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IT and security team collaboration crucial to data security

By Catherine Knowles
Tue 21 Jun 2022

New research commissioned by Cohesity reveals that while most IT and security decision makers believe they should jointly share the responsibility for their organisations data security strategy, many of these teams are not collaborating as effectively as possible to address growing cyber threats.

The survey also shows that of those respondents who believe collaboration is weak between IT and security, nearly half of respondents believe their organisation is more exposed to cyber threats as a result, and the implications of that could have catastrophic consequences for businesses.

The research is based on an April 2022 survey conducted by Censuswide, of more than 500 IT decision makers and Security Operations (SecOps) professionals (split nearly 50/50 between the two groups) from businesses in Australia and New Zealand - all of whom have a role in the decision-making process for IT or security.

The survey was conducted as more than 2 in 3 respondents (69%) believe the threat of ransomware in their industry has increased over the last year, with nearly half of respondents (46%) saying their organisation has been the victim of a ransomware attack in the last six months.

The survey uncovered the following results globally:

Security should be a shared responsibility: Almost three quarters (74%) of respondents overall (80% of IT decision makers and 68% of SecOps) somewhat or strongly agree that IT and SecOps should share the responsibility for their organisations data security strategy.

However, effective collaboration between IT and security teams is frequently not happening: Over a third of SecOps respondents (36%) believe the collaboration is not strong with IT, with 11% of those respondents going so far as to call it weak. Among IT decision makers, almost a sixth of respondents (15%), believe the collaboration is not strong. In total, more that 1 in 4 (26%) respondents overall believe the collaboration between the two groups is not strong.

In many cases, even though the threat of cyber attacks has increased, the level of collaboration between IT and SecOps has remained stagnant or has declined: Almost 2 in 5 (39%) of respondents, overall, said collaboration between the two groups has remained the same even in light of increased cyber attacks. In fact, 1 in 6 (17%) respondents said collaboration has actually decreased. While only 6% of IT decision makers said collaboration has decreased, over a quarter (28%) of SecOps respondents believe that is the case, highlighting substantial disparity between the two groups.

The on-going tech talent shortage is making matters worse: When asked if the talent shortage is impacting the collaboration between IT / security teams, almost 3 in 4 (74%) of respondents (76% of IT decision makers and 72% of SecOps) said, yes, it is having an impact.

As a result of this lack of collaboration between IT and SecOps, many respondents believe their organisation is more exposed: Among the IT and SecOps respondents who believe the collaboration is weak between the two groups, more than half (52%) believe their organisation is either more exposed (35%), or much more exposed (16%) to cyber threats.

The consequences of that exposure could be devastating for businesses and for careers: When asked what would be their worst fear about a lack of collaboration between security and IT if an attack takes place, 44% of all respondents fear business disruption, 43% are concerned about a loss of data, 39% are worried customers will take their business elsewhere, 30% are worried about paying ransomware, 29% fear finger pointing will take place and their team will be blamed should any mistakes occur, and 29% fear people from both teams (IT and SecOps) will be fired.

Cohesity chief information security officer Brian Spanswick says, “This research pinpoints there is often a lack of collaboration between IT and security teams that we’re seeing across many organisations today.

"For too long, many security teams focused primarily on preventing cyber-attacks, while IT teams have focused on data protection, including backup and recovery. A complete data security strategy must bring these two worlds together but in many cases, they remain separate, and this lack of collaboration creates significant business risks and can put companies at the mercy of bad actors.”

To further drive this point home, when respondents were asked how their company prioritised data backup and protection as part of their organisation's security posture or response to a cyber attack, 53% of IT decision makers said it was a top priority and a critical capability while only 39% of SecOps respondents said the same.

Spanswick says, “If SecOps teams are not thinking about backup and recovery, and lack next-gen data management capabilities as part of an overall security strategy, that's a problem.

"IT and SecOps teams need to collaborate before an attack takes place looking holistically across the NIST Cyber Security Framework which includes five core capabilities: identify, protect, detect, respond, and recover. If they wait to collaborate until their data is hijacked, that's too late and the results could be catastrophic for businesses.”

Overall, 78% of all respondents (80% of IT decision makers and 76% of SecOps respondents) somewhat or strongly agree that if security and IT collaborated more closely, their organisation would be better prepared to recover from cyber threats including ransomware attacks.

Furthermore, when respondents were asked what would give their organisation greater confidence that they could recover business systems quickly in the event of a ransomware attack, 43% of all respondents (50% of IT decision makers and 37% of SecOps respondents) said greater communication and collaboration between IT and security is key.

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