Most IT security leaders lack confidence in their company’s security posture

78% of senior IT and IT security leaders believe their organizations lack sufficient protection against cyberattacks despite increased IT security investments made in 2020 to deal with distributed IT and work-from-home challenges, according to an IDG Research survey.

confidence security posture

Security posture confidence

That high level of concern over the ability to withstand cyberthreats in today’s complex IT environment is causing 91% of organizations to increase their cybersecurity budgets in 2021, nearly matching the 96% that boosted IT security spending in 2020, according to the survey by Insight’s Cloud + Data Center Transformation team.

The survey examined the impact of the distributed IT landscape and pandemic-related transition to a remote workforce on IT security, including shifts in modernization priorities, projects undertaken in 2020, and major obstacles faced in strengthening cybersecurity defenses.

Respondents included more than 200 C-level IT and IT security executives in organizations with an average of 21,300 employees across a wide range of industries.

At a top level, the survey found that 78% lack confidence in their company’s IT security posture and believe improvements are needed. Respondents expressed the least confidence in their organization’s security roadmap (32%), security-related technology and tools (30%), and internal teams and skill sets (27%).

They reported the highest level of trust in their company’s data management strategy, but even then, less than half (45%) voiced confidence in this aspect of security operations.

Executive teams more focused on their org’s security posture than in the past

Cybersecurity is being integrated into multiple aspects of the business, indicating rising recognition of the risk that a cyberattack poses to company operations.

Fully 100% of survey respondents report that their boards and executive teams are more focused on their organization’s security posture than in the past.

In addition, 68% initiated projects to integrate incident response into companywide business continuity plans, 61% are integrating cybersecurity into infrastructure and DevOps decisions, and 59% are incorporating IT security into broader business operations decisions to better combat cyberthreats.

Companies shifting cybersecurity modernization priorities

Companies shifted cybersecurity modernization priorities in 2020 in response to the immediate challenges presented by the pandemic, accelerating an average of five to six initiatives to protect the increasingly distributed IT environment and securely connect a remote workforce with the data needed to keep businesses running.

Most companies pursued multiple projects in categories including threat visibility/identification (73%), incident response (70%), network security (68%), endpoint security (67%), application security (67%), malware protection (64%) and identity and access management (55%).

Complex, long-range security projects taking a back seat

Most complex, long-range security projects took a back seat to block-and-tackle activities such as anti-malware/anti-virus upgrades, multi-factor authentication and Firewall as a Service (FWaaS) deployments.

As a result, relatively few organizations initiated or executed projects in critical areas like identity governance, Zero Trust, data analytics, AI/machine learning and SASE implementations.

Key challenges related to strengthening security posture

  • 55% rank lack of automation as the #1 challenge in security operations and management, reflecting their inability to manually analyze and respond to the flood of notifications and events generated by today’s increasingly complex security infrastructure. The problem is exacerbated by factors including the disparate toolsets involved, outdated technology lacking the APIs to support automation, and the time and advanced skill sets required to implement automated processes.
  • Only 27% of respondents expanded security staff in 2020 – down slightly from 30% in 2019 – leaving IT teams stretched extremely thin and without many of the specialists required to execute the wide range of tasks necessitated by the year’s evolving threatscape; 41% plan to begin or resume staff expansion this year.
  • Just 57% conducted a data security risk assessment in 2020 despite the need to reevaluate their security posture in the face of new threats associated with the pandemic. Limited manpower and resources as IT teams addressed emergency security measures likely prevented this critical step in aligning security priorities with current conditions.

“Entering 2020, organizations were in the midst of addressing security challenges associated with the increasingly distributed IT landscape spanning cloud, edge and on-premises environments. These challenges greatly intensified with the rapid work-from-home expansion brought on by the pandemic,” said Shawn O’Grady, SVP and general manager, Cloud + Data Center Transformation, Insight.

“This survey shows that organizations made strides to address gaps and integrate cybersecurity into business, operational and IT infrastructure decisions, but there is still an enormous amount of work to be done. Bolstering security postures is a complex and continual effort. This is the work we do every day for organizations across all industries.”

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