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Nearly 40 per cent of banks have suffered a major IT security breach in the past year despite investing heavily in IT security practices and technologies.

The Deloitte & Touche survey of 35 per cent of the world's top 500 global financial institutions
contradicts the common belief that most security breaches come from inside sources. Of the 39 per cent of respondents who reported a substantial security breach, only 10 per cent said these attacks came from employees.

Gerry Fitzpatrick, a partner in Deloitte & Touche's enterprise risk service unit, said the 39 percent figure may appear low when compared to other surveys
which show that nearly 80 percent to 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies and government agencies have been breached.

But financial institutions generally have higher security standards because of the nature of their businesses. As such, the survey showed how vulnerable banks are to attacks and how much work needs to be done, he argues.

"Overall, there are encouraging signs of progress in the industry worldwide, especially the increase of information security officers, as well as plans by a vast majority to incorporate new measures such as smart cards and wireless security," said Fitzpatrick, noting that 60 per cent of banks have either a chief security officer or chief information security officer.

"At the same time, there still seems to be a lack of clarity on the impact of multiple governance initiatives on information security and the role it will play in compliance. Obviously, many still feel vulnerable to external and internal threats," Fitzpatrick added.

According to the survey, there are strong regional differences in attitudes and motivations toward security practices and technologies. For instance, security officers from institutions in EMEA said they were most motivated by fear of exposure and demand for compliance to differing laws and regulations, but had the least use of ethical hacking and network penetration testing.

EMEA security personnel described themselves as "effective users of demonstrated technologies" and are ahead of other regions in terms of policy setting, security standards, use of public key infrastructure (PKI), biometrics and security expenditure.

On the other hand, US-based respondents had the highest implementation levels of all the regions of every security measure except for the adoption of security standards, privacy standards, and the use of biometrics and PKI.

The survey also found that only 5 per cent of respondents were "extremely confident" about how well their organisation's systems are protected from internal attacks, while only 43 per cent felt "very confident" that their organisation's back-ups would work or are being stored off-site safely. According to the survey, security typically accounts for between 6 percent and 8 per cent of a financial institution's overall IT budget. ®

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