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Vulnerabilities / Threats

7/14/2017
10:30 AM
Marc Wilczek
Marc Wilczek
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7 Deadly Sins to Avoid When Mitigating Cyberthreats

How digitally savvy organizations can take cyber resilience to a whole new dimension.

Organizations these days are in full swing "going digital," with bold visions of a bright and shiny future. But too often in their quest for the holy grail of capturing market share, management tends to focus solely upon the digital opportunities without adequately addressing the parallel issue of improving cybersecurity to combat current and emerging threats.

Ernst & Young recently published the findings of their 2016 Global Information Security Survey, after polling some 1,735 CIOs, CISOs, and other senior executives. Their research reveals seven common pitfalls, and shows why digital-savvy organizations need to strengthen their cyber resilience:

Missing Strategic Alignment
The changing threat landscape and an organization's strategy and planning seems to be almost entirely decoupled. Only 5% percent of executives polled have recently made a significant change to their organization's strategy and plans, even after acknowledging they were exposed to too much risk. The overwhelming majority feel no need to make adjustments. A mere 22% say that they have thoroughly assessed the information security implications of their organization's current strategy and plans.

Taking Threats too Lightly
Despite an ever-increasing dependency on technology, cyberthreats are still taken far too lightly. No one thinks it's going to be them until it's too late and they're thunderstruck. A total of 62% percent of respondents would not increase their cybersecurity investments after experiencing a breach that did not appear to do any harm. Meanwhile, 68% say they would not increase their information security spending even if a supplier was experiencing a breach, and another 58% would not boost their spending if a major competitor was attacked.

Misclassification of Digital Assets
Most organizations over-protect some digital assets and under-protect others. Some 51% rank customer personal identifiable data as the first or second information most valuable to cybercriminals in the organization. Only 11% percent rate intellectual property (IP) rights as the first or second most valuable category. Strangely enough, personal information from board members or other senior executives is viewed as more valuable than R&D information, patented IP and non-patented IP, and broadly on the same level with corporate strategic plans.

Organizations Don’t Consider a What-if Scenario
Of the executives polled, 42% do not have an agreed-upon communications strategy or plan in place in case of a significant breach causing a crisis. Within the first seven days after an attack, 39% say they would make a public announcement to the media. Some 70% would notify their regulator and compliance organizations. A scary 46% would not notify customers, even if customer data had been compromised, and 56% would not notify suppliers, even when supplier data had been compromised.

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Overconfidence & Self-reliance
Many organizations rely upon a do-it-yourself approach to test or manage their resilience but often lack the skills and capabilities to do so. A whopping 79% do their own self-phishing, and 64% perform their own penetration tests. Incident investigation is carried out internally by 81%, and another 83% conduct their own threat intelligence analysis. None of that is wrong per se, if the organization is indeed big enough to possess all the necessary capabilities, know-how, and experience. Unfortunately, that is very rarely the case. Many companies do not have in-depth expertise internally and, as a result, lull themselves into a false sense of security.

Too Much Delegation, Too Little Awareness in the Boardroom
Despite fancy corporate titles, only a few security executives are fully empowered and an integral part of the organization's leadership structure. In three out of four cases, those in charge of information security do not have a seat in the boardroom. Consequently, the board has to rely on reports instead. Yet, most reports provide little insight. Only 25% percent of reporting provides an overall threat level, according to report findings, and just 35% of reporting discloses weaknesses in the organization’s security landscape.

Operating Blindfolded
Although a successful breach can have severe implications, 89% of respondents do not evaluate the financial impact of every significant breach. Moreover, of those that have witnessed an incident in the past 12 months, nearly half (49%) say they have no clue what the financial damage is or might be. Thus, it is perhaps not surprising that 52% think their boards are not fully knowledgeable about the risks the organization is taking and the measures put in place.

In the digital era, technology builds the backbone not just for supporting processes, but is the basis for entire business models and revenue streams. To become a digital champion and not end up in the snake pit, savvy organizations are well-advised to rethink their agenda along the seven fields of action outlined above. Good news: It is not rocket science. With determination and a reasonable set of measures, an organization can make a major difference and take their cyber resilience to a whole new dimension.

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Marc Wilczek is a columnist and recognized thought leader, geared toward helping organizations drive their digital agenda and achieve higher levels of innovation and productivity through technology. Over the past 20 years, he has held various senior leadership roles across ... View Full Bio
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