Each year, CyberEdge publishes the Cyberthreat Defense Report (CDR). Aimed at IT security leaders, this comprehensive report outlines the threats, security issues, and industry concerns that are most pressing.

Information summarized in the CDR is gathered through surveys conducted in 17 countries and 19 industries. Respondents are IT decision-makers in organizations with at least 500 employees. The diversity of locations and industries provides a broad and multi-faceted insight into cybersecurity across the globe.

By understanding the real and perceived global cybersecurity threats, IT and security professionals can assess their own cyber threat defenses and make decisions to mitigate risk better. The details of this report help prioritize, plan, and plug cybersecurity gaps.

Cybersecurity Attacks on Organizations – The Current Landscape

Opening the conversation around cybersecurity, respondents were asked how many times their organization’s global network had been compromised in the previous 12-month period. Looking at the numbers, any hope that cybercriminals had slowed down has been dashed.

Alarmingly, more than 85% of organizations reported a successful cyberattack in the past year. The previous CDR figures showed that 86.2% of organizations had fallen victim to cybersecurity compromises.

In 2022, more than 40% of organizations suffered six or more cyberattacks. This is more than double what it was just eight years ago. Security threats have been compounded by employees transitioning to remote or hybrid work arrangements, increasing dependence on cloud-based environments, and criminal motivations to exploit security holes in mobile and web applications. Organizations need to ensure substantial and well-spent security budgets to mitigate these risks.

Exploited Industries

Within the 19 industries polled for the report, Cyberedge categorizes “7 major” industries. Of these, educational institutions again took the top spot as the most frequently victimized by the volume of successful cybersecurity attacks.

While 90.5% of educational respondents reported attacks, the telecom and technology industry wasn’t far behind, with 90.3% having been compromised. These industries were followed closely by the finance, manufacturing, and retail sectors.

Areas of Concern

The poll then asked respondents what types of threats are of primary concern for them and their organizations. Given a list of cyber threats, they were asked to rate their level of concern on a Likert scale of one to five, with five being the highest.

For the seventh year running, malware leads the pack with 4.01 points on average. Malware is identified as a key component of ransomware, phishing, digital skimming, and similar attacks.

A surprising runner-up, Account Takeover (ATO) and credential abuse attacks were rated at 3.97 points on average. The category rose from fourth place last year and increased more than any other category in the list. ATO threats are a major concern in the finance and financial services industries and were reported among manufacturing, telecom and technology companies.

Rounding out the top 5 categories were ransomware (3.96), phishing (3.93), and reputation attacks via social media (3.86). Notably, ransomware attacks set a new record, with 71% of organizations reporting that they had been victims of a ransomware scheme. Of those, 62.9% paid ransoms to cybercriminals. Ransomware has become an industry all its own, with hundreds of millions of dollars each year landing in the hands of attackers.

Web and Mobile Attacks

When planning strategies and allocating budgets, it’s helpful to look at the areas that other companies see as most threatening. As dependence on web and mobile applications grows, so does the potential for exploitation.

Respondents were asked which attacks were of primary concern when it came to their web and mobile applications. Nearly half of the security professionals expressed worry about Personally Identifiable Information (PII) harvesting through their applications. The runner-up in this category was ATO/credential stuffing attacks, followed by credit card and payment fraud.

Reports of ATO concerns advanced by 7% from last year’s report, spurred in part by the use of professional and educational applications by remote workers. As the audience grows, so do the threats, drawing the attention of IT and security professionals.

Barriers to Building Defenses

Considering the cybersecurity landscape, what do security professionals identify as potential barriers to an adequate defense? For the third year in a row, organizations report that lack of skilled personnel as their primary challenge. While a longstanding issue, 2022 has exasperated this issue as organizations struggle to hire and retain staff.

The second most noted barrier to building a robust security strategy is low awareness amongst users and employees. Despite internal approaches to security, employees remain a focus, proving susceptibility to social engineering attacks, phishing campaigns, and other approaches that exploit human mistrust.

Other notable barriers include interoperability challenges between security solutions, lack of management support, an overwhelming amount of data to parse and act upon, insufficient automation for threat detection, and security tools with a lack of contextual information output.

Interestingly, the lowest-reported barrier was lack of budget, suggesting that organizations are ready to pay for the right staff and security solutions when they find them.

Beneficial Certifications

Asked which cybersecurity certifications would be most beneficial to their career path, respondents named two particular specialties above all else: cloud security and software security, followed closely by security administration.

In an ever-changing professional climate and rapidly evolving world, continuing education is crucial for security, and technology professionals. Cloud security and software security are high-growth areas, adding value to organizations while boosting resumes.

As a high proportion of organizations draw attention to the lack of knowledgeable personnel, those looking to make a career shift are wise to focus on any of these areas.

Moving Forward

Some may find these figures a bit grim, identifying potential issues and challenges for their organizations and users. Instead, these responses can bring clarity and serve as a motivation for a well-placed security strategy.

Identifying the most commonly-cited challenges and threats can help security professionals assess their internal strategies and adjust accordingly.  The Cyberedge report acts as one of the valuable resources to help with a deeper understanding of the threat environment.

Stephanie-ShankAbout the Author: Having spent her career in various capacities and industries under the “high tech” umbrella, Stefanie Shank is passionate about the trends, challenges, solutions, and stories of existing and emerging technologies. A storyteller at heart, she considers herself one of the lucky ones: someone who gets to make a living doing what she loves.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this and other guest author articles are solely those of the contributor, and do not necessarily reflect those of Tripwire, Inc.