6 reasons you’re failing to focus on your biggest IT security threats

Most companies are not focused on the real security threats they face, leaving them ever more vulnerable. That can change if they trust their data rather than the hype.

Humans are funny creatures who don’t always react in their own best interests, even when faced with good, contrarian data they agree with. For example, most people are far more afraid of flying than of the car ride to the airport, even though the car ride is tens of thousands of times riskier. More people are afraid of getting bitten by a shark at the beach than by their own dog at home, even though being bitten by their dog is hundreds of thousands of times more likely. We just aren’t all that good at reacting appropriately to risks even when we know and believe in the relative likelihood of one versus the other happening.

The same applies to IT security.

Computer defenders often spend time, money, and other resources on computer defenses that don’t stop the biggest threats to their environment. For example, when faced with the fact that a single unpatched program needed to be updated to stop most successful threats, most companies do everything other than patch that program. Or if faced with the fact that many successful threats occurred because of social engineering that better end-user training could have stopped, the companies instead spent millions on everything but better training.

I could give you dozens of other examples, but the fact that most companies can easily be hacked into at will is testament enough to the crisis. Companies simply aren’t doing the simple things they should be doing, even when confronted with the data.

The problem bothered me enough that I wrote a whitepaper, slide deck, and book on the subject. Without having to read all of that, the answer for why so many defenders don’t let the data dictate their defenses is mostly about a lack of focus. A lot of priorities compete for computer defenders' attention, so much so that the things they could be doing to significantly improve their defense aren’t being done, even when cheaper, faster, and easier to do.

What is causing this lack of focus in putting the right defenses in the right places in the right amounts against the right threats? A bunch of things, including these:

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