Billed as a bigger threat than Brexit, businesses are increasing their investment in cybersecurity. Dealing with cyber-threats is viewed as the most likely cause of IT budget growth in 2019, despite cybersecurity salaries having already climbed by 6% in the past year, more than double the UK national average of 2.9%.

Yet, businesses are still failing to deal with the most basic of security threats.

A study conducted by cybersecurity software company Centrify asked 1,000 IT decision makers from the United Kingdom and United States for their opinions on cybersecurity within their workplaces.

And despite three in every four respondents acknowledging that poor account security was to blame for breaches within their companies, more than half also admitted that they still fail to use basic cybersecurity practices to protect against attack.

Just 36% of UK IT leaders are confident that their company’s current IT systems provide adequate protection against cyberattacks.

Lacking Privileged Access Management

Centrify’s new report, “Privileged access management in the modern threatscape”,  looks into the lack of awareness  of Privileged Access management (PAM) cybersecurity threats in the business world.

PAM refers to the management of administrative accounts on an organisation’s network in order to reduce the amount of opportunities that attackers have to gain access to a network. Some 44% of IT leaders surveyed were unsure what PAM is or how it could protect their organisations.

IT decision makers admit that providing users with unvital access to particular systems and data is the cause of 74% of breaches. Yet, some 65% of organisations continue to share root or privileged access to systems and data somewhat frequently, presenting an increasing amount of credentials for hackers to potentially gain access to.

With 52% of respondents admitting that they don’t use a password vault , this presents a major vulnerability for hackers to exploit. Password reuse, where people use the same password for multiple accounts, remains the biggest threat to cybersecurity. Given a record 773 million email and password combinations were recently being shared online, there is a high chance that a frequently used password has already fallen into the wrong hands.

What’s alarming is that most organisations aren’t taking the most basic steps to reduce their risk of being breached,” said Tim Steinkopf, CEO of Centrify. “It’s not surprising that Forrester has found 66% of companies have been breached five or more times.”

“It’s well past time to secure privileged access with a Zero Trust approach, and many organisations can significantly harden their security posture with long-hanging fruit like a password vault and MFA.”

Costly consequences

The survey found that businesses were failing to secure access to key projects within their systems. Some 45% admitted that their public and private cloud workloads were not secured with privileged access controls, for example, while 68% admitted that network devices like hubs, switches and routers did not have access controls. Failing to secure these systems means that if a hacker was to gain access to a system, they could potentially cause havoc to business operations.

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Worryingly, 58% admitted that their big data projects remain unsecured, which could potentially provide attackers access to large databases and data sets.

With the European Union threatening fines of up to €20m or 4% of global annual turnover for breach of its General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) if a company fails to adequately protect user data, such lapses in cybersecurity could prove costly.