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Companies Fail to Consider Risk When Prioritizing Cybersecurity Investments: Survey

Companies are failing when it comes to prioritizing security investments based on risk, a new survey on cybersecurity has found.

Companies are failing when it comes to prioritizing security investments based on risk, a new survey on cybersecurity has found.

Inside the 2014 U.S. State of Cybercrime Survey – which includes responses from more than 500 executives, security experts and others throughout the private and public sectors – is this figure: only 38 percent of them have a methodology to prioritize security investments based on risk and impact to business strategy. There are other numbers in the survey that some may find equally troubling – the survey found that the average number of security incidents detected in these organizations during the past year was 135, and 14 percent of respondents reported that monetary losses attributed the cybercrime had increased.

More numbers – 67 percent of those who detected a security incident were not able to estimate the financial costs of dealing with the situation. Among those that could, the average annual hit was projected at $415,000.

The survey was a collaborative effort involving the Secret Service, PricewaterhouseCoopers, CSO magazine and the CERT Division of the Software Engineering Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. The research found eight issues that should concern businesses. Listed first among them is a failure to take a strategic approach to cybersecurity spending.

“Despite substantial investments in cybersecurity technologies, cyber criminals continue to find ways to circumvent these technologies in order to obtain sensitive information that they can monetize,” said Ed Lowery, Special Agent in Charge of the Criminal Investigative Division of the U.S. Secret Service, in a statement. “The increasing sophistication of cyber criminals and their ability to circumvent security technologies indicates the need for a radically different approach to cybersecurity: A balanced approach that, in addition to using effective cybersecurity technologies, develops the people, processes, and effective partnerships in order to strategically counter cybersecurity threats.”

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to strategic spending, but allocating resources based on risk is an approach that should be adopted by all organizations, regardless of industry or geography, according to the report containing the survey results.

“Cybersecurity programs also should be designed with flexibility and agility to enable the organization to quickly address cyber threats as they multiply and evolve,” the report notes. “In practical terms, the scope and duration of cybersecurity initiatives should be designed and funded for shorter terms than the typical three- to five-year business plans.”

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“A strategic investment also will require that organizations identify and invest in cybersecurity practices that are most relevant to today’s advanced attacks,” the report continues. “Rather than an emphasis on prevention mechanisms, for instance, it is essential to fund processes that fully integrate predictive, preventive, detective, and incident-response capabilities to minimize the impact. In particular, we find that many organizations fail to invest in the people and process capabilities that allow them to rapidly respond to and mitigate incidents.”

Sixty-nine percent of U.S. respondents reported they were worried about the impact of cyber-threats on their ability to grow their business, compared to just 49 percent of CEOs globally.

“Third-party and supply chain partners should be held to the same, if not higher, cybersecurity standard that companies set for themselves,” said Randy Trzeciak, technical manager of the Insider Threat Center at CERT, in a statement. “In particular, compliance should be mandated in contracts. Carefully assessing risks associated with partners and determining incident response plans are also essential elements.”

The full report is available online in PDF format.

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