Corporations in South Africa protected against cyberthreats, but remote work adds more threats

29th April 2022 By: Schalk Burger - Creamer Media Senior Contributing Editor

The 'State of Cybersecurity in South Africa' study conducted by information and communications technology market research firm World Wide Worx reveals that half of South African large businesses are over budget on cybersecurity spend, and just over half feel there are now more threats introduced by remote work culture.

The study, conducted on behalf of information technology multinationals Intel and Dell Technologies South Africa, shows that nearly three-quarters of South Africa’s top 100 corporates are investing more in cybersecurity than the industry average, but an almost equal proportion do not feel fully protected by their current cybersecurity strategy.

“Corporations being over budget on cybersecurity spend may look like a positive sign, but it also raises the likelihood that the budgets were too low to begin,” says World Wide Worx CEO and research project principal analyst Arthur Goldstuck.

Challenges range from existential, macro threats all the way down to individual losses. With the pandemic and lockdowns having sent corporate employees home, 55% of information technology (IT) decision-makers are concerned about their staff losing their devices, and the concern is not only about the physical loss and immediate cost of replacement, he says.

Further, three-quarters of large corporations, or 77%, report their devices are upgraded frequently, and support both Secure Boot and Trusted Protection Modules, which helps mitigate physical access vulnerabilities.

"Many cyber-hygiene factors are implemented by corporates, with the majority using virtual private network (VPN) access control and cloud platform managed security. These factors being implemented show that corporates are aware of advanced methods of protecting themselves," Goldstuck highlights.

However, compromises and vulnerabilities are revealed through the weakest link in the IT system, which is often an organisation’s own employees and this may allow in ransomware programs or phishing attempts.

More than half of businesses report that ransomware and phishing attempts have increased in the past year, or that they simply cannot keep up with the numbers of attempts, the study shows.

“Awareness and action are key. Training employees to work safely but spotting out-of-character emails and communications can save a company from all the phishing headaches involved with cybersecurity incidents,” says World Wide Worx senior data analyst Bryan Turner.

The study also shows that the vast majority, 99%, of corporates are aware that disaster management is essential, but only 40% of large businesses using multiple solutions to protect, backup, and replicate their data in the event of disaster.

Further, most respondents, 99%, had not experienced cyberattacks that led to financial loss.

“The 1% that experienced loss after a data leak provide a useful case study of security stances after an attack, namely that these businesses had their systems compromised before the onset of remote working, indicating that no matter how a corporate geographically locates its employees, it remains vulnerable,” Goldstuck says.

“In the game of cybercrime cat and mouse, under-resourcing not only exposes companies to risk, but also poses an existential threat. A major breach can bring down a company. Budgets must catch up to the significance of the threat,” he says.

“As new threats and vulnerabilities appear at break-neck speed, new technology also creates opportunities to innovate. As we navigate the changing landscape of work, it is imperative to deliver solutions that keep the organisations and their employees safe. With breaches now happening both above and below the [operating system], organisations need to keep endpoints secure from anywhere,” says Dell Technologies Emerging Africa and South Africa services sales director Khairy Ammar.

“You need intelligent solutions that prevent, detect and respond to threats wherever they occur. A procedural measure like taking on a certified cybersecurity partner to manage these services is often the best protection for corporates,” he says.