Cybersecurity

Execs think their networks are safe (they’re not)

Shutterstock image: examining a line of code.

CEOs, CIOs and CISOs seem to have a false sense of security.

In a survey of roughly 350 C-level leaders at private and public organizations across multiple industries, cybersecurity analytics firm RedSeal discovered an unnerving level of confidence among executives.

More than half – 60 percent – of the survey respondents agreed with the statement, “I can truthfully assure our Board, beyond any reasonable doubt, that our organization is secure.” (The 14 government executives surveyed were split 50-50 on the question.)

Yet, as RedSeal noted, in this day and age virtually every organization has been breached, with some estimates putting the figure as high as 97 percent. (Consider, too, cloud security firm Skyhigh Networks’ recent estimate that more than 96 percent of public sector organizations have users with compromised identities.)

“It’s remarkable how many executives say their networks are secure—until we drill down into the issue, and it becomes obvious not only that there are vulnerabilities, but also that many organizations have no idea where those weak spots are,” said RedSeal CEO Ray Rothrock. “This is exactly why corporations get breached so often, even though they’ve invested in excellent security products.”

The Office of Personnel Management breach, in which more than 4 million personnel files were exposed to hackers, may be one example of the disconnect between what executives think and what’s actually going on. OPM’s systems were hacked all the way back in December 2014, but the breach wasn’t detected by the Homeland Security Department’s Einstein system until April.

While not a hack per se, the IRS’s troubles with its “Get Transcript” application offer another recent example of a problematic security mindset: The agency didn’t fully realize fraudulent pull requests were pouring in until legitimate requests tapered off at the end of tax filing season.

Other key points from RedSeal’s survey:

  • Only 29 percent of respondents said they “know for a fact that their network is currently under attack by hackers.”
  • Only 32 percent of respondents said they have complete visibility into their network worldwide.
  • Every single one of the government respondents agreed with the statement, “If I could clearly understand all the possible ways attackers can get in and out of my network -- with clear, simple instructions about what should be fixed - first, second, third etc. -- that, to me, would be a strategic security solution and critical capability.”

RedSeal published an infographic breaking down the survey’s findings here.

About the Author

Zach Noble is a former FCW staff writer.

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