Proofpoint, Inc. released its inaugural 2021 Voice of the CISO report which explores key challenges facing chief information security officers (CISOs) after an unprecedented twelve months. Seventy-two percent of CISOs in the UAE feel their organization is unprepared to handle a cyberattack and 70% consider human error to be their biggest cyber vulnerability, proving that the work-from-home model necessitated by the pandemic has tested CISOs like never before.
This year’s Voice of the CISO report examines global third-party survey responses from more than 1,400 CISOs at mid to large size organizations across different industries. Throughout the course of Q1 2021, one hundred CISOs were interviewed in each market across 14 countries: the U.S., Canada, the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden, the Netherlands, UAE, KSA, Australia, Japan, and Singapore.
The survey explores three key areas: the threat risk and types of cyber-attacks CISOs combat daily, the levels of employee and organizational preparedness to face them, and the impact of supporting a hybrid workforce as businesses prepare to re-open their corporate offices. It also covers the challenges CISOs face in their roles, position amongst the C-suite, and business expectations of their teams.
“Last year, cybersecurity teams around the world were challenged to enhance their security posture in this new and changing landscape, literally overnight. This required a balancing act between supporting remote work and avoiding business interruption, while securing those environments,” commented Lucia Milica, global resident CISO at Proofpoint. “With the future of work becoming increasingly flexible, this challenge now extends into next year and beyond. In addition to securing many more points of attack and educating users on long-term remote and hybrid work, CISOs must instill confidence among customers, internal stakeholders, and the market that such setups are workable indefinitely.”
Proofpoint’s Voice of the CISO 2021 report highlights general trends as well as regional differences amongst the global CISO community. Key findings from the UAE include:
- CISOs are on high alert across a range of threats: faced with a relentless attack landscape, 68% of surveyed CISOs in the UAE feel at risk of suffering a material cyberattack in the next 12 months. When asked about the types of attacks they expect to face, insider threats (29%), phishing (28%) and Business Email Compromise (25%) topped the list. Despite dominating recent headlines, supply chain attacks and ransomware were of similar concern with 22%. Cloud Account Compromise (O365 or G suite accounts being compromised) was bottom of the list with 15% – the lowest percentage across all regions.
- Organizational cyber preparedness is still a major concern: more than a year on into a pandemic that forever changed the threat landscape, 72% of CISOs in the UAE feel their organization is unprepared to cope with a targeted cyberattack in 2021. Cyber risk is also on the rise: 71% of CISOs in the region are more concerned about the repercussions of a cyberattack in 2021 than they were in 2020, the highest percentage across the 14 surveyed global countries.
- User awareness doesn’t always lead to behavioral change: while 69% of survey respondents believe employees understand their role in protecting their organization from cyber threats, 70% of CISOs in the UAE still consider human error to be their organization’s biggest cyber vulnerability. CISOs in the UAE listed using unauthorized devices, tools, and applications as well as falling victim to phishing emails as the most likely ways employees put their business at risk.
- Long term hybrid work environments present a new challenge for CISOs: 66% of CISOs in the UAE agree that remote working has made their organization more vulnerable to targeted cyberattacks, with 76% revealing they had seen an increase in targeted attacks in the last 12 months, the highest among the surveyed countries.
- High risk, high reward likely to be a common cyber theme over the next two years: 70% of CISOs in the UAE believe that cybercrime will become even more profitable for attackers, while 64% believe that it will become riskier for cybercriminals.
- CISOs will adapt their cybersecurity strategy to stay ahead: Overall, the majority of global CISOs expect their cybersecurity budget to increase by 11% or more over the next two years, and 77% of CISOs in the UAE believe they will be able to better resist and recover from cyberattacks by 2023. Top three priorities across the board for UAE CISOs over the next two years are: addressing supplier risk (29%), supporting remote working (28%), as well as enabling business innovation (28%).
2020 elevated the CISO role, as well as the expectations from the business: 67% of UAE CISOs agree that expectations on their function are excessive. The perceived lack of support from the boardroom persists with only 31% of UAE CISOs strongly agreeing that their board see eye-to-eye with them on issues of cybersecurity.
“The ‘good enough’ approach of the past 12 months will simply not work in the long term: with businesses unlikely to ever return to pre-pandemic working practices, the mandate to strengthen cyber security defenses has never been more pressing,” said Ryan Kalember, executive vice president of cybersecurity strategy for Proofpoint. “CISOs hold a business-critical function, now more than ever. The findings from our report emphasize that CISOs need the tools to mitigate risk and develop a strategy that takes a people-centric approach to cybersecurity protection and emphasizes awareness training to address ever-changing conditions, like those experienced by organizations throughout the pandemic.”