Happy Halloween! What’s scary in tech?

skull_smallGoblins, ghouls, ghosts and…data breaches? You’ll see a lot of frightful costumes this Halloween, but the real scare for businesses are security threats that last longer than just one sugar-fueled night.

Security breaches are a growing problem. Symantec reports that data breaches increased 62% in 2013, leading to over 500 million exposed identities.  Eight distinct breaches led to the loss of over ten million identities each, compared to just one of such breadth in 2012. With mobile use expanding and the Internet-of-Things bringing new challenges, businesses will need to prepare for an extensive threat landscape.    

Some companies have already proven vulnerable to a cyberattack: according to the IBM Center for Applied Insights’ Business Tech Trends study, nearly one in five enterprises has experienced an IT security issue in the past 18 months alone. Many are uncertain about how to manage one in the future, as just one in four enterprises feels totally prepared to handle a potential security breach.

Not only do security risks threaten the systems already in place, but they also hold companies back from obtaining the advanced capabilities of modern IT. According to the study, security and privacy concerns are a top barrier to the adoption of big data and analytics, cloud, mobile and social technologies.

However, not everyone is scared of the dark when it comes to information security. The study segmented respondents into groups based upon how they used new technologies. At the forefront are “pacesetters,” companies that rated these technologies of high strategic importance and adopted them quickly. On the other end of the spectrum are “dabblers,” organizations that don’t pick up new capabilities very quickly or wield them strategically.

The pacesetters, not surprisingly, are better than others at pulling the mask off of potential threats. The majority (85%) of these enterprises feel ready to handle a security breach, compared to just 44% of dabblers.

So how do they keep the monsters away? More than three-quarters of these pacesetters have established mature information security organizations, compared to just a third of dabblers. These companies excel by employing mature strategies across different functions. The vast majority of pacesetters have well-defined security and privacy policies built into various emerging areas, such as big data and analytics (91% of pacesetters vs. 43% of dabblers), cloud (90% vs. 41%), mobile (89% vs. 39%) and social (83% vs. 32%).

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Click to enlarge

Beyond developing your own robust policies, consider ways to improve security through communication and education. As the study recommends, enterprises aspiring to be leaders in security should collaborate with other organizations on security tactics and gain a better understanding of global privacy standards.

So for Halloween this year, ditch the dabbler costume and start acting like a pacesetter. It may be the difference between getting tricked or treated to more business.

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