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Study: Majority of retailers feel 'vulnerable' to a data breach


While the number of cyber-attacks have declined in the last year, a majority of companies still feel susceptible to data threats.

This was according to the “2017 Thales Data Threat Report, Retail Edition,” from Thales e-Security and analyst firm 451 Research. The study is based on responses from more than 1100 senior security executives, including in the retail segment, from across the globe.

According to data, 52% of companies experienced a data breach in the past, and 88% fear they are vulnerable to a cyber-attack. Meanwhile, 19% stated they are “very” or “extremely” vulnerable.

On a positive note, U.S. retail data breaches in the past year dropped from 22% in the 2016 survey to 19% this year. This number is lower than any other U.S. vertical polled for the 2017 report, including healthcare (20%), financial services (24%) and the U.S. federal government (34%).

However, U.S. retailers may be failing to learn from past mistakes. More than half (11%) of the 19% that were breached this year had also experienced a breach previously. When looking at global retail, a staggering 43% of global retail respondents reported a breach in the past year alone, approaching twice the global average, the study reported.

“These distressing breach rates serve as stark proof that data on any system can be attacked and compromised,” said Garrett Bekker, principal analyst for information security at 451 Research. “Unfortunately, organizations keep spending on the same security solutions that worked for them in the past, but aren’t necessarily the most effective at stopping modern breaches.”

Seventy seven percent (77%) of U.S. retail organizations are increasing IT security spending, but are not concentrating spending where it will make the most difference. For example, 88% of respondents selected network security as “very” or “extremely” effective at protecting data from breaches — even as network security fails to keep out attackers and is unable to protect data that is increasingly stored in the cloud.

Spending patterns also indicate a focus on what has worked in the past with the planned spending increases on network (67%) and endpoint (63%) protection. Data-at-rest approaches, which have proven to be effective at protecting the data itself, came in second from last (49%) in terms of retailer security spending priorities.

According to the report, 95% of U.S. retail organizations will use sensitive data in an advanced technology environment (such as cloud, big data, IoT and containers) this year. However, 53% of respondents believe that sensitive data use is happening in these environments without proper security in place.

“It’s encouraging that yearly retail data breach rates have finally started to drop, but rates are still quite high,” said Peter Galvin, VP of strategy, Thales e-Security. “With tremendous sets of detailed customer behavior and personal information in their custody, retailers are a prime target for hackers so should look to invest more in data-centric protection. And as retailers dive head first into new technologies, data security must be a top priority as they continue to pursue their digital transformation.”

To make this transition, organizations are encouraged to:

• deploy security tool sets that offer services-based deployments, platforms and automation;

• discover and classify the location of sensitive data within cloud, SaaS, big data, IoT and container environments; and

• leverage encryption and Bring Your Own Key (BYOK) technologies for all advanced technologies.

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