CIOs raise IT budgets as increased remote working drives security concerns

Research finds that as the pandemic forces companies to accept the idea of permanent massed remote working, CIOs are waking up to the threat of increased cyber attacks

In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, CIOs are prioritising identity and access management (IAM) over endpoint security and security awareness training in 2020, according to a survey conducted by Pulse on behalf of Hitachi ID.

Pulse carried out the survey between 14 May and 20 June, polling 131 CIOs, vice-presidents and directors at small, mid-sized and enterprise companies. The Covid-19 crisis has, understandably, redefined companies’ priorities, said the research, and has upended most businesses’ 2020 plans, with 70% of CIOs reporting that their long-term priorities have shifted since the start of the year.

Now, 89% said they are focused on cyber security, and 82% are working on remote enablement.

As well as cyber security being IT leaders’ top focus for the rest of the year, half of those surveyed are increasing their budgets to support their goals.

And these goals are reflecting the new priorities: 86% said they are aiming to improve security standards across their environment, while 80% are making their tech stack more flexible to support remote and on-premise users. Also, 75% said they were hoping to keep their IT infrastructure and tool stack up to date.

Investigating who was planning to look beyond core and current technologies and services, the survey found that two-thirds of CIOs were more willing to invest in emerging technologies. In terms of what types of company were looking to future tech, 88% of respondents at companies with 500-1,000 employees were planning to invest in emerging technology, the most of any size category.

By contrast, just 45% of CIOs at companies with 5,000 to 10,000 employees said the same, the lowest of any category. Yet 87% of firms would consider emerging security technology in 2020, while 71% would consider emerging artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technology.

Although budgets are tight for half of the respondents, who do not expect an increase in spending, the other half expect their budgets to increase in 2020 to reflect shifts in IT as the “new normal” becomes simply the way of doing business.

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One-third of the firms surveyed anticipated a 5% increase, 13% saw a 5-10% increase, and 9% expected an increase above 10%. To achieve their security and remote enablement goals, 43% of CIOs are investing in IAM, ahead of endpoint security (34%) and security awareness training (17%).

Looking at the trends revealed in the survey, Hitachi ID CEO Kevin Nix said it made sense to prioritise IAM. “CIOs have been waking up to the fact that most hackers don’t break down the gate – they just unlock it because they already have the keys,” he said.

“Bad actors have been focused on stolen credentials, phishing attacks and social engineering, especially since the pandemic forced so many employees to work remotely. We’ve seen a new urgency among companies looking for IAM solutions. Last year, businesses might plan to adopt IAM over a year or two – now they need it next quarter.”

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