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How CISOs Are Preparing to Tackle 2022

How CISOs Are Preparing to Tackle 2022

Blog Article Published: 02/21/2022

This blog was originally published by Microsoft here.

Written by Vasu Jakkal, Corporate Vice President, Security, Compliance, Identity, and Management, Microsoft.

Looking back over the last year, the security landscape has continued to experience significant change and escalation. Every day, we see the toll this is taking on organizations of all sizes as they navigate the enduring challenges of the pandemic, the expansion of the digital estate, and the evolution of threats. To continually understand the priorities and concerns of our community, we run research with security leaders every six months. I wanted to share some of those insights with you, as you may find the information valuable in your work.

To begin, the top five challenges shown below, as reported by survey takers, are very consistent with what I’m hearing in my regular interactions with customers and partners.

Security leaders report that their top security challenge is managing increased risk of ransomware and cyber-extortion (29%). This is followed by ensuring cloud resources, workloads, and apps are securely configured (28%), gaps in protection across hybrid, multi-cloud, and multi-platform environment (27%), challenge recruiting security professionals (26%), and enabling end user productivity without sacrificing security (25%).

Addressing ransomware is number one, followed closely by cloud security

The security leaders we talk to are feeling the pressure—managing the risk of ransomware and cyber extortion was reported as their number one challenge this past year. According to the 2021 Ransomware Survey Report, ransomware grew by 1,070 percent between July 2020 and June 2021.1 Data from Microsoft’s Detection and Response Team (DART) in the latest Microsoft Digital Defense Report shows that cybercrime supply chains are consolidating and maturing.2 No longer do individual cybercriminals have to develop their own tools. Today, they can simply buy proven cybercrime kits and services to incorporate into their campaigns. This gives the average cybercriminal access to better tools and automation to enable scale and drive down costs. As a result, attacks of all types are on the rise, with the economics behind successful ransomware attacks fueling a rapid trajectory.

Cloud security has also been pushed into the forefront as security leaders adapt to the realities of the pandemic and the shift to hybrid work.3 The cloud represents significant opportunities for scale and agility. At the same time, cloud security technologies are evolving, and customers are looking for ways to simplify security across their entire portfolio.

Investment priorities for 2022

Aligned to the top cybersecurity challenges, cloud security lands as the top area of security investment over the next 12 months. For most security leaders, this means prioritizing investments that help them close gaps, protect workloads, and secure access to cloud resources. Security leaders tell us this is an area in which they’re looking for solutions that can help them tackle these challenges comprehensively—with so many organizations having a multi-cloud environment, the integration will be key.

Protecting data is fundamental to positive business outcomes, so it’s not a surprise that data security continues to rank high on the list of priorities among respondents. Hybrid work and the acceleration of digital transformation are massively expanding the amount of data that needs to be protected, amplifying the need for comprehensive data security. We predict that organizations of all sizes will need to continue to evolve their data security strategy to keep up with changes in the digital environment.

Security leaders report that cloud security is the area they are most interested in investing in in the next 12 months (35%). This is followed by data security (25%), vulnerability management/assessment (24%), application security (DevSecOps) (23%), and cloud-based network security (22%).

Following cloud and data security, we’re also hearing that decision-makers have increased interest in investing in vulnerability management and vulnerability assessment as they prioritize prevention initiatives. We are also seeing growing interest in emerging technologies like extended detection and response (XDR), IoT and operational technology (OT) security, and Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) solutions. With XDR, organizations can better detect and respond to threats across their complex ecosystems. Many organizations also use IoT and OT technologies and are looking for ways to close gaps in protection and address potential vulnerabilities. A SASE solution can help with providing secure access to resources at the edge, enabling more flexibility, visibility, and control.

Reading list for 2022

As security leaders look to mitigate threats now and in the near future, we’re seeing an increased focus on improving the prevention capabilities of the highest growth threat vectors, such as cloud security, access management, cloud workloads, hybrid work, and ransomware. An overarching component of that transformation includes increased attention on implementing Zero Trust—currently the top reported topic of interest from our research. Because Zero Trust architecture is essentially designed to prevent an attacker’s ability to move laterally, a Zero Trust strategy is extremely helpful in prioritizing and addressing prevention-focused investments. These include things like shutting down legacy authentication methods, providing secure access to resources using multifactor authentication (MFA), implementing risk-based access controls, and utilizing posture management tools to identify and remediate risks in cloud resources. By implementing a Zero Trust strategy, organizations can more safely embrace a hybrid workplace, and protect people, devices, apps, and data wherever they are located.

Read our Evolving Zero Trust whitepaper to learn how real-world deployments and attacks are shaping the future of Zero Trust strategies.

As part of the shift to the cloud, security leaders tell us they are also interested in learning more about how posture management, access management, and workload protection tools fit into their cloud security strategy. And given the concerns around the rise of ransomware and securing remote or hybrid work, it’s not surprising to see them as a priority topic of interest.

Check out our ransomware blog posts to keep up to date on the latest ransomware insights.

Read our recommendations on securing a new world of hybrid work.

Security leaders report that the topics they are most interested in are Zero Trust (43%), cloud security (37%), ransomware and cyber-extortion protection (28%), securing remote/hybrid work (24%), and machine learning (24%).

Learn more

As the last couple of years have shown us, cybersecurity is a mission of great importance. It not only underpins the business resilience that enables your organization to thrive in times of uncertainty, but it’s also critical to the fight for digital safety for all. This isn’t something we can do alone. We must work together as a community, sharing insights and supporting each other, to defend against not only today’s attacks, but also be prepared for the threats of tomorrow. My colleague Rob Lefferts will be releasing a new quarterly report next month called CISO Insider, where we invite Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs) from around the globe to share their best practices and expertise.

For more information that can help you navigate the current challenges in the security landscape, check out the following resources:

Bookmark the Security blog to keep up with security matters. Also, follow us at @MSFTSecurity for the latest news and updates on cybersecurity.


1Fortinet Ransomware Survey Shows Many Organizations Unprepared, Fortinet. 29 September 2021.

2How cyberattacks are changing according to new Microsoft Digital Defense Report, Amy Hogan-Burney, Microsoft. 11 October 2021.

3New data from Microsoft shows how the pandemic is accelerating the digital transformation of cyber-security, Andrew Conway, Microsoft. 19 August 2020.

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