Cyberattacks rise while stagnant budgets & apathetic leadership remain major cybersecurity barriers in Asia Pacific & Japan: Study

Study indicates COVID-19 accelerated period of digitization and was a catalyst for improving cybersecurity, but systemic security issues persist

Cyberattacks rise while stagnant budgets & apathetic leadership remain major cybersecurity barriers in Asia Pacific & Japan: Study - CIO&Leader

Despite cyberattacks increasing, cybersecurity budgets have remained stagnant and executive teams continue to underestimate the level of damage threats can do to organizations, according to Sophos’ study, titled The Future of Cybersecurity in Asia Pacific & Japan.   

Attacks rise, budgets stay the same

Nearly 70% of Asia Pacific organizations surveyed suffered a data breach in 2020, an increase of 36% from 2019. Of these successful breaches, 55% of companies rated the loss of data as either “very serious” (24%) or “serious” (31%). Nearly 17% of organizations surveyed suffered 50 attacks, per week.

While attacks are increasing in frequency and severity, cybersecurity budgets remained largely unchanged as percentage of revenue between 2019 and 2021. At the same time, 59% of businesses stated that their cybersecurity budget is below where it needs to be, the same percentage it was in 2019.

“Ultimately, security is about right sizing the risk. If the risk increases, budgets should also increase, but in this climate of uncertainty, we’ve seen organizations take a conservative approach to security spending, which is impacting their ability to stay ahead of cybercriminals,” said Trevor Clarke, lead analyst and director at Tech Research Asia.    

The top frustrations of Asia Pacific and Japan companies reflect boardroom indifference 

Across Asia Pacific and Japan (APJ), the number one frustration identified by companies is that executives assume cybersecurity is easy and that cybersecurity threats and issues are exaggerated. A lack of budget ranked second, followed by the struggle to fill cybersecurity roles.

“Our research highlights a disturbing attitude that needs to be tackled head on – executive teams claiming that cybersecurity incidents are exaggerated. It is confounding that this attitude prevails even when the end of 2020 showed us just how bad a global supply-chain attack could be. If that wasn’t enough, the more recent zero-day vulnerabilities in widely deployed email platforms demonstrates the desperate need for unification when it comes to cyber resilience. Everybody needs to play a part. And to play a part, we all need to understand the risk,” said Aaron Bugal, global solutions engineer, Sophos.    

The industry skills shortage continues to create challenges

There has been nominal improvement on the cybersecurity skills gap issue in 2021. Nearly 60% of businesses agree that their company’s lack of cybersecurity skills is challenging for their organization, compared to 62% in 2019.

A lack of suitable staff and budget constraints continue to hinder organizations from obtaining the skills they require in-house. More than 60% of companies struggle to recruit candidates with the necessary skills, which is only a five% improvement from 67% in 2019.

COVID-19’s impact on remote working accelerated transformation, but exposed vulnerabilities   

COVID-19 had a positive impact on cybersecurity, with 69% of companies agreeing that the outbreak of COVID-19 was the strongest catalyst for upgrading cybersecurity strategy and tools in the past 12 months.

At the same time, just over half of organizations indicated they were unprepared for the security requirements driven by the sudden need for secure remote working at the onset of the pandemic.

“COVID-19 compelled companies to refresh their cybersecurity strategies, yet the transformational shift to remote working also exposed additional weaknesses. Businesses have transformed their workplace environments, undergone an accelerated period of digitisation, yet continue to confront systemic cybersecurity issues, including executive apathy, low budgets and a lack of skilled cybersecurity professionals.

“Despite improvements made, progress remains slow, reinforcing our belief that cybersecurity is never ‘finished’ and requires a constant focus, both from technological and cultural viewpoints,” said Trevor Clarke.

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