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Human error - not technical malfunction - is the most significant cause of IT security breaches in the public and private sectors.

That's according to a survey by trade group the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA), published yesterday, which calls on a greater emphasis on educating employees about security risks.

In over 63 per cent of identified security breaches, human error was identified as a major, underlying factor, CompTIA's survey found.

Brian McCarthy, CompTIA's COO, described it work in uncovering a link between poorly trained workers and security problems as "pretty staggering".

"Frankly, we're surprised no one's picked up on this before," he said. "The connection between having more IT security training and making our IT networks more secure seems so obvious, yet it's been largely overlooked.

"It's just common sense," he added.

Brian, you took the words right out of our mouth. One point we'd make is that you need to deliver the appropriate training to the right people for real benefits to accrue.

But you knew that already.

Anyway, CompTIA's view on the importance of training in improving security is backed up by various notables in government, including Andy Purdy, White House Cyberspace staff member.

The CompTIA-commissioned study, conducted by NFO Prognostics, surveyed 638 respondents from the public and private sectors. Among other things, the survey assessed security breach frequency and common causes, security resources, responsibility and enforcement practices, investment in security and certification, and steps taken in response to government regulatory and legislative mandates.

The survey found:

  • 31 per cent of respondents had experienced from one-to-three "major security breaches" - ie, that caused real harm, resulted in confidential information taken, or interrupted business - in the last six months.

  • 66 per cent believe that staff training/certification has improved their IT security, primarily through increased awareness, as well as through proactive risk identification.

  • 22 per cent said none of their IT employees have received security-related training; 69 per cent have fewer than 25 per cent of their IT staff were security-trained; and only 11 per cent said that all of their IT employees have received security training.

  • 59 per cent said that government security regulations are largely inappropriate, failing to adequately address the practical side of the problem.


So technology, while it has a role, isn't a panacea for security ills. Training is important. Human cock-ups are rife. And government legislation isn't an effective means to improve security, most believe.

That just about covers it... ®

Related Links

Committing to Security: A CompTIA Analysis of IT Security and the Workforce

Reducing the cost and complexity of web vulnerability management

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