Large companies expect more protection from their existing security tools than they are capable of, according to research, which also found that 72% of European enterprises have suffered a targeted attack on their networks.
Analyst Quocirca questioned 300 companies in the UK, France and Germany that have over 2,500 employees.
The results of the survey showed that although awareness of the growing threat from targeted attacks is improving amongst European organisations, most are still failing to muster an effective response.
Of the 72% of respondents who said they had experienced a targeted attack, a third highlighted that such an attack had had a "significant" impact on their organisation. A loss of financial data was stated as the biggest impact, followed by lost business, loss of regulated personal data and a loss of intellectual property.
The research highlighted that a range of sophisticated techniques were employed to attack respondents' organisations, including zero-day exploits, polymorphic and encrypted malware, and using a command and control server inside the victim's network to avoid detection.
Yet, despite the growing awareness of such threats and the painful experience of many respondents, firms are being slow to react. Some 52% said they weren't deploying or evaluating any tools to specifically help mitigate the threats, while just under one third said they would devote less than 10% of their budget on targeted attacks in the next 12 months.
Around a third of respondents surveyed said they were not investing in advanced technology, such as automated file sandboxing, network-based threat analysis, deep packet inspection and file integrity monitoring that can tackle such threats.
Tellingly, traditional defences such as anti-malware and firewalls topped the list of deployed security technology - tools which aren't able to combat the threat of targeted attacks.
The research found that public sector respondents were guilty of a worrying level of complacency, with over a third claiming targeted attacks are not a concern, despite 74% of such organisations having been a victim of these attacks in the past.
The research was sponsored by cloud security software firm Trend Micro. Rik Ferguson, CIO blogger and vice president of security research at Trend Micro, said: "The research clearly illustrates the knowledge-gap that exists in many organisations between the nature of targeted attacks and the technologies that may be effective in mitigating them.
"Respondents were very clear on what constitutes a targeted attack, and the means and methods that are employed to gain persistent access to highly sensitive data. However, the majority of enterprises are still relying on technology designed to combat the more widespread, less customised malware to which we have become accustomed."