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UK PLC leaves door open to hackers – report

Two thirds of them don't change anything, even after a serious breach

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British companies are too complacent when it comes to Internet security and only have themselves to blame if their IT systems are compromised by hackers. That's just one of the conclusions of a new survey published by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) which reveals that two thirds of companies in Britain have suffered security breaches within the last two years. But the survey also reports that most of the losses are under £20,000. This is chicken-feed to mega-corporations, and many of them don't take corrective action even after a loss, possibly because fixing the holes would be more expensive than just accepting continuing small losses. Of those suffering a serious security breach 64 per cent said "nothing has changed" since the trespass occurred. Just under half of all security breaches were due to human error. Malcolm Skinner, Product Marketing manager, AXENT Technologies, said: "The report indicates that, to date, businesses have been far too complacent. "In addition to the perils of having your network or Web site hacked, companies must think of the consequences as far as customer trust is concerned. Tom Perrott, Research director, Taylor Nelson Sofres said: "Although there have been some well publicised security breaches, it is generally accepted that those brought to the attention of the public are likely to be the tip of the iceberg.   The key findings of ISBS 2000 show that:

  • 60 per cent of organisations have suffered a security breach in the last two years.
  • Over 30 per cent of organisations do not recognise that their business information is either sensitive or critical and therefore a business asset worth protecting.
  • 82 per cent of businesses with external electronic links do not use any firewall protection, and 59 per cent of those with a Web site do not use Web site protection.
  • Of those organisations that have critical or sensitive information, 63 per cent had suffered a breach that was considered serious to some degree.
  • One in three businesses are either already buying or selling over the Internet, or intend to start in the near future.
  • Some good practices are implemented and adhered to by 83 per cent of the organisation interviewed - eg. virus protection and password controls.
  • Only 37 per cent of organisations interviewed have undertaken a risk assessment where a systematic approach is taken to assess the security risks faced by the organisation.
  • 40 per cent of companies reporting security breaches were due to operator or user error reinforcing the fact that information security cannot simply be solved by technology alone.
  • Nearly three quarters of organisations that suffered a breach, which they regarded to be serious, had no contingency plan in place to deal with it.
  • More than half of the organisations do not believe that there is anything they could have done to prevent the most serious breaches they have suffered.
  • Only one in seven organisations has a formal information management security policy in place.
  • Organisations where responsibility for information security rests at board level are those most likely to have formal policies in place. The presence of a formal policy is one of the most important issues in reporting and resolving security breaches.
  • The full findings of the DTI's Information Security Breaches Survey 2000 (ISBS 2000) will be released at Infosecurity Europe 2000 on 11 April at Olympia in London. ®

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