UK organisations stalling in cybersecurity best practice


Failure to make progress over the last year sees UK businesses falling behind in incident response planning and cyber breach recovery times. Businesses in India are now the best performing in the world for cybersecurity ahead of the UK.This is the conclusion drawn from the findings of the 2019 Risk:Value report – ‘Destination standstill. Are you asleep at the wheel?’ – from NTT Security, the specialised security company and centre of excellence in security for NTT Group.

Examining the attitudes of 2,256 non-IT decision makers to risk and the value of security to the business, NTT Security’s annual Risk:Value report researches C-level executives and other senior decision makers across 20 countries in the Americas, Asia Pacific and Europe, including the UK, and from across multiple industry sectors.

UK respondents are aware of the risks posed by cyber threats, with over half (54 per cent) ranking cyber attacks on their organisation as one of the top three issues that could affect businesses in the next 12 months – second only to ‘economic or financial crisis’ (56 per cent).  While global organisations rank ‘loss of company data’ in third place, in the UK, 44 per cent believe that cyber attacks on critical infrastructure is a far greater threat.  Of the most vulnerable components of critical national infrastructure, telecoms, energy and electricity networks take first, second and third place.

Almost all (90 per cent) respondents in the UK believe that strong cybersecurity is important to their business over the next 12 months, compared to 78 per cent who say the same about ‘growing revenue and profit’, while 93 per cent believe cybersecurity has a big role to play in society.

According to the report, strong cybersecurity allows UK organisations to ‘ensure the integrity of their data’ (58 per cent) and ‘ensure only the right people have access’ to this data (56 per cent), while around half say it ‘helps protect the brand’.

Good and bad practice

For each organisation in the research for the last two years, NTT Security has analysed the responses for good and bad practice in cybersecurity, with good practice awarded positive scores and bad practice awarded negative scores. The results show a worrying lack of progress globally: in 2019 as in 2018, the average score was just +3, meaning that there is nearly as much bad practice as good practice. Thirty-two per cent of businesses score less than zero: that is, they are exhibiting more bad practice than good practice.

Businesses in India, a new country to the research, are now the best performing in the world for cybersecurity, ahead of the UK. The performance of organisations in France, Germany and Singapore has worsened in the last year, as has the performance of the financial services, telecommunications, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, oil and gas and private healthcare sectors, placing doubt on the robustness of critical national infrastructure.

Where are UK organisations stalling?

  • Paying cybercriminals: A third (33 per cent) of UK respondents say that they would rather pay a ransom to a hacker than invest more in security because it would be cheaper, a significant rise of 12 per cent over 2018’s Risk:Value report. In addition, 34 per cent said they would rather pay a ransom to a hacker than get a fine for non-compliance of data regulations.
  • Budgets: Security budgets in the UK are potentially failing to keep up with increasing cyber risk, with the percentage of IT budget attributed to security (15 per cent) in line with the global average. The percentage of operations budget spent on security has fallen by around 1 per cent since 2018, to 16.5 percent in 2019.
  • GDPR compliance: Just 30 per cent globally believe they are subject to GDPR, a year on from the deadline, despite it affecting all organisations that have operations or customers in any European Union member state. The UK is a more respectable 48 per cent – still behind Spain (55 per cent) and Italy (50 per cent).
  • Internal security policies: Businesses are still failing to be proactive internally. At a global level, 58 per cent have a formal information security policy in place, just 1 per cent up over last year. While the UK shows an impressive 70 per cent with a policy in place, this is down on last year’s 77 per cent. Less than half (47 per cent) however admit that their employees are fully aware of such a policy.
  • Incident response plans: In 2019, 60 per cent of UK organisations have an incident response plan in place in the event of a security breach, a 3 per cent drop. However this is still above the global average of 52 per cent and among the highest figures across all 20 countries.
  • Blaming IT: Around half (44 per cent) of UK respondents believe cybersecurity “is the IT department’s problem and not the wider business”, which is in line with the global average of 45 per cent. While Swedish organisations are most likely to blame IT (60 per cent), Brazil is least likely (28 per cent) to do so.


Time and money spent on recovering from a breach

The 2019 Risk:Value report reveals that the time spent on recovering from a cyber breach continues to rise year on year, with UK respondents estimating that it will take 93 days on average to recover. The  UK figure is a significant rise of nearly double over last year’s estimated 47 days. The UK now ranks as one of the highest figures globally compared to one of the lowest in 2018.

The cost of recovering from a breach is estimated to be $1.2 million in the UK, matching the global average. Notably in the Nordics, costs are predicted to be much higher, with Norway at $1.8 million and Sweden in first place with expected recovery costs for a business suffering a breach of $3 million. Oil & Gas is the industry sector having to spend the most on recovery efforts to the tune of $2.3 million.

The estimated loss in revenue in percentage terms is up year on year in the UK – 12.9 per cent, up from 9.7 per cent in 2018, and in line with the global average of 12.7 per cent.

Commenting on the 2019 findings, Azeem Aleem, VP Consulting, NTT Security, says: “The Risk:Value report is an interesting barometer based on responses from those sitting outside of the IT function – and is often very revealing. What’s clear is that the world around them is changing, and changing fast, with the introduction of new regulations, integration of new technologies and fast-paced digital transformation projects changing the way we work. What’s concerning though is that organisations seem to have come to a standstill in their journey to cybersecurity best practice – and it’s particularly worrying to see UK businesses falling behind in some critical areas like incident response planning.

“Decision makers clearly see security as an enabler; something that can help the business and society in general. But while awareness of cyber risks is high, organisations still lack the ability, or perhaps the will, to manage them effectively. The execution of cybersecurity strategies must improve or business risk will escalate for the organisations concerned.”

For a copy of NTT Security’s 2019 Risk:Value – ‘Destination standstill. Are you asleep at the wheel?’ report and other Risk:Value resources, including infographics, visit: