Utilities sector under siege: over half of UK businesses fall victim to cyber-attack in the last 12 months, reveals Veritas research

Despite security concerns, energy firms see accelerated shift to the cloud driven by the COVID-19 pandemic

Reading, UK – 18 May, 2021 The utilities sector is under increasing threat from ransomware attacks. More than half (53%) of IT decision makers in the sector admit that their business has been targeted by at least one cyber security attack over the last 12 months, according to new research from Veritas Technologies, a global leader in data protection, availability and insights.

However, Veritas warns that this figure could be even higher in reality, given businesses in the sector have shown reluctance to admit to succumbing to an attack. Despite numerous successful hacks of British energy firms, Ofgem confirms that not a single energy company has officially reported a data breach, even though cyber security regulations require them to do so.

IT leaders in the sector are beginning to acknowledge that more needs to be done: 64% say their organisation’s approach to dealing with cyber-attacks could be improved, while increasing resiliency to ransomware (59%) and data governance (51%) are considered among the top three priorities for businesses since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Concerningly, however, these figures have declined slightly compared to prior to the pandemic, when 61% considered increasing ransomware resiliency to be a top business priority and 59% considered data governance a priority.

Cloud adoption rises despite security concerns

The Veritas 2021 Data Management in a Multi-Cloud World: Utilities Edition explores how utilities organisations are approaching cloud adoption and data protection, where the key challenges and apprehensions lie, and how these can be overcome. Although 88% of IT leaders agree that the energy sector hasn’t traditionally embraced a move to the cloud, the report finds that organisations in this sector are increasingly operating hybrid IT environments.

In addition, respondents estimate that, on average, 48% of their business data is stored or managed in the public cloud and, in the next five years, this figure is expected to see a steady rise to 60%, a trend which has perhaps been spurred on by the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, two in five (40%) utilities organisations now consider moving more data and applications to the cloud a top business priority, compared to just over a third (35%) before the pandemic.

Despite this, all respondents signal to at least one challenge or concern about shifting workloads to the cloud: over two-thirds (67%) cite security concerns, while over half believe cloud deployment will lead to reduced data visibility (59%) or risk of downtime (55%).

“People will always need access to water, electricity and gas, so the utilities sector is typically resilient to unexpected macro changes. However, current market conditions have accelerated digital transformation across almost every industry and the utilities sector is no exception,” said Barry Cashman, Regional Vice President UK&I at Veritas Technologies.

“Concerns around the additional burden of managing and securing cloud environments can prevent utilities companies from embracing them. But modern data management and protection platforms can extend their capabilities from the data centre into cloud environments with a single solution.  This means that utilities firms can realise the benefits of transformational projects without putting themselves at additional risk, or shouldering the work associated with managing another protection solution.”

Misconceptions around data responsibility

The report also highlights that misconceptions around data responsibility are still rife. Alarmingly, 88% of respondents indicate that their organisation leaves the responsibility of backing up cloud-based workloads with their cloud service provider (CSP), meaning that utilities organisations are potentially leaving their business-critical data vulnerable and exposed to cybercriminals.

Yet, IT leaders claim to be fully aware of the value that data backups hold. The majority consider it either absolutely essential or very important that their organisation is able to: automate backup discovery and creation (97%), backup all types of workloads equally effectively (87%), have a unified on-premises and cloud backup solution (80%) and store backups across different locations (65%).

However, the highly regulated nature of the utilities sector is hindering their ability to quickly and easily deploy technologies to improve data management. Almost all respondents state that regulations make data management more challenging (97%) and/or make digital transformation more challenging (95%) for their organisation.

As a result, just one in four (24%) say their organisation has full visibility of their unstructured data, and as little as 1% feel they have the correct infrastructure in place to discover all workloads and create the associated backups automatically.

“Most cloud provider contracts usually place data management responsibility on customers. So, it’s very concerning that organisations in this sector are not taking ownership of protecting their own data in the cloud, despite the majority of IT leaders realising the value of data backups and signalling towards the necessity of unified backup solutions,” added Cashman. “Whether they realise this discrepancy or not, it’s clear that businesses have to take more accountability for the protection of their data. And this must start with visibility – if you don’t know what data you have, how can you protect it? In an era where cyber-attacks are becoming more sophisticated and companies are increasingly under the regulatory microscope, businesses can’t afford to fall at the first hurdle.”

For more information, or to download your copy of the report, visit: https://www.veritas.com/en/uk/form/whitepaper/data-management-in-a-multi-cloud-world-utilites-edition.

Methodology

Veritas commissioned independent technology market research specialist, Vanson Bourne, to undertake the quantitative research upon which this report is based. A total of 75 UK and Ireland IT decision makers were interviewed in February 2021. Respondents were from utilities organisations with at least 500 employees. Interviews were conducted online using a rigorous multi-level screening process to ensure that only suitable candidates were given the opportunity to participate. 

About Veritas
Veritas Technologies is a global leader in data protection, availability and insights. Over 80,000 customers—including 87 percent of the Fortune Global 500—rely on us to abstract IT complexity and simplify data management. The Veritas Enterprise Data Services Platform automates the protection and orchestrates the recovery of data everywhere it lives, ensures 24/7 availability of business-critical applications, and provides enterprises with the insights they need to comply with evolving data regulations. With a reputation for reliability at scale and a deployment model to fit any need, Veritas Enterprise Data Services Platform supports more than 800 different data sources, over 100 different operating systems, more than 1,400 storage targets, and more than 60 different cloud platforms. Learn more at www.veritas.com. Follow us on Twitter at @veritastechllc.

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