New Study Reveals Risk Levels Are Increasing, But Response Time Lags for Mitigating Emerging Threats

Research from ISACA, CMMI Institute and Infosecurity Group shows fewer than one-third of organizations can accurately predict the impact of threats and vulnerabilities associated with emerging tech

New research from ISACA, CMMI Institute and Infosecurity looks at the types of risk that organizations are experiencing, their risk management maturity levels, the most critical categories of risk, and how quickly organizations are able to respond to emerging threats. (Graphic: Business Wire)

SCHAUMBURG, Ill.--()--More than half of risk professionals worldwide say their organization’s risk levels have increased in the past 12 months, according to new research from ISACA, CMMI Institute and Infosecurity Group.

The State of Enterprise Risk Management 2020 report reveals that only 29 percent of respondents have a high degree of confidence that their enterprise can accurately predict the impact of threats and vulnerabilities associated with emerging technologies. Additionally, fewer than a third (31 percent) of security pros say their enterprises can respond quickly when new threats are identified, a problematic dynamic given today’s fast pace of business and technology-driven change.

State of ERM 2020 found that the most critical categories of risk facing enterprises today are:

  1. Cybersecurity (29 percent)
  2. Reputation (15 percent)
  3. Financial (13 percent)

The top five cybersecurity risk management challenges are changes/advances in technology, changes in types of threats, too few security personnel, missing skills in existing cybersecurity personnel, and increased number and frequency of threats.

Risk identification processes commonly adopted, but infrequently optimized

The study also found that nearly two-thirds of respondents have defined processes for risk identification, but only 38 percent believe that those processes are at either the managed or optimized level of the maturity spectrum. This high adoption, low optimization trend shows there is significant need for action and improvement.

Global regions face wide spectrum of cybersecurity threats

The State of Enterprise Risk Management 2020 study also reports diversity in the types of attacks seen across geographic locations and industry sectors. For example, respondents from Asia and India report more nation-state attacks than those in North America, Oceania and Europe.

When it comes to managing the fallout of an issue, only 43 percent of respondents’ enterprises employ insurance as a mitigation control. Organizations in North America and Africa are the highest adopters of insurance, with Latin America being the lowest.

Management and governance gap revealed

The study reveals a potential disconnect between management and governance of enterprises when it comes to risk. Respondents note that, on average, boards of directors are only updated on cybersecurity risk on a quarterly basis – sometimes even less. Chief information security officers (CISOs) are updated much more frequently, with 70 percent saying they receive updates at least once a month. This knowledge gap is a key opportunity for CISOs to expand their visibility at the governance level.

“Big risks can be ignored when the right people aren’t in the room for the conversation,” said Tracey Dedrick, ISACA board director. “Start at the highest level within the organization and get the people in the room that own the risk from the top down. This will ensure the right themes are addressed and important organizational alignment takes place.”

Five steps for mitigating and addressing risk

According to ISACA, enterprises can work to mitigate and address their risks by taking the following five steps:

  1. Use current trends and technology to predict future outcomes.
    “The trajectory of cloud—both its adoption dynamics and the risk it introduces—can serve as a bellwether for future technologies,” said ISACA Board Chair Brennan P. Baybeck. “While cloud was initially seen as creating new risks and challenges to be solved, it also delivers incredible value. Strong governance and risk management helps ensure that the value exceeds the risk—and the same is true for newly emerging technologies.”
  2. Clearly define risk. For enterprises that struggle with their risk management maturity, it is particularly important to refine and clearly define risk tolerances in order to advance along the maturity spectrum.
  3. Know your business. Remember that no two companies face the same level of risk. For example, operational risk is significantly more difficult to forecast within manufacturing compared to other industries. Cybersecurity and technology risk, by contrast, are hardest (by a wide margin) to forecast for the financial services sector.
  4. Don’t get siloed. Your stakeholders will have varying priorities when it comes to risk. That means taking a balanced approach to ensuring that multiple perspectives are acknowledged and addressed in your risk mitigation planning.
  5. Set expectations and optimize risk. Clear and direct expectations about risk tolerance – along with corresponding guidance for risk decision-makers – can go a long way to helping optimize risk for the enterprise over the long term.

ISACA CEO David Samuelson will discuss survey findings at the Infosecurity ISACA North America Expo and Conference taking place 20-21 November 2019 in New York City. For information or to register, visit

To download the free survey report and related resources, visit


Now in its 50th anniversary year, ISACA ( is a global association helping individuals and enterprises achieve the positive potential of technology. Today’s world is powered by information and technology, and ISACA equips practitioners with the knowledge, credentials, education and community to advance their careers and transform their organizations. ISACA leverages the expertise of its 460,000 engaged practitioners—including its 140,000 members—in information and cybersecurity, governance, assurance, risk and innovation, as well as its enterprise performance subsidiary, CMMI Institute, to help advance innovation through technology. ISACA has a presence in more than 188 countries, including more than 220 chapters worldwide and offices in both the United States and China.


About CMMI Institute

A subsidiary of ISACA Enterprises, CMMI® Institute is the global leader in the advancement of best practices in people, process, and technology. The Institute provides the tools and support for organizations to benchmark their capabilities and build maturity by comparing their operations to best practices and identifying performance gaps. For over 25 years, thousands of high-performing organizations in a variety of industries, including aerospace, finance, healthcare, software, defense, transportation, and telecommunications, have improved their performance and earned a CMMI maturity level rating and proved they are capable business partners and suppliers.


About Infosecurity Group

With over 23 years of experience in providing year-round education and networking opportunities for visitors, solution-providers and thought-leaders alike, the Infosecurity Group ( looks to bring the global infosecurity community together in person, in print and online. Featuring the award-winning Infosecurity Magazine as well as established events all around the globe, our purpose is to help you find “everyone and everything you need to know about information security.”



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