The 2017 Thales Data Threat Report was recently issued in conjunction with analyst firm 451 Research. Sixty-eight percent of respondents have experienced a breach with 26 percent experiencing a breach in the last year – both numbers that rose from last year. Paradoxically, overall security spending is also up; in 2017, 73 percent of organizations increased IT security spending – a marked jump from 2016 (58 percent).
Old Habits Die Hard
The report, which is in its fifth year, polled 1,100 senior IT security executives at large enterprises around the world and indicates an ongoing disconnect between the security solutions organizations spend money on and the ability of those solutions to protect sensitive data. While 30 percent of respondents classify their organizations as ‘very vulnerable’ or ‘extremely vulnerable’ to data attacks (and the number of breaches continues to rise) the two top spending priorities are network (62 percent) and endpoint (56 percent) protection solutions. Counterintuitively, spending on data-at-rest solutions (46 percent) comes last.
“One possible explanation for this troubling state? Organizations keep spending on the same solutions that worked for them in the past but aren’t necessarily the most effective at stopping modern breaches,” said Garrett Bekker, senior analyst, information security at 451 Research. “Data protection tactics need to evolve to match today’s threats. It stands to reason that if security strategies aren’t equally as dynamic in this fast-changing threat environment, the rate of breaches will continue to increase.”
Compliance the Top Driver for IT Security Spending
The reasons behind security spending decisions are varied, but the key driver remains constant: compliance. Almost half (44 percent) of respondents list meeting compliance requirements as their top spending priority, followed by best practices (38 percent) and protecting reputation/brand (36 percent). Fifty-nine percent also believe compliance is ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ effective at preventing data breaches. While compliance regulations provide a data security blueprint, they are by no means the only consideration when building a security strategy robust enough to withstand today’s sophisticated attackers.
External and Internal Cyber Actors the Top Threat
As in years past, the 2017 Data Threat Report explored threat perceptions. All vertical industries polled identified cyber criminals as the top threat (44 percent), followed by hacktivists (17 percent), cyberterrorists (15 percent) and nation-states (12 percent). With respect to internal threats, 58 percent of respondents believe privileged users are the most dangerous insiders (a slight decrease from last year’s 63 percent). At 44 percent, executive management is seen as the second riskiest insider, followed by ordinary employees (36 percent) and contractors (33 percent).
Securing Data from Future Threats: Promise or Peril?
In this age of the cloud and SaaS enterprise deployments, more and more enterprise data is being created, transported, processed and stored outside corporate network boundaries, making traditional perimeter-based security controls and legacy network and endpoint protection solutions increasingly less relevant. Other new, popular technologies also bring added security challenges. For example, nearly 40 percent of respondents are using Docker containers for production applications. At the same time, 47 percent cite security as the ‘top barrier’ to broader Docker container adoption.
“Enterprises today must inevitably confront an increasingly complicated threat landscape. Our world, which now includes the cloud, big data, the IoT and Docker, calls for robust IT security strategies that protect data in all its forms, at rest, in motion and in use,”, saidPeter Galvin, vice president of strategy, Thales e-Security. “Businesses need to invest in privacy-by-design defense mechanisms – such as encryption – to protect valuable data and intellectual property and view security as a business enabler that facilitates digital initiatives and builds trust between partners and customers.”
To offset the data breach trend and take advantage of new technologies and innovations, at minimum organizations should adhere to the following practices:
- Leverage encryption and access controls as a primary defense for data and consider an ‘encrypt everything’ strategy
- Select data security platform offerings that address a variety of use cases and emphasize ease-of-use
- Implement security analytics and multi-factor authentication solutions to help identify threatening patterns of data use.