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Study Exposes Breadth of Cyber Risk

03 May 2019


New study shows SMBs face greater security exposure, but large companies still support vulnerable systems as well.

Organizations with high-value external hosts are three times more likely to have severe security exposure to vulnerabilities such as outdated Windows software on their off-premise systems versus their on-premise ones.

While external hosts at SMBs face greater exposure than larger companiesas company revenues grow so do the number of hosts and security issues affecting them, according to a new study published yesterday by the Cyentia Institute and researched by RiskRecon. The study analyzed data from 18,000 organizations and more than 5 million hosts located in more than 200 countries.

The study, Internet Risk Surface Report: Exposure in a Hyper-Connected World, identified more than 32 million security vulnerabilities, such as old Magecart ecommerce software and systems running outdated versions of OpenSSL that are vulnerable to exploits such as DROWN and Shellshock.

Wade Baker, founder of the Cyentia Institute, says the results have to be carefully analyzed. For example, 4.6% of companies with fewer than 10 employees had high or critical exposure to security vulnerabilities, versus 1.8% of companies with more than 100,000 employees. So while the 1.8% number sounds good percentage-wise, that's still many more hosts exposed.

"In many ways, the findings are not surprising," Baker explains. "When we broke it down by industry, banking had the lowest exposure at 0.6%. But let's say an organization has 10,000 hosts and gets its exposure number down to 1%, that’s still 100 external hosts exposed. All a hacker needs is one host to exploit to do damage. And while I think the 1.8% number for large organization is good, we still have a lot of work to do."

Kelly White, founder and CEO of RiskRecon, adds that while the 0.6% number for the banking industry is not perfect, it's approaching what's financially possible for many organizations. Even banks with deep pockets have to decide how much money they can spend on IT security and run an analysis of how much risk they can accept, he says.

"Companies have to focus on protection, monitoring, and recovery," White says. "The stronger you are at prevention, it takes the pressure off monitoring and recovery."

The research also found that North America, Western Europe, and Western Asia have the lowest exposure scores. The scores for those regions were 1.5%, 1.7%, and 1.8% respectively. The regions with the highest security exposure included Eastern Asia (5.5%), Pacific Island Nations (4.4%), and Eastern Europe (4.1%).

"While some of the developed regions are better at cybersecurity, many of those regions adopted the Internet much sooner and have had a longer time to put governance in place," Kelly says. "I think people may have to think twice and decide if they can trust suppliers in Eastern Asian and Eastern Europe with their data."

Source: Info Security Group

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