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Human error blamed for most security breaches

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SANS - Survey on application security programs

People making mistakes are the major source of security breaches.

Eight-four per cent of organisations quizzed in a survey out today blamed human error "either wholly or in part" for their last major security breach. Last year, human error was cited as the cause of 63 per cent of security breaches. So, if anything, the problem is getting worse.

The second annual study by CompTIA, the Computing Technology Industry Association, also discovered that the number of security incidents reported by organisations grew despite higher spending on preventative measures and greater security awareness.

Fifty-eight per cent surveyed experienced at least one major IT security breach - defined as one that caused real harm, resulted in the loss of confidential information or interrupted business operations - in the last six months. That's up significantly from last year (38 per cent).

At the same time, the nearly 900 organizations that took part categorised the severity level of recent security breaches as "minimally severe", lower than a year ago. CompTIA reckons better training and preparation have limited the impact of security SNAFUs.

Education, education, education

The survey found companies with one-quarter of more of their IT staff trained in security are less likely (46.3 percent) to have had a departmental security breach than those with less than one-quarter of their IT staff trained in security (66.0 percent). Training and certification helps improved risk identification, increased awareness and boost the ability of an organisation to respond more rapidly to problems.

Eighty per cent of those who have invested in staff security training felt that their security had improved. Which is nice - but what about the other 20 per cent?

Security policies still lacking

CompTIA's survey also showed up perennial problems. Only half of respondents had a written security policy in place. Just over half (56.5 per cent) have a disaster recovery plan in place. Bigger organisations fared better, with 75 per cent having a security policy. Which leaves one in four without a security game plan.

IT security policies are more common in the financial services industry (62 per cent), government (58 per cent) and education (41 per cent) sectors. The IT industry itself is the least likely to have security policies - only 35 per cent do, according to the survey. This factor help explain why IT companies are often among the worst hit by viral outbreaks (e.g. Dell and FunLove, Code Red and Microsoft and Lucent etc) ®

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