The report shows enterprises faced unprecedented cybersecurity risk in 2020 from increasing attack volumes, the pandemic-driven digital transformation of work, and generally deficient cyber preparedness and training.
The fifth annual “The State of Email Security,” report is based on a global survey of 1,225 information technology and cybersecurity leaders, and supported by Mimecast’s Threat Center data, which screens more than one billion emails per day.
Ransomware looms large
85% of South African respondents indicated their companies had experienced a business disruption, financial loss or other setback in 2020 due to a lack of cyber preparedness.
Respondents identified ransomware as the chief culprit behind these disruptions. Other insights include:
- 61% of global companies – and 47% of South African ones – indicated they had been impacted by ransomware in 2020, a 20% increase over the number of companies reporting such disruption in last year’s “The State of Email Security” report.
- Fewer organisations in South Africa fell victim to ransomware than in other countries, but those that did experienced considerably more downtime. Companies lost an average of seven working days to system downtime compared to a global average of six, while 44% of South African respondents said downtime lasted one week or more against a global average of 37%.
- More than half (53%) of South African ransomware victims paid threat actor ransom demands, but only three in five (60%) of those were able to recover their data. The remaining two-fifths (40%) never saw their data again despite paying the ransom.
Threat actors exploit the pandemic
While ransomware was a big problem for organizations in 2020, it wasn’t the only one.
Mimecast’s “The State of Email Security” report revealed additional threat trends, including:
- A 64% year-over-year increase in global threat volume.
- An increase in email usage in eight out of 10 companies.
- 47% of survey respondents noted they saw an increase in email spoofing activity.
- 72% of companies said they are concerned about the risks posed by archived conversations from collaboration tools.
All of these data points can be attributed to the pandemic: work-from-home increased email and collaboration tool usage, and threat actors sought to capitalise on the new “digital office” with massive waves of COVID-19-related social engineering attacks.
Cyber preparedness is lacking
Despite facing an elevated threat volume, the report found that companies aren’t doing well in the area of threat prevention.
In addition to the 85% of South African respondents who indicated a lack of cyber preparedness, other notable findings include:
- 40% of those surveyed said their organisations fall short in one or more critical areas of email security systems, leaving employees open to phishing, malware, business email compromise and other attacks.
- 52% of South African respondents (compared to a global average of 43%) said that employee naiveté about cybersecurity is one of their greatest vulnerabilities, yet nearly half (46%) conduct cybersecurity awareness training once a quarter or less.
Given these factors, it’s not surprising that 65% of South African survey respondents believe their business will be harmed by email attacks in the next year.
In 2020, only 47% of respondents said they felt this way.