In brief

In brief

  • Most utilities are getting better at preventing direct cyberattacks.
  • Even so, attackers have moved on to indirect targets—such as third parties in the supply chain—and costs are becoming unsustainable.
  • But there is a group of organizations — the leaders — who scale, train and collaborate more to secure technology innovation.
  • The Third Annual State of Cyber Resilience shows how leaders have mastered cybersecurity execution to drive innovation and grow with confidence.

Where are we now?

Cyberattacks are commonplace. They can have a massive impact on utilities, as well as their customers, partners, employees and the bottom line. Many utilities are finding it hard to reconcile the level of their cybersecurity innovation investments with the cyber resilience outcomes for their business. Even worse, choosing the wrong strategy to invest in cybersecurity technologies can cost the business far more than wasted cash; it can damage an organization’s brand, reputation, and future prosperity.

"Utilities are increasingly using automation and smart devices to reliably transport and distribute electricity to their customers. These devices and assets from generation to the meter all have great potential to ensure reliability, but because they are network-connected they also have the potential to be exploited. As our clients push more and more into the digital domain, safety and security are critical."

— STEPHANIE JAMISON, Senior Managing Director – Accenture Utilities

Accenture Security surveyed 4,644 executives to understand the extent to which organizations prioritize security, how comprehensive their security plans are, and how their security investments are performing. The executives represent companies with annual revenues of US$1 billion or more from 24 industries and 16 countries across North and South America, Europe and Asia Pacific. The survey included 217 respondents from utilities, we found:

1. Investment in security innovation is growing

94% of utilities spend more than 20% of cybersecurity budgets on advanced technologies.

2. Basic security hygiene is better

27 % reduction in the average number of security breaches; utilities now face 20 security breaches down from 187 in the previous year.

3. Security success masks hidden threats

Only 55 % of the business ecosystem is protected by the cybersecurity program; 56 % of breaches come via this route.

4. Security cost rises are unsustainable

73 % agree staying ahead of attackers is a constant battle and the cost is unsustainable.

5. Security investments are failing

37 % of utilities had more than 500,000 customer records exposed in the past year.

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Cyber resilience is the ability to defend against attacks while continuing to do "business as usual" successfully. Our statistical analysis revealed a group of leaders across industries (17%) who were characterized as among the highest performers in at least three of the following four categories: stop more attacks, find breaches faster, fix breaches faster and reduce breach impact.

Our research found that leaders behave differently in three core ways.

#1. Invest for operational speed

Leaders prioritize moving fast. The top three measures of cybersecurity success for leaders emphasize speed. Leaders prize how quickly they can detect a security breach, how quickly they can mobilize their response and how quickly they can get operations back to normal. Leaders also measure the success of their resiliency—how many systems were stopped and for how long—and precision—improving the accuracy of finding cyber incidents.

Leaders choose turbo-charging technologies. Leaders use the technologies that help them achieve their main measures of cybersecurity success—speed of detection, recovery and response—ranking Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Security Orchestration Automation and Response (SOAR) technologies highest. They use advanced technologies to achieve other measures of cybersecurity success—like fewer successful attacks (where Next-Generation Firewall ranks highest), reduced breach impact (where AI ranks highest) and cost reduction (where SOAR ranks highest).

#2. Drive value from new investments

Leaders scale more. Organizations best at scaling security technology investments are 4X better than the rest at discovering and defending attacks and protecting more key assets in their organizations.

Leaders train more. Organizations best at training are 2X better than the rest at defending attacks, faster at discovering and fixing breaches and protect more of their organization with their cybersecurity program.

Leaders collaborate more. Organizations best at collaborating are 2X better than the rest at defending attacks, better protect their ecosystems and benefit from improved alignment with regulatory requirements.

#3. Sustain what they have

Leaders maintain existing investments. Leaders focus more of their budget allocations on looking after what they already have, compared with the non-leaders who place more emphasis on piloting and scaling new capabilities. In fact, non-leaders tend to spread their spending evenly across three core activities: scanning and piloting new capabilities; scaling new capabilities; and sustaining what they already have.

Leaders perform better at the basics. Data breaches happen when organizations fail at fundamental data protection practices. With more than half a million records exposed for 44 % of non-leaders compared with only 15 % of leaders in the last year, now, more than ever, it is critical for them to make sure the basics of data-centric security are in place. It is not only the right thing to do, but also critical if organizations are serious about protecting their data.

Invest for cyber resilience

Investment in new technologies is leading to a proliferation of tools for most organizations—yet they are seeing only 53 % returns on average for these security investments. Read our report for how C-suite leaders and their Boards should act to be sure that their investments are protecting their organizations, for today and tomorrow.

Mastering cybersecurity execution

As our research shows, cyber resilience is achievable and replicable. Utilities need to stop attacks and improve their response to security failures, find and fix breaches faster and maintain a lower impact on the business.

By understanding and adopting the lessons learned by the leaders, organizations can not only secure the path to cyber resilience, but also gain mastery in cybersecurity execution.

Get the essentials

Learn how to be a leader – to take action to stop more cyberattacks, find and fix security breaches faster and reduce security breach impact.

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State of cyber resilience report for utilities

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State of cyber resilience report for utilities

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View the highlights from our annual study.

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