New research from IONOS Cloud, Europe’s leading provider of cloud infrastructure and cloud services, found over 40% of IT decision makers admit to their business having a cyber security skills gap, with four in 10 facing a skills gap in data protection or cloud knowledge and understanding. 

So, what other findings did the research uncover, and what essential steps should businesses be taking to ensure they stay secure, protected, and adhere to necessary data legislation?

Stepping up cyber security

The research, which was conducted by Censuswide on behalf of IONOS Cloud, polled 609 IT decision makers. The aim was to better understand the current challenges businesses are facing in the wake of the pandemic, and where cyber security and data protection standards are sitting on business IT priority lists.

Remarkably, a third of respondents (34%) say their current skills shortage is putting their organisation at risk of security threats, with increased DDoS attacks (35%), phishing and scam attacks (35%), employees downloading unapproved apps (33%) and employees not storing data correctly (32%) noted as the biggest IT threats at this time.

While the findings show there is a clear issue in plugging skills gaps, and therefore likely increased vulnerabilities for businesses, encouragingly many do in fact recognise the vital importance of sound cyber security practices. More than three quarters of those asked (76%) say it is either the top priority (34%) for their business or within the top three (42%), reiterating the vital need to ensure a business has the talent and knowledge to stay protected from unwanted risks or malicious threats.

Assessing the risk

While cyber security ranks highly on business priority lists, when it comes to cyber security risk assessments, surprisingly only one third of those surveyed have actually conducted one in the past 12 months.

Cyber security risk assessments identify the issues that could arise from an attack, and the business assets, like hardware, data or intellectual property, that could be impacted by it. By performing an assessment, businesses can work to mitigate the risk and rectify any vulnerabilities before an attack hits.

Despite the clear importance of this, a shocking 12% of respondents have never conducted an assessment and don’t ever plan to, and the 16% that say they have conducted one more than five years ago don’t plan to do one in the future, even though their business and assets will likely have significantly changed during this time.

The impact of the pandemic was unprecedented, and it accelerated digitalisation for many businesses like never before. With that in mind, it’s more important than ever to frequently assess business risks, especially when it comes to cyber security, to ensure an organisation isn’t an easy target for prying cyber criminals.

When it comes to withstanding a cyber-attack, fortunately the pandemic did put this front of mind. Eight in 10 businesses surveyed say they feel prepared to handle one, despite any skills gaps they have, with the main reasoning being greater investment in secure cloud services (37%).

By partnering with a reliable, reputable cloud provider, all business-critical data can be kept safe. At IONOS, data is processed and stored with dual redundancy in our certified data centres in the UK and Europe, in full compliance with strict European data protection regulations.

Data knowledge and protection

Promisingly, almost six in 10 businesses (58%) surveyed also say they are putting more focus on adhering to data protection compared to before the pandemic. However, over one in ten (13%) are actually giving it less attention, with almost half (48%) selecting the main reason as time pressures and job workload meaning insufficient time to ensure the business is up-to-date with the latest protection legislation. 

While IT professionals are under pressure to keep up with the constantly evolving data security landscape, it’s fundamental to the success of a business. When it comes to data protection, action must be taken to bridge knowledge gaps, ensure data is protected, and in turn avoid significant monetary fines. One simple way to help minimise risk when it comes to data is to work with European-based cloud providers, like IONOS, that adhere to GDPR – rather than those that must also work under laws such as the US CLOUD act – to avoid a potential added layer of confusion regarding adhering to regulation.

Plugging the skills gap

When it comes to increasing internal knowledge, upskilling existing teams and their understanding can be a vital step when a business faces a skills gap. Mandatory staff training, appointing cyber security and data protection champions, and circulating reading materials can help boost awareness and educate employees that might be lacking essential knowledge.

However, skills gaps fundamentally leave businesses at risk. That’s why it’s important to seek external support and services whenever possible, and work with designated providers that can offer an extra layer of defence for your business, and much needed peace of mind.

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