93% of organizations struggle when executing essential security operation tasks

Sophos, a global leader in innovating and delivering cybersecurity as a service, has published a new survey report, The State of Cybersecurity 2023: The Business Impact of Adversaries on Defenders,” which found that, globally, 93% of organizations find the execution of some essential security operation tasks, such as threat hunting, challenging.

These challenges also include understanding how an attack happened, with 75% of respondents stating they have challenges identifying the root cause of an incident. This can make proper remediation difficult, leaving organizations vulnerable to repetitive and/or multiple attacks, by the same or different adversaries, especially since 71% of those surveyed also reported challenges with timely remediation.

In addition, 71% said they have challenges understanding which signals/alerts to investigate, and the same percent reported challenges prioritizing investigations.

“Only one fifth of respondents considered vulnerabilities and remote services a top cybersecurity risk for 2023, yet the ground truth is that these are routinely exploited by Active Adversaries. This cascade of operational issues means that these organizations aren’t seeing the full picture and are potentially acting on incorrect information. There’s nothing worse than being confidently wrong. Having external audits and monitoring helps eliminate blind spots. We can look at you the way an attacker does,” said John Shier, field CTO, commercial, Sophos.

Additional findings include:

  • 52% of organizations surveyed said that cyberthreats are now too advanced for their organization to deal with on their own
  • 64% wish the IT team could spend more time on strategic issues and less time on firefighting, and 55% said that the time spent on cyberthreats has impacted the IT team’s work on other projects
  • While 94% said they are working with external specialists to scale their operations, the majority still remain involved with managing threats rather than taking a fully outsourced approach

“Today’s threats require a timely and coordinated response. Unfortunately, too many organizations are stuck in reactive mode. Not only is this having an impact on core business priorities, but it also has a sizeable human toll, with over half of respondents stating that cyberattacks are keeping them up at night. Eliminating the guesswork and applying defensive controls based on actionable intelligence will let IT teams focus on enabling the business instead of trying to douse the eternal flame of active attacks,” said Shier.

Overall, the study revealed that today’s reality is a two-speed cybersecurity system with adversaries and defenders moving at different speeds. Through automation, cybercrime “as-a-service” models, stealthy impersonation, and adaptation, adversaries are accelerating and can now execute a wide range of sophisticated attacks at scale. With 94% of organizations experiencing a cyberattack of some form in the last year, all companies – regardless of size or revenue – should assume they will be a target in 2023.

Slowed by a shortage of expertise, an overwhelming volume of alerts, and too much time spent on incident response, defenders are unable to keep up.
Operationalizing threat detection and response is difficult for most organizations, with 93% finding the execution of essential security operations tasks challenging.

Investigating security alerts is a widespread issue. On average, just under half (48%) of all alerts are investigated to determine whether they are signs of
malicious activity, and most organizations struggle to identify (71%) and prioritize (71%) which alerts/events to investigate. For the alerts that require it, the full
detection, investigation and response process takes nine hours on average for organizations with 100-3,000 employees, rising to 15 hours for those with 3,001-
5,000 employees.

Operationally, defenders lack confidence in their processes, with security tool misconfiguration identified as the top perceived security risk in 2023. Over half
(52%) of IT professionals say that cyberthreats are now too advanced for their organization to deal with on their own, rising to 64% among small businesses
(100-250 employees).


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