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Hackers cost billions

Misplaced confidence

Infosecurity Europe 2004 A shortage of skills and a lack of investment in IT security is leaving British companies open to security breaches. But many UK businesses have a misplaced sense of confidence about their defences.

The average cost of an organisation's most serious security incident was around £10,000 (or £120,000 for large companies), the Department of Trade and Industry's 2004 Information Security Breaches Survey reveals. The last edition of the survey, two years ago, reported an average cost of security breaches of £30,000, with several companies reporting incidents that set them back £500,000.

Although the worst security breaches are costing less, there are more of them about. Computer viruses, misuse of systems, fraud and theft have risen sharply over the last two years. Two thirds of companies (68 per cent) suffered at least one such incident in the last year, up from 44 per cent in the 2002 survey and just 24 per cent in 2000.

Three quarters of the 1,000 businesses polled - 94 per cent of the larger companies - had a security incident in the last year. The average UK business now has roughly one security incident a month and larger ones around one a week. Security breaches frequently left systems inoperable.

Not well managed

While spending on information security has increased, it is still relatively low and seen as a cost rather than investment by most of the respondents to the survey. This attitude persists despite the fact that three-quarters of respondents rated security as a high or very high priority for their top management or the board.

Companies spend an average of three per cent of their IT budget on security compared with two per cent in 2002. The survey also showed ignorance about BS 7799, the international standard for information security. Only 12 per cent of those quizzed had heard about the "gold standard" for information security. Only one in ten companies employ staff with formal information security qualifications.

Stephen Timms, the e-Commerce minister, said: "Risks are not well managed. We need to dispel the illusion the information security issues are somebody else's problem. It's time to roll up our sleeves. The stakes are high and security costs will only increase unless more companies apply best practices in corporate governance."

Chris Potter, the PricewaterhouseCoopers information security assurance partner who led the survey, said: "While awareness of threats has never been higher, many businesses are still finding their precautions are inadequate. There are simple steps that businesses of all sizes can take to reduce the likelihood and impact of future incidents. What this survey shows is that too many companies have waited until an incident hits them before putting counter-measures in place."

The consortium of companies behind the survey (which includes Microsoft, Computer Associates and Entrust) makes five key recommendations:

  1. Draw on the right expertise to understand security threats and legal responsibilities
  2. Firms should integrate security into normal business practice, through a clear security policy and staff education
  3. Users should Invest appropriately in security controls (to mitigate the risks), or in insurance (to transfer them)
  4. Check key security defences (such as operating system patches, disaster recovery plans, etc.) are robust and up to date
  5. Respond to security incidents efficiently and effectively, to minimise business disruption

The full results of the survey, already heavily trailed, were made available during this week's Infosecurity Europe 2004 conference in London. Seven facts sheets covering specific findings from the survey (on backups and recovery, Viruses and malicious code, identity management, intrusion prevention, remote access, spam and staff misuse of the Internet) can be found here. ®

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External Links

DTI Information Security Breaches Survey home page

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