Firms exposed to cyber threats amid friction between IT, business

Nine in every 10 IT decision makers claim their business would be willing to compromise on cybersecurity in favor of digital transformation, productivity, or other goals, according to a new Trend Micro study.

Findings also show that 82% of respondents have felt pressured to downplay the severity of cyber risks to their board.

Trend Micro commissioned Sapio Research to interview 5,321 IT and business decision makers from enterprises larger than 250 employees across 26 countries.

The research reveals that just 50% of IT leaders and 38% of business decision makers believe the C-suite completely understand cyber risks. 

Although some think this is because the topic is complex and constantly changing, many believe the C-suite either doesn’t try hard enough (26%) or doesn’t want (20%) to understand.

There’s also disagreement between IT and business leaders over who’s ultimately responsible for managing and mitigating risk. 

IT leaders are nearly twice as likely as business leaders to point to IT teams and the CISO. About half (49%) of respondents claim that cyber risks are still being treated as an IT problem rather than a business risk.

This friction is causing potentially serious issues, as 52% of respondents agree that their organisation’s attitude to cyber risk is inconsistent and varies from month to month.

However, 31% of respondents believe cybersecurity is the biggest business risk today, and 66% claiming it has the highest cost impact of any business risk – a seemingly conflicting opinion given the overall willingness to compromise on security.

There are three main ways respondents believe the C-suite will sit up and take notice of cyber risk. Three-fifths think that it would take a breach of their organisation (62%); that it would help if they could better report on and more easily explain the business risk of cyber threats (62%) and; that it would make an impact if customers start demanding more sophisticated security credentials (61%).

Bharat Mistry, UK technical director for Trend Micro, said IT leaders are self-censoring in front of their boards for fear of appearing repetitive or too negative, with almost a third claiming this is a constant pressure. 

“But this will only perpetuate a vicious cycle where the C-suite remains ignorant of its true risk exposure,” he said. “We need to talk about risk in a way that frames cybersecurity as a fundamental driver of business growth – helping to bring together IT and business leaders who, in reality, are both fighting for the same cause.”