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European firms open to security attacks: McAfee

But at least the board is paying attention

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A large number of European businesses are failing to protect themselves from security vulnerabilities, a new study has revealed.

According to security firm McAfee, close to half of those involved in the study believe that their IT infrastructure is never completely protected from software and network vulnerabilities.

Businesses are leaving themselves open to attack unnecessarily. Some 27 per cent of those questioned reported that it took 48 hours or more from the time a patch was issued to the IT infrastructure being fully protected from that vulnerability. Almost one in five said this process took up to a week or more.

This delay could prove critical for businesses, who risk security breaches, mass outages, loss of productivity and the loss of customer confidence. Finding information on the patches is also eating into company time, with one in five IT professionals spending an hour or more a day researching vulnerabilities and patches. However, despite the research, some 45 per cent said they do not prioritise which areas of the business are patched first.

More than a third of businesses also admitted that they had no idea how many patches they applied to their business over a six-month period, while 58 per cent said they had no idea how much deployment of such patches cost the business.

"The feedback from large businesses is clear - patch management is a serious concern for them," said John Parker, product line director for intrusion prevention, McAfee EMEA.

"Organisations are vulnerable to IT attacks because security patches are issued too frequently for businesses to safely test and deploy throughout the organisation in a timely fashion. The only solution to mitigate the risk from this and give executives piece of mind when it comes to the security of their business is to combine a prioritised patch management process with proactive intrusion prevention solutions."

The survey took in more than 600 senior IT decision makers at companies with over 250 employees across Europe.

However, Cisco Systems paints a slightly better picture of the security market. Its research claims that 72 per cent of security professionals feel that their organisation is more secure than it was 12 months ago.

Its survey found that less than a quarter of respondents felt that security is still not recognised as a board room level issue. Only 11 per cent of respondents are taking a 'reactive only' approach to security, while more businesses appear to be putting contingency plans in place to ensure business continuity in the event of a disaster. The majority of respondents to the survey - 96 per cent - have contingency plans in place for power failure, while 95 per cent have plans in place for fire. Loss of data (93 pe rcent), physical access to buildings (86 per cent) and flooding (80 per cent) are also covered.

"It is very encouraging to see that, despite ongoing reports of new threats and breaches, businesses across all sectors are feeling better protected," comments Paul King, senior security advisor at Cisco Systems. "The security industry is clearly making progress and moving forward."

Copyright © 2006, ENN

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