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European companies feel safer from but spending less on data security

Digital transformation (DX) is fundamentally impacting the global economy and so is the changing face of data security, and Europe is no exception.

Digital transformation facilitates new and transformative ways to provide an improved customer experience and drive greater efficiencies, enabling companies to do more with less.

A new report, 2019 Thales Data Threat Report, shows that DX is now a reality, with 36% of European respondents in the study saying they are either aggressively disrupting the markets they participate in or embedding digital capabilities that enable greater organisational agility.

IT security spend in EuropeThis percentage result is only slightly behind the global average of 38%. While DX is driving benefits for companies and their customers alike, DX is also complex and risky, as it introduces new difficulties for information security professionals.

Not only must security professionals deal with a very dynamic threat environment, in which 61% of European respondents say they have been breached at some point in their company’s life, but they must also function in an increasingly restrictive regulatory environment.

Together, these compounding issues should implore organisations to implement the data best practices that give them the foundation for high-quality, secure transformation efforts. European firms feel less vulnerable to data security issues than their global counterparts (27% feel they are vulnerable or very vulnerable, compared to 34% of the global sample).

On the other hand, they are less likely to believe they have adequate security in place, with 82% saying they are moderately or extremely secure (55% saying they are “extremely secure”), which is lower than the 88% of global respondents who believe they are moderately or extremely secure (66% of the global sample respondents believe they are “extremely secure”).

Security level of new technology deployments

A number of factors have contributed to a slowing pace of security spending growth in Europe. European companies have cleared the initial hurdle of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliance and stacked their security inventory up using extra budget allocation caused by GDPR fear, uncertainty over Brexit, and the need to “digest” new technologies and processes recently acquired and built.

41% of European companies in the sample say their spending will increase next year, down from 72% last year, even while threat vectors are increasing, with cybercriminals, cyberterrorists, and hacktivists leading the list of security concerns for European companies.

European data environments are increasingly complex, and this complexity is proving to be a barrier to data security. Just like in other geographies, European companies are moving workloads to multiple cloud environments, even as they work to maintain traditional on-premises infrastructures.

As in other regions of the world, European companies are adopting clouds for sensitive data and critical applications, which means they have to get cloud security right.

Organisations must take a multi-layered approach to security, and this study shows that European executives are working toward this goal. European respondents are placing a roughly equal amount of focus on network, application, and data security with 35% of their focus on network, 34% on data, and 31% on application security; these figures map very closely to the global total.

Respondents have long “to do” lists with plans to implement a wide variety of technologies over the next 12 months, but they are struggling to implement their plans, rating complexity as their greatest barrier to implementing data security, followed by lack of budget and lack of staff to manage technology.

Many organisations’ focus on near-term issues such as preparing for GDPR and planning for Brexit may have distracted their security teams from their day jobs due to resource limitations.

Organisations need to put tools in place that will let them manage complexity, and to do more with less. These tools should span both legacy on-premises needs as well as modern, cloud-based, edge-oriented technologies with solutions like encryption and tokenization that provide some of the best protection in today’s threat environment.

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