One in three of UK corporates has suffered hacking attempts on their websites over the last year. A survey out today reveals that hackers are becoming more successful at punching holes through flimsy corporate defences.
Four per cent of the 1,000 companies surveyed said their systems had been penetrated in the last 12 months, the Department of Trade and Industry's 2004 Information Security Breaches Survey reveals. This is four times higher than that recorded in the previous survey, two years ago (in other words, 40, as opposed to 10 victims).
Three quarters of businesses which reported system penetration in the 2004 study rated it as their worst security incident of the year (worse than, for example, virus infections), with more than a third describing the impact as 'very serious'. The time spent on investigating attacks and carrying our remediation work was much more costly than any service disruption caused by Internet attack.
Despite increasing network security incidents, businesses are largely satisfied with the effectiveness of defences: 72 per cent express confidence in their ability to detect or prevent security breaches. But this may be misplaced - many organisations do not test their network security.
The telephone survey of some 1,000 companies found that firewalls were the main line of defence against hackers for most companies. Three quarters of corporates used firewalls but for half the companies surveyed this was their only defence against crackers.
Larger companies were more likely to use intrusion detection (electronic burglar alarm) software as a supplementary security measure.
Around half of all businesses have their websites hosted externally, relying solely on their ISP for security. Many companies had no idea what defences their ISPs had against attack.
Andrew Beard, services director for PricewaterhouseCoopers, which conducted the survey for the DTI, said the findings point to a "real concern that businesses without the right monitoring and intrusion prevention processes in place may have a false level of comfort. Scanning and hacking activity may not be detected until it is too late to react."
These are among preliminary findings from the 2004 Department of Trade and Industry's Information Security Breaches Survey, conducted by a consortium led by PricewaterhouseCoopers. The full results of the survey will be launched at InfoSecurity Europe in London, 27-29 April. ®
DTI Information Security Breaches Survey home page