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Top 5 Cybersecurity Priorities for 2019: Ponemon Study

We asked 2,410 IT and cybersecurity decision-makers in six countries to identify their top cybersecurity and governance priorities for the New Year. Here’s what we learned.

What are your top cybersecurity concerns for 2019? Tenable commissioned Ponemon Institute to conduct a survey of 2,410 IT and cybersecurity professionals in six countries to find out.

The results are included in our December 2018 report, Measuring & Managing the Cyber Risks to Business Operations. The report is based on a survey fielded in fall 2018 to respondents in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, Mexico and Japan. Respondents identified the five threats they’re most concerned about, and shared their cybersecurity and governance priorities for the year ahead.

5 Top Cybersecurity Threats in 2019

When we asked respondents to identify the threats they’re most worried about in the new year, their highest-rated cybersecurity concerns were third-party risks, data breaches and attacks on Internet of Things (IoT) or Operational Technology (OT) assets.

Top 5 threats organizations are most worried about in 2019

Threat Percent respondents
1. Third-party misuses or shares our confidential data 64%
2. An attack involving IoT or OT assets 56%
3. A significant disruption to business processes caused by malware 54%
4. A data breach involving 10,000 or more customer or employee records 52%
5. An attack against the company’s OT infrastructure resulting in downtime to plant and/or operational equipment 48%

Source: Measuring & Managing the Cyber Risks to Business Operations, Ponemon Institute & Tenable, December 2018.

In this survey, past experience does not appear to be the driving factor for future worries. For example, although 56% of respondents said they are worried about the prospect of an attack involving IoT or OT assets in 2019, less than a quarter of respondents (23%) said they have experienced such an attack in the past 24 months.

Top 5 attacks experienced in the past 24 months

Attack Percent respondents
1. A careless employee fell for a phishing scam that resulted in credential theft 67%
2. A significant disruption to business processes caused by malware 48%
3. A third party misused or shared confidential information with other third parties 41%
4. A cyber attack that caused significant downtime 35%
5. A data breach involving 10,000 or more customer or employee records 41%

Source: Measuring & Managing the Cyber Risks to Business Operations, Ponemon Institute & Tenable, December 2018.

Despite their experiences and concerns, the majority of respondents (59%) said their organization does not attempt to quantify the damage any of these events could have on their business.

2019 Cybersecurity and Governance Priorities

In our view, the activities involved in keeping corporate data safe and secure span multiple parts of an organization, including not only the IT and infosec teams but also the governance, risk, and compliance team. For that reason, we asked respondents to identify their cybersecurity priorities as well as their governance priorities.

When it comes to cybersecurity, keeping ahead of attackers and reducing complexity in the IT security infrastructure were the top two priorities for 2019. Nearly two thirds of respondents (61%) identified improving the ability to keep up with the sophistication and stealth of the attackers as a top priority. Six in 10 (60%) cited reducing complexity as important for their organization in the year ahead.

Top 5 cybersecurity priorities for 2019

Cybersecurity priority Percent respondents
1. Improve our ability to keep up with the sophistication and stealth of the attackers 61%
2. Reduce complexity in our IT security infrastructure 60%
3. Improve protection of sensitive and confidential data from unauthorized access 46%
4. Improve controls over third-party access to our sensitive and confidential data 42%
5. Reduce the risk of attack to the OT infrastructure 40%

Source: Measuring & Managing the Cyber Risks to Business Operations, Ponemon Institute & Tenable, December 2018.

When it comes to governance, reducing third-party risk is the top priority for 2019. Some two thirds of respondents (67%) said they will focus on ensuring that third parties have appropriate security practices to protect sensitive and confidential data.

Top 5 governance priorities for 2019

Governance priority Percent respondents
1. Ensure third parties have appropriate security practices to protect sensitive and confidential data 67%
2. Increase communication with C-level and board of directors about the cyber threats facing our organization 64%
3. Increase staff training to prevent careless behavior such as falling for a phishing scam or sharing passwords 53%
4. Increase the number of full-time employees in our IT security function 48%
5. Allocate more resources to vulnerability management 47%

Source: Measuring & Managing the Cyber Risks to Business Operations, Ponemon Institute & Tenable, December 2018.

In addition to identifying top cybersecurity priorities, the report also explores the business cost of cyber risk. We discovered most organizations are not accurately measuring the business costs of cyber risk, and are unable to quantify the damage cyber attacks could have on their businesses. Thus, decisions about the allocation of resources, investments in technologies and the prioritization of threats are being made without critical intelligence. Moreover, organizations are unable to correlate the cyber risk KPIs they are using to the mitigation of a data breach or security exploit.

About this study

The report Measuring & Managing the Cyber Risks to Business Operations is based on a survey of 2,410 IT and IT security decision-makers in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, Mexico and Japan. All respondents have involvement in the evaluation and/or management of investments in cybersecurity solutions within their organizations. The consolidated global findings are presented in this report. Download your free copy here.

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