According to the inaugural Cybersecurity Readiness Index released recently by Cisco, a mere 15% of organisations worldwide possess the necessary level of readiness to effectively combat modern cybersecurity risks. This index was developed in response to the hybrid work environment that emerged after the COVID-19 pandemic, emphasizing the importance of securing users and data in diverse work settings. The report underscores both the strengths and weaknesses of businesses’ cybersecurity preparedness, highlighting the urgent need for action by global business and security leaders.

Previously, organizations operated in a static manner, with individuals using single devices from a single location and connecting to a fixed network. However, the shift towards a hybrid world has introduced new cybersecurity challenges as people now operate from multiple devices and locations, access applications in the cloud, connect to various networks, and generate large volumes of data.

Titled “Cisco Cybersecurity Readiness Index: Resilience in a Hybrid World,” the report assesses the resilience of companies in defending against modern threats. It evaluates five core pillars essential for effective defense: identity, devices, network, application workloads, and data. Within these pillars, the report encompasses 19 different solutions.

The survey, conducted by an independent third party, collected responses from 6700 cybersecurity leaders in the private sector across 27 markets. Respondents were asked to indicate which solutions they had deployed and at what stage of deployment. Based on their responses, companies were classified into four stages of increasing readiness: Beginner, Formative, Progressive, and Mature.

The findings reveal a significant readiness gap, with only 15% of companies categorized as Mature. More than half of the companies globally (55%) fall into the Beginner (8%) or Formative (47%) stages, indicating below-average performance in terms of cybersecurity readiness.

This readiness gap is particularly concerning given that 82% of respondents anticipate a cybersecurity incident disrupting their business within the next 12 to 24 months. The cost of being unprepared can be substantial, as 60% of respondents reported experiencing a cybersecurity incident in the past year, with 41% of those affected stating that it cost them at least US$500,000.

Jeetu Patel, executive vice president and general manager of security and collaboration at Cisco, emphasised the need for organisations to shift from using an assortment of individual security tools to integrated platforms that enhance security resilience while reducing complexity. By doing so, businesses can address the cybersecurity readiness gap effectively.

As companies invest in improving their cybersecurity readiness, their confidence in handling risks is also expected to increase. Currently, among companies categorised as Mature, 53% expressed being “Very Confident” in their ability to tackle risks. In contrast, only 30% of companies in the Beginner stage and 34% in the Formative stage share the same level of confidence.

To build secure and resilient organizations, business leaders must establish a baseline of readiness across the five security pillars, suggests the report. This is especially critical considering that 86% of respondents plan to increase their security budgets by at least 10% over the next 12 months. By establishing this baseline, organisations can capitalize on their strengths, prioritise areas requiring improvement, and enhance their overall resilience.

Warnings against complacency

Over 800 cyber security delegates attended ABB’s Ransom-Aware OT Defense Summit on April 19, organized in partnership with the global technology advisory board Industry IoT. The event focused on strategies to reduce risk of ransomware attacks and identify security threats to critical infrastructure.

“The likelihood of being attacked is no longer a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when’. Being complacent when it comes to cyber security can be as dangerous as an attack itself, and not being prepared is no longer an option,” said Ragnar Schierholz, Global Cyber Security Portfolio Manager at ABB.

During the event, ABB launched its “Defense in Depth” playbook which includes a recommended risk reduction roadmap for customers and outlines strategies that leverage multiple security measures and defensive mechanisms to protect systems and data from vulnerabilities.

“Defense in depth is a tried and tested strategy that can be universally applied to reduce cyber risk,” said Joseph Catanese, Cyber Security Practice Lead at ABB and author of the playbook. “We have created a guide that shares examples of best practice, with a focus on reducing the surface area of vulnerability. To explain it better, let’s visualise a dartboard which represents all the openings an attacker can use to access a machine or system. Each dart that lands on the dartboard is a successful attack. The larger the dartboard, the higher the probability that a dart will stick to the board. However, reducing the surface area will make it more difficult to successfully land on the board.”

