Cloudflare's APAC Zero Trust study has revealed that over 86 per cent of Australian IT and cyber security decision-makers and influencers have invested in bolstering security measures amid a rise in cyber security attacks.
The study surveyed 1,006 IT and cyber security decision-makers and influencers at enterprise organisations across Australia, India, Japan, Malaysia and Singapore found the COVID-19 pandemic had a significant business impact on three in five (60 per cent) Australian respondents, leading them to increase their investment in IT security measures like Zero Trust.
Cloudflare’s research found that Australian enterprises experienced the greatest number of IT security challenges in Asia-Pacific as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Almost half (48 per cent) of Australian respondents struggled to maximise remote workers’ productivity, without exposing them or their devices to new risks – a greater portion than in India (39 per cent), Japan (39 per cent), Malaysia (38 per cent) and Singapore (26 per cent).
According to Raymond Maisano, head of ANZ at Cloudflare, the rapid shift to remote work has made the corporate perimeter more difficult to control and left local businesses exposed.
“Australian organisations have welcomed Zero Trust over the past few years, however, the latest ACSC Annual Cyber Threat Report highlighted there is a way to go, with cyber criminals exploiting gaps in IT security strategies."
"Over the past 18 months of working from home, IT departments have had to manage complex and often conflicting configurations across VPNs, firewalls, proxies, and identity providers, while fending off increased cyber threats,” Maisano said.
The Cloudflare data has also shown more than one-quarter (28 per cent) of Australians surveyed had no ability to control what devices could connect to corporate resources on their network. This is significantly higher than Malaysia (20 per cent), Singapore (18 per cent) and Japan (14 per cent). While six in 10 (62 per cent) Australian respondents said their organisation had experienced more security attacks in 2021 compared to the previous year, including phishing attempts (47 per cent), a data breach or leak (46 per cent) and ransomware attacks (45 per cent). In response to an attack and the increasing cyber threat landscape, 93 per cent changed their IT security procedures.
The vast majority (94 per cent) of Australian respondents said their organisation will be implementing a combination of return-to-office and work-from-home arrangements, and 86 per cent agreed their workforce will be more mobile in the future. As such, the need to maximise worker productivity while working remotely, without exposing them or their devices to new security risks was a core driver for Zero Trust adoption for 38 per cent of Australian respondents.
Zero Trust is a journey for organisations, Maisano added, referring to the research indicating that the intention is there. However, most Australian businesses have only just begun to roll out this approach to IT security.
"One of the biggest challenges here is finding the right talent to fill the technology skills gap and organisations need to find the balance between outsourcing and investing in existing talent and resources in order to secure hybrid workforces, especially as lockdown restrictions ease and employees once again log on from almost anywhere."
"Shifting to Zero Trust access for every application is the only way to secure today’s human and network resources,” Maisano concluded.
Zero Trust is no longer a concept after the study found that 88 per cent of Australian respondents said their organisation has adopted the approach, with more than one-quarter (28 per cent) rolling out this security strategy in the past 12 months.
The Cloudflare research further revealed that Australia has a substantial lead on Zero Trust adoption in Asia-Pacific compared to Malaysia (75 per cent), Singapore (65 per cent), India (62 per cent) and Japan (43 per cent). The Zero Trust approach to security had a significant impact on limiting data breaches (47 per cent), flexibility to extend secure third-party access (39 per cent), improved network visibility (37 per cent), enhanced employee experience via easier, more secure and faster access to applications (37 per cent) and prevention of malware propagation (33 per cent).
In comparison to other countries in the region, the data has shown that Australia is lagging behind the recruitment and employment of in-house IT security experts that can handle these issues. Results show 45 per cent of locals acknowledging their internal teams lacked the expertise or time to effectively adopt the best IT security practices, compared to a regional average of 36 per cent.
A Zero Trust approach to IT security has been critical in supporting Canva’s rapid, international growth according to Jim Tyrrell, head of infrastructure at Canva.
“As we embrace a hybrid way of working, enabling remote collaboration at scale is a priority."
"Implementing a Zero Trust strategy allows us to focus on adding value to our platform, growing the team and expanding into new markets with confidence,” Tyrrell said.