Proofpoint’s Voice of the CISO 2021 Report Reveals more than Two-Thirds of UK CISOs Feel Unprepared to Cope with a Cyberattack

Cloud Security

62% of UK survey respondents consider human error their organisation's biggest cyber vulnerability as hybrid workforce presents new challenges for cybersecurity teams

Proofpoint, Inc. (NASDAQ: PFPT), a leading cybersecurity and compliance company, today released its inaugural 2021 Voice of the CISO report which explores key challenges facing chief information security officers (CISOs) after an unprecedented twelve months. Sixty-six percent of CISOs globally feel their organisation is unprepared to handle a cyberattack and 58% consider human error to be their biggest cyber vulnerability, proving that the work-from-home model necessitated by the pandemic has tested CISOs like never before.

This year’s Voice of the CISO report examines global third-party survey responses from more than 1,400 CISOs at mid to large size organisations across different industries. Throughout the course of Q1 2021, one hundred CISOs were interviewed in each market across 14 countries: the U.S., Canada, the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden, the Netherlands, UAE, KSA, Australia, Japan, and Singapore.

The survey explores three key areas: the threat risk and types of cyber-attacks CISOs combat daily, the levels of employee and organisational preparedness to face them, and the impact of supporting a hybrid workforce as businesses prepare to re-open their corporate offices. It also covers the challenges CISOs face in their roles, position amongst the C-suite, and business expectations of their teams.

“Last year, cybersecurity teams around the world were challenged to enhance their security posture in this new and changing landscape, literally overnight. This required a balancing act between supporting remote work and avoiding business interruption, while securing those environments,” commented Lucia Milica, global resident CISO at Proofpoint. “With the future of work becoming increasingly flexible, this challenge now extends into next year and beyond. In addition to securing many more points of attack and educating users on long-term remote and hybrid work, CISOs must instill confidence among customers, internal stakeholders, and the market that such setups are workable indefinitely."

Proofpoint’s Voice of the CISO 2021 report highlights general trends as well as regional differences amongst the global CISO community. Key findings from UK respondents include:

  • CISOs are on high alert across a range of threats: faced with a relentless attack landscape, 81% of surveyed UK CISOs feel at risk of suffering a material cyberattack in the next 12 months, the highest percentage globally. When asked about the types of attacks they expect to face, insider threats came first with 37%, followed by Cloud Account Compromise (O365 or G suite accounts being compromised, 34%), and DDOS attacks (34%). Despite dominating recent headlines, supply chain attacks came in fourth with 33% and Business Email Compromise was next at 30%.
  • Organisational cyber preparedness is still a major concern: more than a year on into a pandemic that forever changed the threat landscape, 68% of UK CISOs feel their organisation is unprepared to cope with a targeted cyberattack in 2021. Cyber risk is also on the rise: 50% of UK CISOs are more concerned about the repercussions of a cyberattack in 2021 than they were in 2020.
  • User awareness doesn’t always lead to behavioral change: while 61% survey respondents believe employees understand their role in protecting their organisation from cyber threats, 62% of UK CISOs still consider human error to be their organisation's biggest cyber vulnerability. UK CISOs listed purposefully leaking data (criminal insider attack) and falling victim to phishing emails as the most likely ways employees put their business at risk.
  • Long term hybrid work environments present a new challenge for CISOs: 59% of UK CISOs agree that remote working has made their organisation more vulnerable to targeted cyberattacks, with 60% revealing they had seen an increase in targeted attacks in the last 12 months.
  • High risk, high reward likely to be a common cyber theme over the next two years: 71% of UK CISOs believe that cybercrime will become even more profitable for attackers, while 61% believe that it will become riskier for cybercriminals.
  • CISOs will adapt their cybersecurity strategy to stay ahead: Overall, the majority of global CISOs expect their cybersecurity budget to increase by 11% or more over the next two years, and two in three (65%) UK CISOs believe they will be able to better resist and recover from cyberattacks by 2023. Top three priorities across the board for UK CISOs over the next two years are: improving employee cybersecurity awareness (44%), enhancing core security controls (36%), and supporting remote working (34%).
  • 2020 elevated the CISO role, as well as the expectations from the business: 66% of UK CISOs agree that expectations on their function are excessive. The perceived lack of support from the boardroom persists with only 29% of UK CISOs strongly agreeing that their board see eye-to-eye with them on issues of cybersecurity

“The ‘good enough’ approach of the past 12 months will simply not work in the long term: with businesses unlikely to ever return to pre-pandemic working practices, the mandate to strengthen cyber security defenses has never been more pressing,” said Ryan Kalember, executive vice president of cybersecurity strategy for Proofpoint. “CISOs hold a business-critical function, now more than ever. The findings from our report emphasise that CISOs need the tools to mitigate risk and develop a strategy that takes a people-centric approach to cybersecurity protection and emphasises awareness training to address ever-changing conditions, like those experienced by organisations throughout the pandemic.”

To download the 2021 Voice of the CISO report, please visit:

For more information on Proofpoint’s unique approach to people-centric cybersecurity and compliance, please visit:


About Proofpoint, Inc.

Proofpoint, Inc. (NASDAQ: PFPT) is a leading cybersecurity and compliance company that protects organisations’ greatest assets and biggest risks: their people. With an integrated suite of cloud-based solutions, Proofpoint helps companies around the world stop targeted threats, safeguard their data, and make their users more resilient against cyber attacks. Leading organisations of all sizes, including more than half of the Fortune 1000, rely on Proofpoint for people-centric security and compliance solutions that mitigate their most critical risks across email, the cloud, social media, and the web. More information is available at

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