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Firms with a blasé attitude to security could see system downtime caused as a result of software vulnerabilities treble by 2008. Gartner, the analyst firm, estimates downtime arising from software security issues could rise from five per cent of overall downtime in 2004 to 15 per cent by 2008.

"Increasing Internet activity, along with the use of web services, wireless connections and other new technologies, will lead to more vulnerable configurations," said John Pescatore, a research fellow at Gartner. "These vulnerabilities will cause increased downtime for organizations that don't push security concerns into their processes for software development and procurement."

Gartner defines vulnerability as a "weakness in process, administration or technology that can be exploited to compromise IT security". Basic operating system security is likely to improve over coming years, so Gartner thinks vulnerabilities associated with unsafe customer, employee and business partner "platforms" will become more pressing concerns.

Its report, Building a Sound Security Infrastructure: New Defenses for a New World of Threats, offers the following advice on reducing the scope of software problems to cause system downtime:

  • Pressure vendors to build more-secure software
  • Drive their development organisations to reduce security vulnerabilities in their own software
  • Base software architectures on security standards
  • Incorporate mechanisms to limit the "attack surface" of applications directly exposed to the internet

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