UK businesses ramp up security against hackers but what about data breaches?

New research reveals that businesses are overly confident about keeping hackers at bay, but less so about keeping data safe. Here's why.

With the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) coming into force in May 2018, businesses will be subject to large maximum fines for certain data protection breaches, making the adoption of robust data protection policies and practices a priority.

However, new research reveals that despite the increasing number of data breaches and nearly 1.4 billion data records being lost or stolen in 2016, the vast majority of IT professionals still believe perimeter security is effective at keeping unauthorised users out of their networks. Companies are under investing in technology that adequately protects their business, according to the findings of the fourth-annual Data Security Confidence Index released today by digital security firm, Gemalto.

Businesses are confident in meeting compliance mandates, despite 53 per cent of companies believing they will not be fully compliant with GDPR when it becomes enforceable next year.

Surveying 1,050 IT decision makers worldwide, businesses feel that perimeter security is keeping them safe, with 94 per cent believing that it is quite effective at keeping unauthorised users out of their network. However, two in three are not extremely confident their data would be protected, should their perimeter be breached. Despite this, nearly six in 10 organisations report that they believe all their sensitive data is secure.

Perimeter security is the focus, but understanding of technology and data security is lacking

Many businesses are continuing to prioritise perimeter security without realising it is largely ineffective against sophisticated cyberattacks. According to the research, 76 per cent said their organisation had increased investment in perimeter security technologies such as firewalls, IDPS, antivirus, content filtering and anomaly detection to protect against external attackers. Despite this investment, two thirds believe that unauthorised users could access their network, rendering their perimeter security ineffective.

These findings suggest a lack of confidence in the solutions used, especially when over a quarter of organisations have suffered perimeter security breaches in the past 12 months.  The reality of the situation worsens when considering that, on average, only 8 per cent of data breached was encrypted.

Businesses’ confidence is further undermined by over half of respondents not knowing where their sensitive data is stored. In addition, over a third of businesses do not encrypt valuable information such as payment or customer data. This means that, should the data be stolen, a hacker would have full access to this information, and can use it for crimes including identify theft, financial fraud or ransomware. 

“It is clear that there is a divide between organisations’ perceptions of the effectiveness of perimeter security and the reality,” said Jason Hart, vice president and chief technology officer for data protection at Gemalto. “By believing that their data is already secure, businesses are failing to prioritise the measures necessary to protect their data. Businesses need to be aware that hackers are after a company’s most valuable asset – data. It’s important to focus on protecting this resource, otherwise reality will inevitably bite those that fail to do so.” 

Most Businesses are unprepared for GDPR

With GDPR becoming enforceable in May 2018, businesses must understand how to comply by properly securing personal data to avoid the risk of administrative fines and reputational damage. However, over half of respondents say they do not believe they will be fully compliant with GDPR by May next year. With less than a year to go, businesses must begin introducing the correct security protocols in their journey to reaching GDPR compliance, including encryption, two-factor authentication and key management strategies.

“Investing in cybersecurity has clearly become more of a focus for businesses in the last 12 months. However, what is of concern is that so few are adequately securing the most vulnerable and crucial data they hold, or even understand where it is stored,” Hart says. This is standing in the way of GDPR compliance, and before long the businesses that don’t improve their cybersecurity will face severe legal, financial and reputational consequences.”

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda was Editor for GrowthBusiness.co.uk from 2016 to 2018.

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