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Businesses Invest in Cloud Security Tools Despite Concerns

A majority of organizations say the acceleration was driven by a need to support more remote employees.

Businesses wary of cloud-based security tools are accelerating adoption, in large part to accommodate more employees working from home, new research shows. As investments continue to increase, concerns for unauthorized access and data privacy and sovereignty remain. 

Researchers with Exabeam polled 131 security practitioners in the UK to learn about their cloud security adoption plans. They learned more than half (56%) have migrated between 26% to 50% of security tools to the cloud, and 27.3% did the same for 51% to 75% of their security tools. Of those who made the transition, 88% said they chose to accelerate to support remote workers.

The move to cloud-based security can be partly attributed to a broader shift to the cloud. More than one-third of respondents have been migrating since 2017, says Exabeam security strategist Samantha Humphries. Still, many didn't previously consider themselves ready and are now undergoing a major transition in a short period of time. 

"I think businesses are put into a very, very difficult situation very quickly," Humphries says. "Especially if you haven't embarked on the journey yet."

The rise in adoption does not correlate with a decrease in concern. Most (86%) respondents said they still consider the transition to be risky, and 47% said it's high-risk. This finding stands in contrast to the 87% of security pros who said they're "well-equipped" to handle cloud-based migration. 

"The skeptic in me worries there's a degree of overconfidence," Humphries says.

That said, she explains, people feel they're doing the right things and have the proper plans in place to securely transition and use security tools in the cloud. Those who began the move years ago have likely evolved their due diligence processes over time and, from a legal and compliance perspective, feel they've addressed some risks. Those who feel confident are "right to be paranoid," she adds, but they have to balance their concerns with taking protective steps.

Drilling down into specific concerns, Exabeam's researchers found data privacy (56%) and sovereignty (41%) are top-of-mind among respondents. Other worries include unauthorized access (31%), integration with other tools (31%), and service outages (31%). Despite concerns about intruders accessing data, companies use cloud-based security tools to protect corporate financial data (44%), customer information (50%), file sharing (48%), and email (38%).

This massive swing to cloud-based tools has put pressure on security leaders to address the growth of cloud-focused threats and identify gaps in visibility, protection, and the extent of their security team's knowledge. IDC research shows that of those organizations affected by cloud data breaches, 72% have suffered at least five, while 43% were hit more than 10 times in 18 months.

Businesses are taking steps to improve their security posture as they become more dependent on the cloud, Humphries explains. Most (84%) said they have taken steps to improve their visibility into cloud-based applications, for example. A critical step, she says, is partnering with their business colleagues to communicate their needs and learn the needs of the business. If they don't, business employees are likely to download new and potentially dangerous applications.

In times such as these, security teams should accept that sometimes they'll take on more risk than normal. When you accept these risks, Humphries says, be sure you document it, understand it, and do something about it.

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