The efficacy of the defense in depth methodology has been widely acknowledged. The National Institute of Technology (NIST) recommends using it from the very start through to the design of security and privacy architectures. The International Society of Automation (ISA) refers to it as a superior approach to achieving security objectives.

“This methodology will help organisations find the best approach to industrial cyber security, to successfully reduce risk of cyber attacks, and therefore downtime, while enabling digitalisation,” said Curt Dukes, Executive Vice President and General Manager at the Center for Internet Security (CIS).

ABB’s summit brought together industrial cyber experts and technology leaders from companies including IBM, Cisco, Boston Consulting Group, Johnson Matthey, BASF Digital Solutions, Norsk Hydro and Boliden.

“Our research shows we still have a lot of work to do to secure our modern connected society, but also that we can’t ‘do it all’ and so need to choose wisely where our focus goes. What is clear is that everybody has the same fear, uncertainty and doubt around what we do not know, and about which doors and windows of their technology castle have been left open,” said Derek Harp, Founder and Chairman of The Control System Cyber Security Association International (CS2AI).

Working together

Waterfall Security Solutions, an operational technology (OT) security company, and Atlantic Data Security, a cybersecurity solutions provider, recently announced a partnership to protect data centers, building automation systems and critical infrastructure facilities. With attacks on OT networks becoming more powerful and pervasive, this new partnership aims to provide owners and operators with solutions to improve the security posture and preparedness of physical operations.

“Providing our clients with the strongest and most advanced OT cyber protection is a top priority for Atlantic Data Security,” said Scott Kasper, Executive VP and General Manager for Atlantic Data Security. “The partnership with Waterfall Security Solutions reflects this commitment and will improve protection for OT networks from steadily increasing ransomware and targeted attacks.”

“Waterfall’s partnership with Atlantic Data Security is driven by a shared commitment and vision to provide data center facilities and industrial customers with the strongest cyber protection possible, while enabling technological advancement and efficiencies for these owners and operators,” added Lior Frenkel, CEO and Co-Founder at Waterfall. “The Waterfall Atlantic Data Security partnership brings the strongest unidirectional solutions, providing unbreachable protection for our joint customers.”

Waterfall Unidirectional Security Gateways and related solutions are used by some of the world’s most secure industrial sites. Unidirectional Gateways provide hardware-enforced, engineering-grade protection for industrial operations, and are designed to integrate easily into any industrial and operations environment. With the new partnership in place, Waterfall and Atlantic Data Security will provide customers in data centers, power generation, manufacturing, oil & gas, water treatment and more, with the security solutions and support required to maintain the essential elements of a robust OT security infrastructure.

In addition to the partnership with Atlantic Data Security, Waterfall Security Solutions has also joined forces with TCSS to secure OT networks, industrial processes and critical infrastructure in the energy and utilities industries. Advanced automation and the connectivity such automation requires make critical infrastructures and other industrial processes vulnerable to cyberattacks. Worst-case consequences of compromised OT systems can be unacceptable, ranging from damage to long lead-time assets, to employee casualties and even threats to public safety. This new partnership is a timely response to today’s steadily deteriorating cyber threat environment.

“Joining forces with Waterfall Security Solutions advance our shared goals of better serving our customers and providing them with secure and consolidated OT digitalization solutions,” said Dr. Robert Herscovici, Founder and CEO of TCSS. “Strong cybersecurity solutions accelerate the deployment of advanced automation solutions, by removing cyber risk as an impediment to innovation.”

“Critical infrastructure products and services must be both reliable and affordable,” commented Lior Frenkel. “Our partnership with TCSS brings both TCSS’ expertise and Waterfall Security’s products and long experience to bear on the task of automating infrastructures for increased efficiencies, while thoroughly securing those infrastructures from cyber attacks.”