According to Protiviti's 2013 Security and Privacy Survey, a large number of companies are not adequately prepared to respond to a data breach of IT security crisis, despite a broader recognition that cyber threats are more prevalent.
More than two-thirds (68 percent) of respondents in the global consulting firm's survey said that they have elevated their focus on information security in response to press coverage of so-called "cyber warfare". However, when asked if their organisations have a formal and documented crisis response plan to follow after a data breach or hacking incident, more than one-third reported either that their organisations did not (21 percent) or that they did not know (13 percent).
Cal Slemp, Managing Director, Protiviti, said that the results of the finding were hardly encouraging.
"Cyber security must continue to be a major focus for businesses, especially in light of recent high-profile security breaches," he said in a statement.
"While we're seeing a greater number of companies across a wider range of industries devote more attention and resources to improving their approach to data security, there are still a lot of businesses that are susceptible to attacks."
According to the survey, one of the biggest security issues facing organisations is the fact that they lack key data policies. The survey also said that many companies are ineffective at managing data through proper retention and storage policies, including the classification of sensitive data.
Approximately 22 percent of companies do not have a written information security policy (WISP), and 32 percent lack a data encryption policy, Protiviti said.
The consultancy added that companies lack clarity on what constitutes data sensitive, confidential or public, with only 63 percent of respondents reporting that their organisations have a system in place for properly classifying data.
"The findings suggest many companies are either ineffective in securing the most important data or attempting to secure all data instead of focusing resources on data that presents the greatest risk, if exposed through a breach," Slemp said.
The good news
Despite the doom and gloom, Slemp said that there was a year-over-year growth in the percentage of companies putting into place detailed schemes and policies to classify their data, which he described as key to understanding and securing an organisation's most sensitive information.
He added that, in other positive news, more CIOs are taking responsibility for data governance strategy, oversight and execution within their organisations. Protiviti said that companies with documented crisis plans enacted in response to a data breach or hacking have now begun to involve their CIOs far more than before.
For example, in 2012, only 58 percent reported that their CIO was involved in addressing such an incident compared to 72 percent in 2013, Protiviti said.
"The role of the chief information officer is becoming more prominent in organisations, in part, because of the importance of data, both in terms of advancing the business as well as managing risk," said Slemp.
"The reality is that, as data continues to evolve as a critically important asset, it must be managed differently, and more effectively than other assets."