Nearly half of security pros rarely change their security strategy, even after a cyber attack

Nearly half (46 percent) of IT security professionals 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, according to CyberArk.

security pros rarely change

Security starts with protecting privileged accounts

An overwhelming number of IT security professionals believe securing an environment starts with protecting privileged accounts – 89 percent 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 percent)
  • Insider threats (51 percent)
  • Ransomware or malware (48 percent)
  • Unsecured privileged accounts (42 percent)
  • Unsecured data stored in the cloud (41 percent).

IT security respondents also indicated that the proportion of users who have local administrative privileges on their endpoint devices increased from 62 percent in our 2016 survey to 87 percent in 2018—a 25 percent 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 organizations, with an inability to repel or contain cyber threats – and the risks that this might result in – supported by other findings:

  • 46 percent say their organization can’t prevent attackers from breaking into internal networks each time it is attempted
  • 36 percent report that administrative credentials were stored in Word or Excel documents on company PCs
  • Half (50 percent) 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.

Creating 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. Organizations increasingly recognize this security risk, but still have a relaxed approach toward cloud security. The survey found that:

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

security pros rarely change

Changing the security culture

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

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

“Attackers continue to evolve their tactics, but organizations are faced with cyber security inertia that is tipping the scales in favor of the attacker,” said Adam Bosnian, executive vice president, global business development, CyberArk. “There needs to be a greater urgency in building cyber security resilience to today’s attacks. This starts by understanding the expanding privileged account security attack surface and how it puts an organization at risk. Successfully battling inertia requires strong leadership, accountability, clearly defined and communicated security strategies, and the ability to adopt a ‘think like an attacker’ mindset.”