Research shows security pros ‘running to keep up’

A new survey shows most IT Security Decision Makers are “lagging behind, treading water or running to keep up”

Posted 28 July 2022 by Christine Horton

A new survey shows that 60 percent of IT Security Decision Makers (ITSDMs) believe their overall security strategy does not keep pace with the threat landscape. They say they are either lagging behind (20 percent), treading water (13 percent), or merely running to keep up (27 percent).

The poll conducted Delinea of 2000 ITSDMs in more than 20 countries, also highlights differences between the perceived and actual effectiveness of security strategies. While 40 percent of respondents believe they have the right strategy in place, 84 percent of organisations reported that they have experienced an identity-related breach or an attack using stolen credentials during the previous year and a half. 

Identity security is a priority, yet board buy-in is critical

Promisingly, many organisations are hungry to make a change, particularly when it comes to protecting identities. In fact, 90 percent of respondents state that their organisations fully recognise the importance of identity security in enabling them to achieve their business goals, and 87 percent say that it is one of the most important security priorities for the next 12 months.

However, three quarters (75 percent) of IT and security professionals also believe that they’ll fall short of protecting privileged identities because they won’t get the support they need. This is largely due to a lack of budget and executive alignment, with 63 percent of respondents saying that their company’s board still doesn’t fully understand identity security and the role it plays in enabling better business operations.

“While the importance of identity security is acknowledged by business leaders, most security teams will not receive the backing and budget they need to put vital security controls and solutions in place to reduce major risks,” said Joseph Carson, chief security scientist and advisory CISO at Delinea. “This means that the majority of organisations will continue to fall short of protecting privileges, leaving them vulnerable to cybercriminals looking to discover privileged accounts and abuse them.”

Lack of policies puts machine identities at great risk

The research reveals that, despite good intentions, companies have a long way to go to protect privileged identities and access. Fewer than half of the organisations surveyed have implemented ongoing security policies and processes for privileged access management, such as password rotation or approvals, time-based or context-based security, or privileged behaviour monitoring such as recording and auditing. Even more worryingly, more than half (52 percent) of all respondents allow privileged users to access sensitive systems and data without requiring multi-factor authentication (MFA).

The report brings to light another dangerous oversight. Privileged identities include humans, such as domain and local administrators, as well as non-humans, such as service accounts, application accounts, code, and other types of machine identities that connect and share privileged information automatically. However, only 44 percent of organisations manage and secure machine identities, while the majority leave them exposed and vulnerable to attack.

Said Carson: “Cyber criminals look for the weakest link and overlooking ‘non-human’ identities—particularly when these are growing at a faster pace than human users—greatly increases the risk of privilege-based identity attacks. When attackers target machine and application identities they can easily hide, moving around the network to determine the best place to strike and cause the most damage. Organisations need to ensure machine identities are included in their security strategies and follow best practices when it comes to protecting all their IT ‘superuser‘ accounts which, if compromised, could bring the entire business to a halt.”