Despite higher levels of investment in advanced cybersecurity technologies over the past three years, less than 20 percent of organizations are effectively stopping cyberattacks and finding and fixing breaches fast enough to lower the impact, new research showed.

Based on a survey of more than 4,600 enterprise security practitioners around the globe, Accenture’s Third Annual State of Cyber Resilience study looked at where organizations prioritize security, the effectiveness of current security efforts, and the impact of new security-related investments.

The study identified a group of elite “leaders,” which was 17 percent of the research sample, that achieve significantly better results from their cybersecurity technology investments than other organizations.

Leaders were characterized as among the highest performers in at least three of the following four categories: Stop more attacks, find breaches faster, fix breaches faster and reduce breach impact. The study identified a second group, comprising 74 percent of the respondents, as “non-leaders,” or average performers in terms of cyber resilience but far from being laggards.

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“Our analysis identifies a group of standout organizations that appear to have cracked the code of cybersecurity when it comes to best practices,” said Kelly Bissell, who leads Accenture Security globally. “Leaders in our survey are far quicker at detecting a breach, mobilizing their response, minimizing the damage and getting operations back to normal.”

One case in point is leaders were four times more likely than non-leaders to detect a breach in less than one day (88 percent vs. 22 percent). And when defenses fail, nearly all (96 percent) of the leaders fixed breaches in 15 days or less, on average, whereas nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of non-leaders took 16 days or longer to remediate a breach — with nearly half of those taking more than a month.

“When a cyberattack prevents a pharmaceutical company from manufacturing drugs or a ship from docking at port — those are the kinds of crippling business impacts we’re most concerned about helping our clients avoid,” said Ryan LaSalle, who leads Accenture Security in North America. “If investments in technology don’t hit the mark when it comes to defending against cyberattacks, C-suite executives are not only jeopardizing their operations and finances but their brands and reputations as well.”

Among the key differences in cybersecurity practices between leaders and non-leaders, the report identified:

  • Leaders focused more of their budget allocations on sustaining what they already have, whereas the non-leaders place significantly more emphasis on piloting and scaling new capabilities.
  • Leaders were nearly three times less likely to have had more than 500,000 customer records exposed through cyberattacks in the last 12 months (15 percent vs. 44 percent).
  • Leaders were more than three times as likely to provide users of security tools with required training for those tools (30 percent vs. 9 percent).
  • The study also found more than four in five respondents (83 percent) believe organizations need to think beyond securing just their own enterprises and take better steps to secure their vendor ecosystems. Additionally, while cybersecurity programs designed to protect data and other key assets are only actively protecting about 60 percent of an organization’s business ecosystem, which includes vendors and other business partners, 40 percent of breaches come through this route.

    “The sizable number of vendor relationships that most organizations have poses a significant challenge to their ability to monitor that business ecosystem,” Bissell said. “Yet, given the large percentage of breaches that originate in an organization’s supply chain, companies need to ensure that their cyber defenses stretch beyond their own walls.”

    The following are three practical and actionable steps organizations can take to act more like cybersecurity leaders:
    1. Invest for operational speed — prioritize technology that focuses on faster detection, response and recovery.
    2. Drive value from new investments — scale, train and collaborate more.
    3. Sustain what you have — maintain existing investments and perform better at the basics.

    To learn more about the research, click here to download the Third Annual State of Cyber Resilience study.

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