If you thought being an IT manager was a tough job, a recent report from network and endpoint security specialists Sophos showcases just how inundated they’ve become, having to handle cyberattacks from all directions.

The report, titled the Impossible Puzzle of Cybersecurity, polled 3 100 IT decision makers from mid-sized business in several countries across the globe, including South Africa.

Before we delve into the particular findings for SA, Sophos noted that overall, IT managers and teams are struggling to pinpoint precisely where attacks are coming from, especially as the nature and origin of attacks becomes more complex.

“Cybercriminals are evolving their attack methods and often use multiple payloads to maximize profits. Software exploits were the initial point of entry in 23 percent of incidents, but they were also used in some fashion in 35 percent of all attacks, demonstrating how exploits are used at multiple stages of the attack chain,” explains Chester Wisniewski, principal research scientist at Sophos.

“Organizations that are only patching externally facing high-risk servers are left vulnerable internally and cybercriminals are taking advantage of this and other security lapses,” he adds.

These wide-ranging methods of attack are yielding dividends for cybercriminals too, with Sophos adding that 53 percent of those who fell victim to a cyberattack being hit by a phishing email, 30 percent by ransomware, and 41 percent suffering a data breach.

Zeroing in on the local outlook, things don’t make for great reading either.

Software exploits were the initial cause of 17 percent of incidents and used in 23 percent of cyberattacks the firm says, with it demonstrating how exploits are used at multiple stages of the attack chain.

As for the type of attacks, phishing emails impacted 47 percent of those hit by a cyberattack, ransomware affected 38 percent of attack victims, and 39 percent of victims suffered a data breach.

Perhaps most worryingly though, is the amount of time that IT teams are having to spend on security management, with Sophos finding that the local number sits at 27 percent.

The respondents also explain that they are struggling in particular with a lack of expertise, fighting for budget and having up-to-date technology.

In particular 74 percent said recruiting people with the cybersecurity skills they need is a challenge, as well as 65 percent stating that their organisation’s cybersecurity budget is below what it needs to be, along with 73 percent noting that staying up to date with cybersecurity technology is difficult.

To address many of these concerns, Sophos advocates for choosing the right security system.

“If organizations can adopt a security system with products that work together to share intelligence and automatically react to threats, than IT security teams can avoid the trap of perpetually catching up after yesterday’s attack and better defend against what’s going to happen tomorrow,” says Wisniewski.

“Having a security ‘system’ in place helps alleviate the security skills gap IT managers are facing. It’s much more time and cost-effective for businesses to grow their security maturity with simple to use tools that coordinate with each other across an entire estate,” he concludes.

You can read the findings from Sophos’ report here (PDF).

[Image – Photo by Philipp Katzenberger on Unsplash]