Bottom Line: Absolute’s 2020 Endpoint Resilience Report illustrates why the purpose of any cybersecurity program needs to be attaining a balance between protecting an organization and the need to keep the business running, starting with secured endpoints.
Enterprises who’ve taken a blank-check approach in the past to spending on cybersecurity are facing the stark reality that all that spending may have made them more vulnerable to attacks. While cybersecurity spending grew at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 12% in 2018, Gartner’s latest projections are predicting a decline to only 7% CAGR through 2023. Nearly every CISO I’ve spoken with in the last three months say prioritizing cybersecurity programs by their ROI and contribution to the business is how funding gets done today.
Cybersecurity Has Always Been A Business Decision
Overcoming the paradox of keeping a business secure while fueling its growth is the essence of why cybersecurity is a business decision. Securing an entire enterprise is an unrealistic goal; balancing security and ongoing operations is. CISOs speak of this paradox often and the need to better measure the effectiveness of their decisions.
This is why the findings from Absolute’s 2020 State of Endpoint Resilience Report are so timely given the shift to more spending accountability on cybersecurity programs. The report’s methodology is based on anonymized data from enterprise-specific subsets of nearly 8.5 million Absolute-enabled devices active across 12,000+ customer organizations in North America and Europe. Please see the last page of the study for additional details regarding the methodology.
Key insights from the study include the following:
- More than one of every three enterprise devices had an Endpoint Protection (EP), client management or VPN application out of compliance, further exposing entire organizations to potential threats. More than 5% of enterprise devices were missing one or more of these critical controls altogether. Endpoints, encryption, VPN and Client Management are more, not less fragile, despite millions of dollars being spent to protect them before the downturn. The following graphic illustrates how fragile endpoints are by noting average compliances rate alongside installation rates:
- When cybersecurity spending isn’t being driven by a business case, endpoints become more complex, chaotic and nearly impossible to protect. Absolute’s survey reflects what happens when cybersecurity spending isn’t based on a solid business decision, often leading to multiple endpoint security agents. The survey found the typical organization has 10.2 endpoint agents on average, up from 9.8 last year. One of the most insightful series of findings in the study and well worth a read is the section on measuring Application Resilience. The study found that the resiliency of an application varies significantly based on what else it is paired with. It’s interesting to see that same-vendor pairings don’t necessarily do better or show higher average compliance rates than pairings from different vendors. The bottom line is that there’s no guarantee that any agent, whether sourced from a single vendor or even the most innovative vendors, will work seamlessly together and make an organization more secure. The following graphic explains this point:
- 60% of breaches can be linked to a vulnerability where a patch was available, but not applied. When there’s a compelling business case to keep all machines current, patches get distributed and installed. When there isn’t, operating system patches are, on average, 95 days late. Counting up the total number of vulnerabilities addressed on Patch Tuesday in February through May 2020 alone, it shows that the average Windows 10 enterprise device has hundreds of potential vulnerabilities without a fix applied – including four zero-day vulnerabilities. Absolute’s data shows that Post-Covid-19, the average patch age has gone down slightly, driven by the business case of supporting an entirely remote workforce.
- Organizations that had defined business cases for their cybersecurity programs are able to adapt better and secure vulnerable endpoint devices, along with the sensitive data piling up on those devices, being used at home by employees. Absolute’s study showed that the amount of sensitive data – like Personal Identifiable Information (PII), Protected Health Information (PHI) and Personal Financial Information (PFI) data – identified on endpoints soared as the Covid-19 outbreak spread and devices went home to work remotely. Without autonomous endpoints that have an unbreakable digital tether to ensure the health and security of the device, the greater the chance of this kind of data being exposed, the greater the potential for damages, compliance violations and more.
Absolute’s latest study on the state of endpoints amplifies what many CISOs and their teams are doing today. They’re prioritizing cybersecurity endpoint projects on ROI, looking to quantify agent effectiveness and moving beyond the myth that greater compliance is going to get them better security. The bottom line is that increasing cybersecurity spending is not going to make any business more secure, knowing the effectiveness of cybersecurity spending will, however. Being able to capable of tracking how resilient and persistent every autonomous endpoint is in an organization makes defining the ROI of endpoint investments possible, which is what every CISO I’ve spoken with is focusing on this year.