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VMware Releases Cybersecurity Threat Survey Report Detailing Lower Breach Levels, But Higher Attack Sophistication in Germany

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VMware, Inc. (NYSE: VMW), a leading innovator in enterprise software, today released the results of its third German-focused cybersecurity threat report entitled, “Extended Enterprise Under Threat,” based on a survey of 251 German CIOs, CTOs and CISOs.

The research found a decrease both cyberattack volume and breaches. This has prompted decreased investment in cyber defense with German businesses using an average of more than eleven different cybersecurity tools, the survey found.

Data for the report was compiled in March and April 2020 by an independent research company, Opinion Matters, on behalf of VMware Carbon Black.

Key survey findings from German respondents:

  • 70% said attack volume has increased in the last 12 months, the survey found.
  • 73% said their business has suffered a security breach in the last 12 months. The average organisation said they experienced 2 breaches during that time, the survey found.
  • 82% said attacks have become more sophisticated, the survey found.
  • 86% said they plan to increase cyber defense spending in the coming year according to the survey.
  • Process weaknesses were the leading cause of breaches, according to the survey, but island-hopping and third-party application have increased as the causes of breaches.
  • German companies said they are using an average of 11 different security technologies to manage their security programme, the survey found.

A major squeeze on SMEs in Germany

The research revealed that SMEs with between 501-1000 employees appear to be heavily targeted with survey respondents in this sector seeing an average 61% increase in attack volumes. These are companies that do not typically have the budgets or in-house resources of their larger counterparts, but who nevertheless have highly valuable data and digital assets that are ripe for theft or extortion. The survey found that they are facing a significantly greater increase in attack volumes and sophistication growth compared with smaller and larger organisations.

Among this size of organisation, fileless attacks are the most witnessed attack type, the survey found, 43%, compared with 20% on average.

Rick McElroy, Cyber Security Strategist at VMware Carbon Black, said: “Island-hopping is having an increasing breach impact. In combination with other third-party risks such as third-party apps and the supply chain, it’s clear the extended enterprise is under pressure.”

Complex multi-technology environments

German cybersecurity professionals said they are using an average of more than eleven different tools or consoles to manage their cyber defense programme, the survey found. This indicates a security environment that has evolved reactively as security tools have been adopted to tackle emerging threats.

Said McElroy: “Siloed, hard-to-manage environments hand the advantage to attackers from the start. Evidence shows attackers have the upper hand when security is not an intrinsic feature of the environment. As the cyber threat landscape reaches saturation, it is time for rationalisation, strategic thinking and clarity over security deployment.”

Supplemental COVID-19 survey

The latest research was supplemented with a survey on the impact COVID-19 has had on the attack landscape1. According to the supplemental survey of more than 1,000 respondents from the US, UK, Singapore and Italy, 91% of cybersecurity professionals said attack volumes have increased as more employees work from home. 92% said their organisations have experienced cyberattacks linked to COVID-19 malware.

Key findings from the supplemental COVID-19-focused survey:

  • 92% said they have been targeted by COVID-19-related malware; 89% said IoT exposure risk has increased.
  • Inability to institute multi-factor authentication (MFA) was reported as the biggest security threat to businesses during COVID-19, the survey found.
  • 84% reported gaps in disaster planning around communications with external parties including customers, prospects, and partners. 48% said those gaps were significant.

Said McElroy: “The global situation with COVID-19 has put the spotlight on business resilience and disaster recovery planning. Those organisations that have delayed implementing multi-factor authentication appear to be facing challenges, as 29% of global respondents say the inability to implement MFA is the biggest threat to business resilience they are facing right now.”

Survey respondents were asked whether COVID-19 had exposed gaps in their disaster recovery plans, and to indicate the severity of those gaps. Their responses showed that:

  • 88% of respondents reported gaps in recovery planning, ranging from slight to severe.
  • 87% said they had uncovered gaps in IT operations.
  • 85% said they encountered problems around enabling a remote workforce.
  • 78% said they’ve experienced challenges communicating with employees
  • 84% said they had experienced difficulty communicating with external parties.
  • 70% said the situation uncovered gaps around visibility into cybersecurity threats.

Said McElroy: “These figures indicate that the surveyed CISOs may be facing difficulty in a number of areas when answering the demands placed on them by the COVID-19 situation.”

Risks directly related to COVID-19 have also quickly emerged, the survey found. In addition to the 92% of respondents who said they experienced an increase in COVID-19-related malware, 89% reported increased IoT exposure, 89% said they had witnessed increased phishing attacks, and 88% had seen more attempts at spear phishing since COVID-19 began.

Said McElroy: “The 2020 survey results suggest that security teams must be working in tandem with business leaders to shift the balance of power from attackers to defenders. We must also collaborate with IT teams and work to remove the complexity that’s weighing down the current model. By building security intrinsically into the fabric of the enterprise – across applications, clouds and devices – teams can significantly reduce the attack surface, gain greater visibility into threats, and understand where security vulnerabilities exist.”

Read the full executive summary here.

About VMware’s Intrinsic Security Strategy

Security sprawl – too many products, agents, and interfaces deployed across an organization – has created complexity for security management, opening organizations to significant risk. Most security innovation over the past decade has focused on identifying and reacting to individual attacks. Little innovation has focused on hardening infrastructure itself to make it more secure or using the infrastructure to better protect an organization.

The way forward is an intrinsic security approach that combines detecting and responding to threats, in addition to hardening infrastructure. VMware makes security intrinsic from endpoint to cloud, leveraging the infrastructure to provide visibility for apps, users and devices, and combining that with leading threat detection and response capabilities to deliver a unique (and better) approach to security.

About VMware

VMware software powers the world’s complex digital infrastructure. The company’s cloud, app modernisation, networking, security, and digital workspace offerings help customers deliver any application on any cloud across any device. Headquartered in Palo Alto, California, VMware is committed to being a force for good, from its breakthrough technology innovations to its global impact. For more information, please visit

VMware and Carbon Black are registered trademarks or trademarks of VMware, Inc. or its subsidiaries in the United States and other jurisdictions.

Main Survey Methodology
Carbon Black commissioned a survey, undertaken by an independent research organisation, Opinion Matters, in March 2020. 3,012 CIOs, CTOs and CISOs, including 251 from Germany, were surveyed for this global research project across multiple countries including:  Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, The Netherlands, The Nordics, Singapore, Spain, the US and the UK. Companies were from a range of industries including: financial, healthcare, government, retail, manufacturing, food and beverage, oil and gas, professional services, and media and entertainment.

COVID-19 Survey Methodology

1 COVID-19 survey methodology: The COVID-19 survey was conducted by Opinion Matters in March and April 2020. 1002 CIOs, CTOs or CISOs from Italy, Singapore, the UK and the US were asked for their views on the security and operational challenges of COVID-19.