That is the stark warning to emerge from a new study carried out by cybersecurity and compliance company Proofpoint among 1,500 IT decision makers across businesses in the UK, France, and Germany.
And when it comes to GDPR readiness, the research reveals a disconnect between perception and reality with most UK businesses (77%) believing they will be fully compliant by May 2018, but only 5% currently
Proofpoint EMEA cybersecurity strategist Adenike Cosgrove said: "While the majority of UK businesses are bullish about their ability to meet the compliance deadline, our research shows that for many, the basic requirements are not met.
"With data breaches becoming the new normal and the deadline to comply now less than six months away, the time is now to identify and protect all personal EU data. Failure to do so could lead to financially-significant fines, broken customer trust and in turn, potentially crippling disruption to the business."
Along with high-profile global cyberattacks, the research highlights that data breaches are significantly on the rise. More than a third (36%) of UK businesses suffered a data breach in the last two years and nearly a quarter (23%) suffered a data breach multiple times in the past 24 months.
Looking ahead, France seems to have a heightened awareness of this new paradigm compared to its European counterparts. Some 78% of those surveyed in France think their business is likely to suffer a data breach, with German respondents (46%) believing that they are the least likely to experience one.
In the UK, nearly three-fifths (65%) of respondents are seeing increased IT security investments to help bolster their cyber defences and comply with GDPR ahead of the deadline.
Additionally, almost a quarter (24%) have even purchased cyber insurance, implying that while reactive measures are in place, these organisations fear current strategies are still not sufficient enough to comply with GDPR in time. Cyber insurance can help cushion the cost of a breach, however many insurance policies will not cover fines for non-compliance, the report claims.
The research also found a disparity around which methods are being prioritised to ensure GDPR deadline compliance. More than half (56%) of respondents have a user awareness programme on data protection, 46% have encryption for all personal EU data, and 49& have implemented advanced security solutions to prevent data breaches.
However, according to the findings, only half of respondents (50%) know (and have documented) what personal EU data their organisations currently hold. leaving them exposed to a significant risk of non-compliance to the regulation because they cannot discover where EU personal data sits.
Cosgrove added: "Despite having two years to comply, UK businesses are still at a critical risk of exposing data and facing potentially colossal fines as a result. Over the next six months, organisations must invest in solutions that will enable them to have clearer visibility over EU personal data, solutions that prevent breaches of identified data, as well as implement solutions that enable them to monitor, detect, and respond to any regulatory violations."