87% of cyber attacks defeated, but that’s not good enough: report

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While focused cyber attacks like ransomware and DDoS are on the rise, organizations are managing to detect and block the vast majority of them – but many are also still reluctant to escalate their defense capabilities with advanced technologies, according to a new study from Accenture.

The Accenture report was conducted from January to mid-March 2018 and investigated focused attacks (defined as having the potential to both penetrate network defenses and cause damage, or extract high-value assets and processes from within organizations). The report says the average number of these kinds of attacks per organization has more than doubled this year compared to the previous 12 months (232 through January 2018 versus 106 through January 2017).

The good news is that organizations are upping their game and now preventing 87% of all focused attacks compared to 70% in 2017, the report says. However, that also means 13% of focused attacks are successful in penetrating defenses, which means organizations are still facing an average of 30 successful security breaches per year which cause damage or result in the loss of high-value assets.

And despite making significant progress, only two out of five organizations are currently investing in breakthrough technologies like machine learning, artificial intelligence and automation, indicating there is even more ground to be gained by increasing investment in cyber resilient innovations and solutions, said Kelly Bissell, managing director of Accenture Security.

“While the findings of this study demonstrate that organizations are performing better at mitigating the impact of cyber attacks, they still have more work to do,” Bissell said. “Building investment capacity for wise security investments must be a priority for those organizations who want to close the gap on successful attacks even further. For business leaders who continue to invest in and embrace new technologies, reaching a sustainable level of cyber resilience could become a reality for many organizations in the next two to three years. That’s an encouraging projection.”

Finding breaches faster, but not all of them

The report also found that it’s taking less time to detect a security breach – from months and years to now days and weeks. On average, 89% of respondents said their internal security teams detected breaches within one month compared to only 32% of teams last year. This year, 55% of organizations took one week or less to detect a breach compared to 10% last year.

But although companies are detecting breaches faster, security teams are still only finding 64% of them (similar to last year), and they’re collaborating with others outside their organizations to find the remaining breaches. This underscores the importance of collaborative efforts among business and government sectors to stop cyber attacks. When asked how they learn about attacks that the security team has been unable to detect, respondents indicated that more than one-third (38%) are found by white-hat hackers or through a peer or competitor (up from 15%, comparatively, in 2017). Interestingly, only 15% of undetected breaches are found through law enforcement, which is down from 32% the previous year.

Cyber attacks from the inside out

On average, respondents said only two-thirds (67%) of their organization is actively protected by their cybersecurity program. And, while external incidents continue to pose a serious threat, the survey reveals that organizations should not forget about the enemy from within. Two of the top three cyberattacks with the highest frequency and greatest impact are internal attacks and accidentally published information.

When asked which capabilities were most needed to fill gaps in their cybersecurity solutions, the top two responses were cyber threat analytics and security monitoring (46% each). Organizations realize the benefits derived from investing in emerging technologies. A large majority of respondents (83%) agree that new technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine or deep learning, user behavior analytics, and blockchain are essential to securing the future of organizations.

According to Accenture, five steps organizations can take to achieve cyber resilience include:

  1. Build a strong foundation. Identify high value assets and harden them. Ensure controls are deployed across the organizational value chain, not just the corporate function.
  2. Pressure test resilience like an attacker. Enhance red defense and blue defense teams with player-coaches that move between them and provide analysis on where improvements need to be made.
  3. Employ breakthrough technologies. Free up investment capacity to invest in technologies that can automate your defenses. Utilize automated orchestration capabilities and advanced behavioral analytics.
  4. Be proactive and use threat hunting. Develop strategic and tactical threat intelligence tailored to your environment to identify potential risks. Monitor for anomalous activity at the most likely points of attack.
  5. Evolve the role of CISO. Develop the next generation CISO — steeped in the business and balancing security based on business risk tolerance.

An executive summary of the report can be downloaded here.

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