2021 Australia Security Insights Report – Surge in Cyberattacks Targeting the Anywhere Workforce


VMware has released the findings from the fourth installment of the Australian Security Insights Report, based on an online survey of 251 CIOs, CTOs and CISOs in December 2020 in Australia.

The report explores the impact of cyberattacks and breaches on Australian organisations and details how security teams are adapting to these challenges.

Accelerated digital transformation has caused security teams to face evolving threats as cybercriminals seize the opportunity to execute targeted attacks exploiting fast-tracked innovation and the anywhere workforce. The report found that 89 percent of Australian organisations surveyed experienced cyberattacks due to more employees working from home, highlighting the vulnerabilities in legacy security technology and postures.

“The race to adopt cloud technology since the start of the pandemic has created a once-in-a-generation chance for business leaders to rethink their approach to cybersecurity,” said Rick McElroy, Principal Cybersecurity Strategist, VMware. “Legacy security systems are no longer sufficient. Organisations need protection that extends beyond endpoints to workloads to better secure data and applications. As attacker sophistication and security threats become more prevalent, we must empower defenders to detect and stop attacks, as well as implement security stacks built for a cloud-first world.”

The Australian Security Insights Report provides intelligence on the cybersecurity landscape, attack and defense trends, along with the security priorities for organisations this year to maintain resilience. The key findings include:

  • A lack of urgency despite surge in material breaches. 77% of respondents have suffered a breach in the last twelve months with 8 out of 10 breaches (79%) considered material. Yet, security professionals have underestimated the likelihood of a material breach. Almost two-thirds (59%) of Australian organisations say they fear a material breach in the next year, with the financial services and government sectors highly concerned, with 66 percent and 65 percent of respondents, respectively, saying they fear a breach. Over one-third (46%) of organisations have updated their security policy and approach to mitigate the risk.
  • Resurgence of ransomware and remote work creates unpredictable attack surface. 72% of respondents said attack volumes had increased – with majority pointing to employees working from home as the cause – and 80% said attacks had become more sophisticated. The leading breach causes were ransomware (26%), third-party apps (19%), process weaknesses (18%) and out-of-date security technology (16%).
  • Manufacturing sector hit hardest by cyberattacks. 66 percent of respondents in the financial services sector experienced attack increases at an average of 27 percent. A staggering 91 percent of manufacturing sector respondents experienced attack increases at an above average 40 percent. Respondents from the healthcare sector fared better than average, with 68 percent reporting attack volume increases.
  • Cloud-first security strategies are now universal. 98% of respondents already use or plan to use a cloud-first security strategy. But the move to cloud has expanded the threat surface. 56% of respondents agree they need to view security differently now that the attack surface has expanded and 46% of respondents said they plan to build more security into their infrastructure and apps and reduce the number of point solutions. A cloud-first strategy is prevalent among government and financial services companies, where 92 percent and 82 percent, respectively, say they are cloud-first already.
  • Applications and workloads are top CISO concerns. Applications and workloads are viewed as the most vulnerable points on the data journey. 57% of respondents agree they need better visibility over data and apps in order to pre-empt attacks. 54% of respondents also shared that their senior leadership team feel increasingly worried about bringing new applications to market because of the growing threat and damage of cyberattacks.
  • Security concerns are holding back adoption of AI. The next frontier for business innovation may be artificial intelligence, but almost half of respondents (48%) say that security concerns are holding them back from embracing AI and machine learning.

The pandemic and shift to anywhere work have undoubtedly changed the threat landscape requiring security teams to transform their cybersecurity strategies and stay one step ahead of attackers. Key focus areas for the coming year must include improving visibility into all endpoints and workloads, responding to the resurgence of ransomware, delivering security as a distributed service, and adopting an intrinsic approach to cloud-first security.

For a clearer picture on the evolving threat landscape as well as actionable guidance and recommendations for this year and beyond, download the full report here.