutting-edge Briefings, Arsenal open-source tool demonstrations, top-tier solutions and service providers in the Business Hall. Click for information on the conference and to register.

Steve Zurier has more than 30 years of journalism and publishing experience, most of the last 24 of which were spent covering networking and security technology. Steve is based in Columbia, Md. View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Who Does What in Cybersecurity at the C-Level
Steve Zurier, Freelance Writer,  3/16/2018
New 'Mac-A-Mal' Tool Automates Mac Malware Hunting & Analysis
Kelly Jackson Higgins, Executive Editor at Dark Reading,  3/14/2018
IoT Product Safety: If It Appears Too Good to Be True, It Probably Is
Pat Osborne, Principal - Executive Consultant at Outhaul Consulting, LLC, & Cybersecurity Advisor for the Security Innovation Center,  3/12/2018
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
How to Cope with the IT Security Skills Shortage
Most enterprises don't have all the in-house skills they need to meet the rising threat from online attackers. Here are some tips on ways to beat the shortage.
Flash Poll
[Strategic Security Report] How Enterprises Are Attacking the IT Security Problem
[Strategic Security Report] How Enterprises Are Attacking the IT Security Problem
Enterprises are spending more of their IT budgets on cybersecurity technology. How do your organization's security plans and strategies compare to what others are doing? Here's an in-depth look.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
Published: 2017-05-09
NScript in mpengine in Microsoft Malware Protection Engine with Engine Version before 1.1.13704.0, as used in Windows Defender and other products, allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code or cause a denial of service (type confusion and application crash) via crafted JavaScript code within ...

Published: 2017-05-08
unixsocket.c in lxterminal through 0.3.0 insecurely uses /tmp for a socket file, allowing a local user to cause a denial of service (preventing terminal launch), or possibly have other impact (bypassing terminal access control).

Published: 2017-05-08
A privilege escalation vulnerability in Brocade Fibre Channel SAN products running Brocade Fabric OS (FOS) releases earlier than v7.4.1d and v8.0.1b could allow an authenticated attacker to elevate the privileges of user accounts accessing the system via command line interface. With affected version...

Published: 2017-05-08
Improper checks for unusual or exceptional conditions in Brocade NetIron 05.8.00 and later releases up to and including 06.1.00, when the Management Module is continuously scanned on port 22, may allow attackers to cause a denial of service (crash and reload) of the management module.

Published: 2017-05-08
Nextcloud Server before 11.0.3 is vulnerable to an inadequate escaping leading to a XSS vulnerability in the search module. To be exploitable a user has to write or paste malicious content into the search dialogue.