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  • 3 May 2018 09:00

Australian Businesses at Risk Due to Unidentified Network Traffic According to Sophos Global Survey “The Dirty Secrets of Network Firewalls”

Key Survey Findings: - Australian IT managers can’t identify 41 per cent of their organisation’s network traffic - 87 per cent of Australian organisations agree that a lack of application visibility is a serious security concern - Half of Australian organisations (50 per cent) are concerned about productivity loss from unwanted or unnecessary applications they can’t see on their network

Sophos (LSE: SOPH), a leader in network and endpoint security, today announced the findings of its global survey, The Dirty Secrets of Network Firewalls, which revealed that Australian IT Managers cannot identify 41 percent of their organisation’s network traffic, compared to 45 per cent globally. In fact, nearly one-in-four IT Managers globally cannot identify 70 percent of their network traffic. The lack of visibility creates significant challenges – security risks, productivity loss and legal liability.

The survey – that polled more than 2,700 IT decision makers from mid-sized businesses in 10 countries including the US, Canada, Mexico, France, Germany, UK, Australia, Japan, India, and South Africa – also found that 60% of Australian respondents believe their organisation’s current defences are not totally sufficient.

Lack of App Visibility is a Security Concern

Considering the debilitating impact cyber-attacks can have on a business, it’s unsurprising that 87 per cent of Australian respondents (84 per cent globally) agree that a lack of application visibility is a serious security concern. Without the ability to identify what’s running on their network, IT managers are blind to ransomware, unknown malware, data breaches and other advanced threats, as well as potentially malicious applications and rogue users. Network firewalls with signature-based detection are unable to provide adequate visibility into application traffic due to a variety of factors such as the increasing use of encryption, browser emulation, and advanced evasion techniques.

“If you can’t see everything on your network, you can’t ever be confident that your organisation is protected from threats. IT professionals have been ‘flying blind’ for too long and cybercriminals take advantage of this,” said Dan Schiappa, senior vice president and general manager of products at Sophos. “With governments worldwide introducing stiffer penalties for data breach and loss, knowing who and what is on your network is becoming increasingly important. This dirty secret can’t be ignored any longer.”

Ineffective firewalls are costing Australian businesses time and money

Globally, organisations spend an average of seven working days remediating 16 infected machines per month (12 machines per month in Australia). It also takes Australian organisations an average of seven hours to identify, isolate and remediate the infected machines within their networks. Given the time and cost implications of fixing infected machines manually, IT managers are very aware that firewalls need an upgrade in protection. In fact, the survey revealed that 99 per cent of those surveyed globally, want firewall technology that can automatically isolate infected computers, and 97 per cent want endpoint and firewall protection from the same vendor which allows for direct sharing of security status information.

“A single network breach often leads to the compromise of multiple computers, so the faster you can stop the infection from spreading the more you limit the damage and time needed to clean it up,” said Schiappa. “Companies are looking for the kind of next-generation, integrated network and endpoint protection that can stop advanced threats and prevent an isolated incident from turning into a widespread outbreak. Sophisticated exploits such as MimiKatz and EternalBlue reminded everyone that network protection is critical to endpoint security and vice versa. Only direct intelligence sharing between these two can reveal the true nature of who and what is operating on your network.”

Security is Not the Only Risk to Businesses

Following security risks, lost productivity was cited as a concern for 50 per cent of Australian IT Managers when it comes to a lack of network visibility. Business productivity can be negatively impacted if IT is unable to prioritise bandwidth for critical applications.

For industries that rely on custom software to meet specific business needs, an inability to prioritise these mission critical applications over less important traffic could be costly. 48 per cent IT professionals (50 per cent globally) who had invested in custom applications admitted that their firewall could not identify the traffic and therefore were unable to maximise their return on investment. Lack of visibility also creates a blind spot for the potential transfer of illegal or inappropriate content on corporate networks, making companies vulnerable to litigation and compliance issues.

“Organisations need a firewall that protects their investment in business-critical and custom applications by allowing employees to have prioritised access to the applications they need,” said Schiappa. “Increasing network visibility requires a radically different approach. By enabling the firewall to receive information directly from the endpoint security, it can now positively identify all applications – even obscure or custom applications.”

The Dirty Secrets of Network Firewalls survey results are available in a PDF report.

The Dirty Secrets of Network Firewalls survey was conducted by Vanson Bourne, an independent specialist in market research, in October and November 2017. This survey interviewed 2,700 IT decision makers in 10 countries and across five continents, including the US, Canada, Mexico, France, Germany, UK, Australia, Japan, India, and South Africa. All respondents were from organisations of between 100 and 5,000 users.

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