Most organizations suffered a business-disrupting cyber event

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A study conducted by Ponemon Institute found that 60 percent of organizations globally had suffered two or more business-disrupting cyber events — defined as cyber attacks causing data breaches or significant disruption and downtime to business operations, plant and operational equipment — in the last 24 months. Further, 91 percent of respondents had suffered at least one such cyber event in the same time period.

business-disrupting cyber event

Despite this documented history of damaging attacks, the study found that 54 percent of organizations are not measuring, and therefore don’t understand, the business costs of cyber risk. The report concludes that organizations are unable to make risk-based business decisions backed by accurate and quantifiable metrics, resulting in a lack of actionable insight for the C-suite and board of directors.

Digital transformation has created a complex computing environment of cloud, DevOps, mobility and IoT, where everything is connected as part of the new, modern attack surface. This has created a massive gap in an organization’s ability to truly understand its cyber exposure at any given time.

The research – which surveyed 2,410 IT and infosec decision-makers in six countries – found 29 percen of respondents reported having sufficient visibility into their attack surface (i.e. traditional IT, cloud, containers, IoT and operational technology) to effectively reduce their exposure to risk.

To further complicate this lack of visibility, more than half of respondents (58 percent) said their security function lacks adequate staffing to scan for vulnerabilities in a timely manner, with only 35 percent scanning when it’s deemed necessary by an assessment of risks to sensitive data.

Together, these data points reveal that the tools and approaches organizations are using fail to provide the visibility and focus required to manage, measure and reduce cyber risk in the digital era.

Of those organizations that measure the business costs of cyber risk, 62 percent are not confident their metrics are actually accurate. Thus, decisions about the allocation of resources, investments in technologies and the prioritization of threats are being made without critical information — such as the costs of IP theft, loss of revenue or loss of productivity. Organizations admit to not using the key performance indicators (KPIs) they consider important to assessing and understanding cyber risks:

  • 64 percent rated “time to assess” an essential KPI but only 49 percent actually measure it
  • 70 percent rated “time to remediate” an essential KPI but only 46 percent measure it
  • Only 30 percent of respondents believe their organizations can translate cyber risk KPIs into actionable steps.

business-disrupting cyber event

This lack of rigor leaves boards of directors in the dark about the true cost of cyber risks to their organizations. Without confidence in the accuracy of their measures, CISOs and other security executives are reluctant to share critical information about the business costs of cyber risks with their boards.

“In today’s digital economy, cyber risk equates to business risk. It’s shocking to learn that organizations are suffering business-impacting cyber events yet are struggling to accurately measure the resulting financial cost,” said Bob Huber, CSO, Tenable. “This study powerfully highlights that most organizations have not implemented security metrics that reflect cybersecurity’s role as a core business function. CISOs need reliable metrics to help them make educated decisions on the allocation of resources, investments in technology and the prioritization of threats.”