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Three in five (61 per cent) firms audited by UK-based penetration testing firm NTA Monitor have one or more high risk vulnerabilities on their internet connections.

NTA classifies a high risk flaw as a vulnerability that allows unauthorised external users to obtain system access, leaving organisations susceptible to Denial of Service attacks or remote system compromise.

NTA Monitor technical director Roy Hills said: "The majority of the high risk flaws found were service specific, relating to the services that were accessible within the gateways tested. Nine of the 10 most commonly occurring high risk issues fell within this area, with the remaining issue being internet router related. An attacker who was aware of the programs being used and their flaws could exploit those vulnerabilities to gain network access or launch a denial of service attack."

NTA Monitor's 2006 Annual Security Report analyses data gathered from vulnerability tests conducted by NTA Monitor during 2005 on UK and international companies in a variety of industry sectors.

The industry sector with the highest number of vulnerabilities was education, with an average of 61 risks per test, followed by government with an average of 26 risks per test. The most secure sectors were mining, and housing associations, which each had an average of 11 risks per test.

NTA Monitor has the following tips on how organisations can safeguard their net systems:

  • Stay up to date on the latest vulnerabilities and their patches, applying updates as soon as they become available.
  • Allocate sufficient management time, focus and control to ensure that preventative maintenance is carried out.
  • Involve and educate staff on internet security issues.
  • Have a clear and up to date security policy, which is widely circulated and frequently updated.

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