The Risk of Overconfidence in Cybersecurity Capabilities

Defending your business against cyber threats is ultimately an exercise in risk management. But when key personnel don’t really understand the nature and scope of threats faced, this regularly leads to misplaced confidence in cybersecurity capabilities. Then you find your company in a position where most key decision-makers are blind to the risks faced. Here’s more on the problem of overconfidence in cybersecurity capabilities and why a healthy level of fear is best.

The Problem of Overconfidence in Cybersecurity Capabilities

Confidence in Cybersecurity cabalilitiesOverconfidence issues often permeate throughout senior leadership at businesses, especially when there’s a disconnect between IT security teams and senior executives. In 2022, research pointed to the fact that 87 percent of CFOs were confident in their company’s security resilience. Yet 61 percent of those same CFOs worked at companies that experienced at least three significant cyber incidents within the last 18 months.

Overconfidence in security capabilities is such a big risk to companies around the world because it leads to underestimating the potential and severity of cyber threats. And with this underestimation comes insufficient preparedness and resource allocation. When an attack does hit, companies that are overconfident are more likely to suffer severe monetary losses or other damages.

A high-profile incident from 2024 exemplifies this overconfidence dramatically; 33 million people in France had their health insurance data compromised in a breach. The incident, which hit third-party payment processors Viamedis and Almerys, stemmed from a simple phishing attack and the use of stolen credentials from this attack.

There are many reasons why this disconnect and associated overconfidence might start, such as:

  • A general lack of technical understanding of security issues coupled with inadequate or absent reporting from security teams.
  • Communication barriers resulting from the overuse of jargon or executives simply not having discussions with security teams.
  • Misaligned priorities, with executives often being more focused on business growth and profitability, which can sometimes overshadow the importance of investing in better cybersecurity measures.
  • Executives might equate compliance with security, and think that meeting legal and regulatory requirements is sufficient for resilience. This compliance-based approach can create a false sense of security based on boxes checked and overshadow the need for proactive and adaptive security measures (such as red team exercises or pen tests).
  • Psychological factors like optimism bias also play a strong role in overconfidence. Leaders may believe that their organization is less likely to be targeted by cyber attacks than others, possibly due to a false sense of security derived from past successes.
  • Sometimes the fault lies with the way cybersecurity companies market their latest innovative solutions and with how executives might interpret this marketing material. Terms like machine learning algorithms, automated intrusion detection systems, or cutting-edge encryption can create a sense that your network is somehow impermeable now after procuring the latest shiny new tool.

Benefits of a Healthy Level of Fear

A prudent approach to cybersecurity is to err on the side of caution and approach it with a healthy degree of fear. This is in fact how most security professionals approach their work, but the problems with overconfidence start when key decision-makers don’t align with this mindset. Instead, executives often think that investing in a slew of disparate solutions is enough to tackle most cyber threats. Reducing this overconfidence starts with shifting away from the idea that technology solves all problems and understanding the complex interlace of people, processes, and tech that can put networks and systems at risk of cyber breaches.


If key decision-makers start to view cybersecurity with a healthy level of fear, some ways companies can benefit include:

  • Promoting a proactive stance on threat detection and management, rather than a reactive one. This means investing in security strategies that find vulnerabilities and weaknesses before attacks occur, rather than just trying to keep out the hackers with a convoluted mix of tools and defense systems.
  • When leaders emphasize the importance of caution in cybersecurity, it fosters a security-first culture throughout the organization. Employees tend to follow suit and take inspiration from this mindset, so that they become more vigilant about security best practices and are less susceptible to common scams like social engineering attacks.
  • On a related note, a cautious approach at the executive level often translates into better-funded, more effective, and more frequent cybersecurity training for employees. This is because a healthy level of fear recognizes the vulnerabilities of the human element of cybersecurity, particularly when staff are undertrained.
  • This mindset fosters better resilience in key systems and data by emphasizing the need for robust backup and recovery processes, which are critical in maintaining operations after a security incident like a ransomware attack.
  • Caution leads to more informed decision-making, where security risks are considered alongside other business risks. This results in better overall risk management decisions, such as investing strategically in cybersecurity rather than only tactically,

Get More Proactive with DIESEC

One of the best ways to leverage this healthy dose of fear to benefit security is to take a more proactive approach to your security strategy. This means looking for services that help you find and fix weaknesses in your network before threat actors get to them. DIESEC’s penetration testing and red team exercise provide you with in-depth and expert reviews of security capabilities to find out where you truly stand in terms of risk management. Together we can ensure you are no longer overconfident in your cybersecurity capabilities!

Contact us to learn more.