Cybersecurity remains non-core competency for most C-suite executives

In today’s digital economy, it is essential that companies of every size can collect, store and adequately protect customer data and proprietary secrets. Failure to do so will significantly damage a company’s brand and reduce the quality of the product it produces, with concomitant impact on revenues and profitability, according to GlobalData.

cybersecurity critical business function

The company believes that spending on artificial intelligence (AI)-infused cybersecurity tools is set to increase significantly over the coming years.

GlobalData figures show that companies worldwide spent a combined $114bn on security products (both hardware and software) and services in 2017. By 2021, the figure is expected to have passed $140bn, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6%. Spending on services accounted for 68% of total spending in 2017 and this share will remain relatively steady through 2021, despite the CAGR of the services segment (4.9%) being outstripped by that of products (7.7%).

Whilst cybersecurity has now become a critical business function, it remains a non-core competence for a significant number of boards. CISOs have become increasingly common in recent years (recent research suggests that nearly two-thirds of large US companies now have a CISO position), but the majority do not report directly to the CEO, which reduces their effectiveness.

Cyrus Mewawalla, Head of Thematic Research at GlobalData commented, “The frequency of cyberattacks is only likely to accelerate over the coming years, therefore it is vital that senior executives have a full understanding of the inherent risks and implications. The losers will be those companies whose boards do not take cybersecurity seriously, as they run a higher risk of being hacked.”

It is hard to assess a company’s exposure to cybersecurity risk, but the composition of the board often provides clues: CEOs who do not have a CISO reporting directly to them present a high risk.

Mewawalla continued, “Traditionally, most companies have adopted a prevention-based approach to cybersecurity, but recent advances in technology areas like machine learning are enabling a move towards active detection of threats.”

This allows pre-emptive action to be taken to stop breaches before they occur and also serves to free up resources currently occupied with chasing false positives from existing, more reactive systems.

GlobalData identifies the key cybersecurity technologies as network security, unified threat management, artificial intelligence, behavioural analytics, SIEM, endpoint security, mobile security, identity management, data security, application security, email security, cloud security, managed security services, post breach consultancy services.

Looking at unified threat management (UTM), researchers believe that this should be an area for growth going forward. The process can tackle diverse threats and also address the issues faced by companies that find themselves with a myriad of security products from a wide variety of vendors, which can result in a security landscape that lacks coherence.

Mewawalla adds, “There is an ongoing move away from a prevention-based approach to cyberattacks and towards active detection of threat actors using intelligence-led tools. CISOs and security executives are increasing investment in detection and response based offerings such as deception technology, software-defined segmentation and behavior analytics.”

This increased emphasis on detection and response can free up resources currently occupied with chasing false positives.

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Cybersecurity remains non-core competency for most C-suite executives