Companies in Saudi Arabia are less than half as likely as those elsewhere to be leaders in cybersecurity performance, according to a new study from Accenture (NYSE: ACN).
Based on a survey of more than 4,600 enterprise security practitioners around the globe, Accenture’s Third Annual State of Cyber Resilience study explores the extent to which companies prioritize security, the effectiveness of current security efforts, and the impact of new security-related investments.
The report identifies a group of “leaders” — companies that achieved better results from their cybersecurity technology investments than did other organizations. To be a “leader,” a company needed to be among the highest performers in at least three of the following four categories: stopping more attacks; finding breaches faster; fixing breaches faster; and reducing breach impact.
Only 8% of Saudi companies fell into the “leader” category, compared with 17% of surveyed companies globally. (The vast majority — 74% — of respondents were categorized as “non-leaders”; average performers in terms of cyber resilience but far from being laggards.)
In addition, Saudi companies took longer to detect and respond to attacks. In fact, they were only one-third as likely as other companies to resolve breaches in 15 days or less (32%, compared with the global average of 96%).
Moreover, the study noted that less than one-fifth of organizations globally are stopping cyberattacks and finding and fixing breaches fast enough to lower the impact.
“The survey findings should be a wake-up call for companies in one of the most critical markets in the region,” said Ahmed Etman, who leads Accenture Security in the Middle East. “There is an enormous opportunity for Saudi businesses to improve their cyber-resilience by reducing the time it takes to detect and respond to attacks.”
Global insights and recommendations:
Kelly Bissell, who leads Accenture Security globally, said, “Our analysis identifies a group of standout organizations that appear to have cracked the code of cybersecurity when it comes to best practices. Leaders in our survey are far quicker at detecting a breach, mobilizing their response, minimizing the damage and getting operations back to normal.”
For instance, leaders were four times more likely than non-leaders to detect a breach in less than one day (88% vs. 22%). And when defenses fail, nearly all (96%) of the leaders fixed breaches in 15 days or less, on average, whereas nearly two-thirds (64%) of non-leaders took 16 days or longer to remediate a breach — with nearly half of those taking more than a month.
Among the key differences in cybersecurity practices that the report identified between leaders and non-leaders:
Leaders focus more of their budget allocations on sustaining what they already have, whereas non-leaders place significantly more emphasis on piloting and scaling new capabilities.
Leaders were nearly three times less likely to have had more than 500,000 customer records exposed through cyberattacks in the last 12 months (15% vs. 44%).
Leaders were more than three times as likely to provide users of security tools with required training for those tools (30% vs. 9%).
The study also found that more than four in five respondents globally (83%) believe that organizations need to think beyond securing just their own enterprises and take better steps to secure their vendor ecosystems. Additionally, while cybersecurity programs designed to protect data and other key assets are only actively protecting about 60% of an organization’s business ecosystem, which includes vendors and other business partners, 40% of breaches come through this route.
“The sizable number of vendor relationships that most organizations have poses a significant challenge to their ability to monitor that business ecosystem,” Bissell said. “Yet, given the large percentage of breaches that originate in an organization’s supply chain, companies need to ensure that their cyber defenses stretch beyond their own walls.”
Accenture Security recommends three practical and actionable steps that organizations can take to be more like leaders in terms of cybersecurity:
1. Invest for operational speed — prioritize technology that focuses on faster detection, response and recovery.
2. Drive value from new investments — scale, train and collaborate more.
3. Sustain what you have — maintain existing investments and perform better at the basics.