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Intel Security, in partnership with the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), has released a global report called, “Tilting the Playing Field: How misaligned incentives work against cybersecurity.”

The study revealed three categories of misaligned incentives: corporate structures versus the free flow of criminal enterprises; strategy versus implementation; and senior executives versus those in implementation roles.

Based on interviews and a global survey of 800 cybersecurity professionals from five industry sectors, the report outlines how cybercriminals have the advantage, thanks to the incentives for cybercrime creating a big business in a fluid and dynamic marketplace. Defenders on the other hand, often operate in bureaucratic hierarchies, making them hard-pressed to keep up.

Additional misalignments occur within defenders’ organisations. For instance, while more than 90 percent of organisations report having a cybersecurity strategy, less than half have fully implemented them. Moreover, 83 percent say their organisations have been affected by cybersecurity breaches, indicating a disconnect between strategy and implementation.

Candace Worley, Intel Security
Candace Worley, Intel Security

And while cybercriminals have a direct incentive for their work, the survey not only shows there are few incentives for cybersecurity professionals, but that executives are much more confident than operational staff about the effectiveness of the existing incentives. For example, 42 percent of cybersecurity implementers report that no incentives exist, compared to only 18 percent of decision-makers and eight percent of leaders.

“The cybercriminal market is primed for success by its very structure, which rapidly rewards innovation and promotes sharing of the best tools,” said Candace Worley, vice president of enterprise solutions for Intel Security. “For IT and cyber professionals in government and business to compete with attackers, they need to be as nimble and agile as the criminals they seek to apprehend, and provide incentives that IT staff value.”

Further into the report, non-executives are three times more likely than executives to view shortfalls in funding and staffing as causing problems for the implementation of their cybersecurity strategy. It also mentioned that 95 percent of organisations have experienced effects of cybersecurity breaches, including disruption of operations, loss of IP, harm to reputation and company brand, among other effects. But only 32 percent report experiencing revenue or profit loss, which could lead to a false sense of security.

The study also highlighted that the government sector was the least likely to report having a fully implemented cybersecurity strategy (38 percent). This sector also reports having a higher share of agencies with inadequate funding (58 percent) and staff (63 percent) than the private sector (33 percent and 43 percent, respectively).

The report also suggests ways the defender community can learn from the attacker communities. These include:

  • Opting for security-as-a-service to counter cybercrime-as-a-service
  • Using public disclosure
  • Increasing transparency
  • Lowering barriers to entry for the cyber talent pool
  • Aligning performance incentives from senior leadership down to operators