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Confusion between ISPs and users lets crackers reign

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Confusion between the level of security an ISP is willing to provide, and the level of protection users understand they receive, leaves companies vulnerable to attacks by crackers.

That's one of the main conclusion of a survey of ISP and end-user attitudes to security by consultant MIS Corporate Defence Systems which found that 54 per cent of the organisations it questioned have been victims of an attack by hackers.

The study can't be regarded as definitive because only 60 end-users and 25 ISPs were questioned but some trends that emerge from its results bear thinking about.

More than half the end users questioned in the survey believed Internet security was the joint responsibility of an ISP and its users.

Despite this end users are reluctant to accept ISPs assurances about security and only around a third would put in place security proposals suggested by their ISP. Worryingly every ISP questioned thinks its user follow their advice, which in 50 per cent of cases will not be tailored towards their clients.

According to MIS confusion over responsibility for security between ISP and end user can lead to poor levels of protection and an over reliance on basic security tools, such as firewalls and anti-virus software. These don't provide complete protection against many forms of Internet attack, it warns.

MIS conducts penetration testing and security audits on behalf of its clients and it list of the most common and serious security concerns makes interesting reading.

According to MIS these vulnerabilities include BIND Domain Name System bugs, exploits of security holes on Web servers running Microsoft's IIS and exploitation of Unix services on vulnerable boxes. Weak passwords, SNMP vulnerabilities on networked kit and open file shares are other issues regularly flagged up during security tests by MIS. ®

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