Most executives around the world see untrained staff as the greatest cyber risk

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The majority of executives (87%) around the world cite untrained staff as the greatest cyber risk to their business according to a new report produced by ESI ThoughtLab in conjunction with Willis Towers Watson. Compounding this finding is the fact that staff training is ranked among the categories to have made the least progress when measured against the NIST cybersecurity framework.

untrained staff poses cyber risk

ESI Thought Lab surveyed 1,300 organizations with revenues ranging from under $1 billion to over $50 billion, across multiple industries spanning APAC, Europe, US/Canada and Latin America.

The research also identified the most common types of attacks to include malware/spyware (81%) and phishing (64%), with external unsophisticated hackers (59%) and cyber criminals (57%) identified as the next biggest external threats. Based on scores relating to progress on the NIST cybersecurity framework, ESI ThoughtLab segmented companies into three stages of cybersecurity maturity: beginners, intermediates and leaders.

The survey found that a company’s threat perception varied based on the firm’s cybersecurity maturity. For example, cybersecurity leaders tend to focus more on “Hacktivists” (52%) and malicious insider threats (40%), whereas cybersecurity beginners spend more time worrying about external threats (42%), such as partners, vendors, and suppliers.

Additionally, the research highlights that when it comes to cyber resiliency, or post-cyber incident processes, cybersecurity leaders invest more in cyber resilience versus their beginner counterparts.

As companies become more advanced in cybersecurity, they increase their investment in cybersecurity resilience, with cybersecurity beginners spending 14% of their cyber budget and cyber leaders spending 18% on recovery.

Some other key findings around cybersecurity maturity and investment in cyber risk include:

  • 91 percent of cybersecurity leaders feel their investment is adequate to meet their needs
  • 33 percent of cybersecurity beginners view their investment as adequate to meet their needs
  • 73 percent of companies plan to use behavior analytics as a cybersecurity tool over the next two years
  • 80 percent of companies have at least a small amount of cybersecurity insurance, with healthcare companies averaging one of the highest amounts ($16.4 million) and manufacturing averaging one of the lowest ($8.6 million).

“Leaders in cybersecurity are devoting significant resources towards protecting IT and risk functions within their organizations against external threats, but employee processes and training as well as corporate culture play a more integral role than many realize.” As the report highlights, “The vast majority of cyber incidents result from employee behavior and human error,” says Anthony Dagostino, global head of cyber risk, Willis Towers Watson. “In addition to mitigating cyber threats through technology and risk transfer, cyber managers need to take a step back and assess their organizations cyber defenses within. Cyber managers must adopt a continuous assessment strategy, one that focuses on the overall culture of engagement, talent preparedness and the role of technology and risk transfer.”