More than three-quarters of businesses may be vulnerable to cyber security threats as they do not have an effective response plan in place, a new study has warned.

Research conducted by IBM and the Ponemon Institute found some 77 per cent of enterprises do not have a policy that is applied consistently across their organisation.

Additionally, more than half of firms (54 per cent) do not test the plans they do have regularly enough, which can also leave them unprepared to deal with the complex and fast-moving processes that must be undertaken in the event of a breach in order to minimise damage.

Ted Julian, vice-president of product management and co-founder of IBM Resilient, said: "Failing to plan is a plan to fail when it comes to responding to a cybersecurity incident. These plans need to be stress tested regularly and need full support from the board to invest in the necessary people, processes and technologies to sustain such a programme."

IBM highlighted the importance of an effective response plan, noting that organisations that are able to react quickly and efficiently to contain a cyberattack within 30 days save an average of more than $1 million (£760,000) on the total cost of a data breach.

Other issues uncovered by the study include the fact that nearly half of organisations (46 per cent) are still not fully compliant with the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) requirements.

This is despite the fact that GDPR has been in force for any organisation holding the personal data of EU citizens for almost a year, and that businesses had several years prior to the implementation date to get ready for the new regime, which imposes much tougher requirements on how sensitive personal data is handled and protected.

With potential for fines of up to four per cent of a company's global turnover for failing to meet these requirements – which could amount to hundreds of millions of pounds for the largest enterprises – this could prove very costly for many organisations in the coming months and years as enforcement gathers pace.

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