ExtraHop, the leader in cloud-native network detection and response, today released findings from a new survey that shows 83% of organisations in Asia Pacific were breached by ransomware at least once in the past five years, but only 32% publicly disclosed that an incident occurred. The ExtraHop 2022 Cyber Confidence Index—Asia Pacific, conducted by StollzNow Research and covering Australia, Singapore, and Japan, sheds light on the efficacy of current security practices and the reality of the ransomware attack landscape.
Growing cybersecurity budgets don’t necessarily buy improved degrees of protection and confidence, with only 39% of IT decision makers (ITDMs) in Asia Pacific expressing a high degree of confidence in their organisation’s ability to prevent or mitigate cybersecurity threats, and an equal percentage having low confidence. Of those that are confident, many shouldn’t be: Lax security practices, continued reliance on legacy technology, and actual attack numbers all suggest that confidence levels may be overstated or unrealistic.
This may explain why executives in the region don’t back transparency or disclosure of incidents, since they can’t be confident history won’t repeat itself. It often does: On average, Asia Pacific businesses that identify as a ransomware victim will be infected—or reinfected—at least once a year.
“Security leaders in Asia Pacific are facing a challenge. They’re in disagreement with executives around disclosure, they’re getting increased budgets but it doesn’t feel like enough, and there is worry around legal obligations,” said Jeff Costlow, CISO, ExtraHop. “These leaders need to focus on their risk tolerance for their IP, data, and customer data and arm their teams with the tools and network intelligence that can help them defend their most critical assets. This survey reinforces the challenge organisations face in preventing attacks. Let’s arm defenders with the tools and forensics needed to prevent an intrusion from becoming a full-blown breach.”
Key research findings include:
- The Cost of Ransomware is High: 45% of organisations in Asia Pacific have paid a ransom, despite a majority believing that paying increases the number of attacks. An almost equal proportion—44%—say they are covered by either specific or general insurance policies.
- Ransomware Attacks Come in Numbers: Only 17% of respondents said they experienced no ransomware incidents in the past five years; 46% had experienced one to five attacks, while 35% had experienced six or more. But 20% of organisations wouldn’t tell anyone if they were breached anyway, suggesting the proportion of organisations hit by ransomware is probably a lot higher.
- Corporate Leaders and Security Teams Disagree on Disclosure: Only 32% of organisations are public and transparent about ransomware attacks; 48% let some people know but keep it as private as possible, and 20% tell no one. This is largely against the wishes of IT security personnel, of whom 66% feel it would be better to be transparent and public about ransomware attacks.
- Singapore-based Firms Most Worried About Official Repercussions: The ‘stick’ of legal action and fines promotes action by senior management in security-related decisions, with a total of 73% agreeing with this statement. However, there are significant regional variations with 86% of Singapore-based organisations worried, compared to 68% in Japan and 64% in Australia.
- An Attentive Focus on Supply Chain Risks: Just over half (51%) of organisations allow third-party access to their networks, and most (86%) have considered the security aspects. This is highest in Singapore (96%) and Australia (87%) but lower in Japan (74%) where one in five haven’t assessed the security implications of such arrangements.
- Budgets on the Rise: Just under two-thirds (61%) of organisations expect cybersecurity budgets to increase in 2022. This is higher in Singapore (70%) and Australia (66%) but lower in Japan where 48% anticipate budget increases and 49% expect to see stable budgets year-on-year. Across the board, very few expect cybersecurity budgets to decrease.
- Slow Response Times to Critical Vulnerabilities: Only 26% of teams are able to enact mitigations or apply a patch (where available) in under a day, with 39% taking one-to-three days, 21% needing a week, and 8% requiring a month or more.
- Legacy Technology Hits Confidence: 54% of respondents last updated their cybersecurity infrastructure in 2020 or before; one-fifth of organisations have technology that has gone at least three years without being updated. Additionally, 76% state they are concerned about legacy systems being attacked.
Even as companies continue to innovate with cloud technologies and remote workforces, IT infrastructures remain vulnerable to past architectural decisions, with legacy technology providing ongoing opportunities for attackers to infiltrate networks and unleash ransomware attacks. A lack of visibility and effective use of data has also contributed to organisations’ obstacles in identifying vulnerabilities and preventing ongoing ransomware attacks.
“Digital adoption rates have skyrocketed in Asia, especially during the pandemic as organisations prioritised modernising their legacy systems to support remote and hybrid working. Yet almost 80% of Asian organisations are worried about these legacy systems being attacked,” said Kenneth Chen, VP of Asia, ExtraHop. “Digital transformation is a journey and organisations need tools to support both legacy infrastructure and new SaaS solutions—tools that provide visibility into their network, protocol use, and software behaviour so they can identify and stop an attack before it can compromise the business.”
Organisations should look for ransomware mitigation tools that can capture network communications across all devices, and use technologies like behavioural analytics and artificial intelligence to detect anomalies that signal a ransomware attack in progress. By leveraging a network detection and response platform like ExtraHop’s Reveal(x) 360, defenders can detect and stop the lateral movement and other post-compromise activity of ransomware attackers before they achieve real damage.
The report identifies several courses of action that Asia Pacific organisations intend to take in 2022.
- Network Detection and Response (NDR): 42% intend to invest in NDR systems in the coming year, adding to the 34% of organisations that already have such systems in place.
- Social Engineering Strategy: 47% of respondents plan to implement a social engineering strategy in 2022, building on the 21% that already have one in place today and the 58% that train staff to recognise social engineering cues. This correlates with a finding that about half of ITDMs are already confident in staff ability to identify social engineering-based cyberattacks.
- Improved Threat Training and Identification: 46% plan to implement staff threat training, and the same proportion plan to improve the speed of threat identification.
- Onboarding More Resources: 40% of organisations plan to increase or recruit dedicated internal security staff. The same proportion intends to engage external managed security services in 2022.
The ExtraHop Cyber Confidence Index—Asia Pacific Report 2022 also contains insights into the approaches of the three countries that participated in the research.
Australia Struggles for Staff
The research shows that 43% of Australian ITDMs are very or completely confident in their ability to handle cyber threats. Within that, confidence varies: 77% are confident of preventing attackers from breaking into internal networks, for example, while only 19% say they can always identify and block ransomware. Australian teams will mostly emerge from 2022 with more budget than the previous year, but may still find it difficult to attract resourcing; 63% say it is difficult to find staff for the cybersecurity team, although work-from-home options have broadened the possible skills pool.
Singapore Leads NDR Adoption
ITDMs in Singapore are the most confident in their ability to handle cyber threats (52% overall), with 88% confident in their ability to prevent attackers from breaking into internal networks, and 31% confident in being able to always identify and block ransomware. Their confidence may be a by-product of regulatory enforcement: 86% say the threat of legal action and fines promotes action by senior management in security decisions, far higher than in other jurisdictions. As a result, 74% have an NDR solution in place already, which is 25% more than in Australia and 19% more than in Japan.
Japan avoids skills shortage
ITDMs in Japan are least likely to be very or completely confident in their ability to handle cyber threats, at only 23%, compared to 43% in Australia and 52% in Singapore. However, they are less concerned about the threat of legacy systems being attacked, and considerably less likely to have staffing issues. Only 24% of Japanese ITDMs say it is difficult to find staff for the cybersecurity team, compared to 63% in Australia and 66% in Singapore.
The survey of 300 security and IT decision makers in Australia, Japan, and Singapore, was conducted by StollzNow Research and sponsored by ExtraHop. It involved 100 IT decision makers in each of the three markets, at organisations of at least fifty people, and operating in a broad range of industry verticals. It was conducted in January 2022.