Tenable: 48% of UK cyber-attacks successful

October 30, 2023



Tenable study finds UK security teams are so busy remediating cyber-attacks that they don’t have time or resources to focus efforts on strengthening defences to deflect and protect against them.

A study by exposure management company, Tenable has revealed that, of the cyber-attacks UK organisations experienced in the last two years, 48% were successful.

This forces security teams to focus time and efforts on reactively mitigating cyber-attacks, rather than preventing them in the first instance, said Tenable, adding, “with 60% of UK organisations confident that their cybersecurity practices are capable of successfully reducing the organisation’s risk exposure, there is obviously work to be done”.

Tenable: time is not on the security team’s side

These findings are based on a commissioned survey of 100 UK based cybersecurity and IT leaders conducted in 2023 by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Tenable.

Respondents were particularly concerned with the risks associated with cloud infrastructure, given the complexity it introduces in trying to correlate user and system identities, access and entitlement data.

Seven in 10 organisations say they use multi-cloud and/or hybrid cloud environments. However, over two-thirds of respondents (67%) cite cloud infrastructure as one of the highest areas of risk exposure in their organisation.

In order, the highest perceived risks come from the use of public cloud infrastructure (31%), multi cloud and/or hybrid cloud (27%) and private cloud infrastructure (9%).

From the study it was evident that time is not on the security team’s side. Nearly two-thirds of respondents (65%) believe their organisation would be more successful at defending against cyber-attacks if it devoted more resources to preventive cybersecurity. Yet six in 10 respondents (60%) say the cybersecurity team is too busy fighting critical incidents to take a preventive approach to reducing their organisation’s exposure.

Cyber professionals cite that a reactive stance is largely due to their organisations’ struggle to obtain an accurate picture of their attack surface, including visibility into unknown assets, cloud resources, code weaknesses and user entitlement systems.

Complexities of infrastructure

The complexity of infrastructure — with its reliance on multiple cloud systems, numerous identity and privilege management tools and various web-facing assets — brings with it numerous opportunities for misconfigurations and overlooked assets.

Over half of respondents (56%) said a lack of data hygiene prevents them from drawing quality data from user privilege and access management systems, as well as from vulnerability management systems.

While most respondents (75%) say they consider user identity and access privileges when they prioritise vulnerabilities for patching/remediation, 46% say their organisation lacks an effective way of integrating such data into their preventive cybersecurity and exposure management practices.

A lack of communication at the highest levels complicates and compounds the cyber problem in businesses. While attackers are continuously assessing environments, in most organisations meetings about business-critical systems take place monthly — at best.

Just under half of respondents (47%) say they meet monthly with business leaders to discuss which systems are business critical, while 25% hold such meetings only once per year and 3% say they never hold such meetings.

“While reducing cyber risks has to be the priority, it seems easier said than done. Our study confirms that security teams are being overwhelmed by the sheer volume of cyberattacks they have to react to. As the attack surface becomes ever more complex, this imbalance will only worsen,” said Bernard Montel, EMEA Technical Director and Security Strategist, Tenable. “Something has to change to stem the tide of successful attacks. Security leadership needs to be involved in high-end business decision making. Only then can the organisation hope to reduce its risks and take steps to address the challenges standing in the way.”

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