Despite spending more than ever on security and data protection, a big majority of organisations still suffer losses due to system crashes, human error and cyberattacks.

This is one of the conclusions reached in Acronis’s annual Cyber Protection Week Global Report 2022 that surveyed over 6 200 IT users and IT managers to expose some of the most critical shortcomings appearing in cyber protection practices.

In 2021, a massive 80% of organisations around the world ran as many as 10 data protection and cybersecurity solutions simultaneously for – and still more than half of them suffered downtime because of data loss. Clearly, more solutions do not translate into more protection.

This year, the trend got worse: while 78% of organisations globally run as many as 10 different solutions, 76% of organisations experienced downtime due to data loss — a 25% increase from 2021. This downtime stemmed from a number of sources, including system crashes (52%), human error (42%), cyberattacks (36%) and insider attacks (20%).

As a result, 61% of global organisations’ IT teams now report a preference for integrated solutions that replace their complicated stacks of cybersecurity and data protection tools with a single, unified console.

“As the entire world is increasingly at risk from different types of attacks, accelerating to universal all-in-one solutions is the only way to achieve truly complete cyber protection. And that’s precisely the problem Acronis has set out to solve,” says Candid Wuest, Acronis vice-president: cyber protection research. “Attackers don’t discriminate when it comes to means or targets, so strong and reliable security is no longer an option, it’s a necessity.”

The report also unearthed another worrying trend that is responsible for cyberdefenses lowering and increasing IT security budgets:

* 20% of organisations in South Africa claim to spend over 25% of their IT budget on security.

* 70% of organisations’ IT managers claim to have automated patch management. However, based on any reliable industry research, only a handful of companies follow the 72-hour “golden time” for patch management.

* 82% also claim to have ransomware protection and remediation. Yet, successful attacks occur weekly and the size of ransom demands grows each year.

* 20% claimed to be testing backup restoration weekly. Again, not consistent with any other industry-issued data.

It seems that IT managers are trying to appear better prepared than they are; but that is, in turn, misleading their managers, boards of directors, industry analysts and customers.

However, if the overwhelming majority of IT managers indeed have these solutions, they aren’t using them right: they have simply stocked their IT stacks with all of the recommended cybersecurity technologies — spending more money in vain.

The report findings prove that organisations are spending more on IT security this year, but when compared to their overall IT budget, it becomes clear – organisations are still treating cyber protection as a “nice-to-have” not as a “must-have”.

* Half of organisations globally allocate less than 10% of their overall IT budget on IT security.

* Only 23% of organisations globally are investing over 15% of their overall IT budget in security — even despite the increasingly threatening cyber landscape.

The report indicates that frequent backups that were fuelled by the shift to remote work are over: a third of IT managers only back up weekly, while another 25% back up monthly. Use of backup best practices is declining across the board — only 15% of organisations’ IT teams adhere to them.

As they said last year, 10% of IT managers still aren’t sure if their company is subject to any data privacy regulations — proving that IT managers, like IT users, get stuck in their ways. In South Africa, only 5% of internal IT teams are unsure if their companies are subject to data privacy regulations.

According to the research, 86% of organisations globally are also concerned about the threat of increasing politically-driven cyberattacks caused by the worsening geopolitical climate — but their concern does not translate into improvements to their cyber protection.

When asked about rising cyber threats in the region, 83% of IT users in South Africa said that they were either very or moderately concerned with increased politically-motivated cyberattacks.

Bottom line, the outdated approaches that professional IT teams have relied on for years are now actively failing them. A comprehensive, easy-to-follow approach is essential to achieving a more reliable, holistic protection for data, applications and systems – one that combines cybersecurity, data protection and management into one solution.

Backup habits are still bad. Only one in 10 users backs up daily, while 34% of users back up on a monthly basis – a staggering 41% of users back up rarely or never. Still, 72% of users had to recover from backup at least once in the past year (33% more than once). Meaning that some of the users who chose not to back up have permanently lost their data:

* 43% of users update a week or more after an update release — of those, 7% take more than a month to perform these recommended updates. This is a decline in response time compared to 2021.

* While only 12% of users are following the recommended hybrid model of cloud and local backup storage, users have doubled down on cloud backup: for four years, we saw local backups shrinking from 62% in 2019 to 33% in 2022 — at the same time cloud backups jumped from 28% to 54%.

* 66% of users would not know or be able to tell if their data had been modified.

* 43% of users are not sure if their anti-malware solutions could protect against new and emerging cyberthreats.

* 71% of IT users in South Africa suffered permanent data loss from a computer or mobile device in the last year. Data was lost due to accidental deletions, app or system crashes, malware attacks and other common causes.

* In contrast, roughly half of IT users in South Africa (49%) claimed that they have the means to tell the difference — far above the global average of 34%.