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Sophos report sheds light on Aussie cybersecurity landscape

Corporate culture, employee education and path-to-purchase play a significant role in successful cybersecurity practices, a new study shows.

The new report, titled The Future of Cybersecurity in Asia Pacific and Japan, was commissioned by Sophos, the next-generation endpoint and network cybersecurity company, and surveyed 200 business decision makers in Australia.

According to the report, inadequate education, leadership and funding are major barriers to cybersecurity preparedness and success lies in more than buying technology.

Of the business leaders surveyed, 60% believe lack of security expertise is a challenge for their organisation, with 65% observing recruitment of skills to be a struggle.

According to Sophos, this comes down to the set-up of cybersecurity within organisations, which commonly sees IT staff tasked with security in addition to their other responsibilities.

There is also a wider corporate cultural issue, relating to attitude and behavior, impacting corporate cybersecurity, Sophos says.

In fact, 87% of Australian organisations believe the biggest challenge to their security in the next 24 months will be improving cybersecurity awareness and education among employees and leadership.

In addition, budget challenges and organisational structure continue to play a role, Sophos says.

In Australia, only a third (33%) of organisations have a dedicated cybersecurity budget - in most cases budgets are included as part of other broader IT or other departmental spend.

Organisational IT security structures are diverse, with one third of those surveyed having a dedicated CISO, another third having their cybersecurity led by an IT leader, and the remainder giving responsibility to another executive, such as the CTO.

The majority of organisations continue to keep most capabilities in-house and only in a few areas, such as penetration testing and training, do organisations choose outsourcing.

While only 18% of Australian organisations are regularly making significant changes to their cybersecurity approach, nearly half (45%) are intending to make changes to their security approach in the next six to 24 months.

As part of this, more than half (54%) of organisations anticipate their use of external security partners to rise over the next 12 months.

The main triggers for security updates beyond changes to overall security posture are technology and product developments, compliance and regulation requirements, and growing awareness of new attacks, the report shows.

Sophos principal research scientist Chester Wisniewski sheds some light on the findings of the report and what organisations can do to improve their approach to cybersecurity.

He says, “Security is hard. We all know it. Sophos survey highlights the constant challenge presented by the evolving security landscape and never ending search for skills and best practices to help organisations overcome these threats.

“What does it really mean to be secure? Ultimately, security is about managing risk. To do that effectively, IT managers must be able to identify key areas where their teams actions will have an outsized impact on protecting their organisation, employees and the data their company has been entrusted with.”

Wisniewski says, “Our research highlights the struggles organisations face in attaining security expertise and staying up to date. It also shows a lack of visibility into security risk and an overestimation of respondents abilities to defend their organisations.

“For example, on average, one third of respondents believed their organisations had been the victim of a breach in the last year, whereas anecdotal evidence suggests this number should be close to 100%.”

“Today’s security teams must be proactive in their response to today’s cyber threats. This requires having the tools to effectively find suspicious activity and access to a network of security knowledge to interpret that information and lead them to appropriate corrective action,” he says.

Within the report, Sophos looked at how Australia compares to the rest of the world around certain criteria:

  • 34% of Australian organisations said they had been breached in the last 12 months the second highest of all the surveyed countries
  • The most serious attack vectors in Australia (receiving a seriousness rating of 9 or 10 out of 10) are malware, phishing and ransomware
  • The top three cybersecurity frustrations are: executives assuming cybersecurity is easy, cybersecurity frequently being relegated in priority and not enough budget
  • The top technologies or issues Australian security decision makers think will impact their organisations security in the next 24 months are digital transformation programs, agile development, AI and machine learning.