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Data theft replaces malware as top security concern

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SANS - Survey on application security programs

Theft of information and regulatory compliance are beginning to replace malware infestation and hacking as the top security concerns, according to a poll of enterprise IT security chiefs.

The second annual Cisco-sponsored poll of 100 infosec pros in large UK enterprises found that 38 per cent of respondents place theft of information as their number one concern, while 33 per cent fret about regulatory compliance. Viruses, the prime concern of 55 per cent of respondents in 2006, were cited by just 27 per cent as their top fear this year.

The survey, conducted by Vanson Bourne, failed to find any respondents who described themselves as "extremely concerned" about the security of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) or unified communications systems, a finding that will doubtless please Cisco.

Fewer than a third of the respondents voiced worries about unauthorised access to data in 2007, compared with more than 50 per cent in 2006. Security pros are becoming more worried about the threats posed by errant employees, the survey suggests. Forty-three percent of respondents (compared with 33 per cent in 2006) said they were more concerned with internal threats, such as staff passing on confidential information or stealing intellectual property.

Almost two-thirds (60 per cent) of the security chiefs polled describe their organisations as "more secure" or "much more secure" compared with a year ago, a finding which suggests security pros are either taking new threats in their stride, or are so stressed they've lapsed into denial. Let's hope it's the former rather than the latter.

"In 2006, security concerns were focused on mitigating specific, typically external threats, but our research finds that security professionals are taking a more business-oriented approach in 2007," Cisco senior security advisor Paul King said. "They are concentrating on safeguarding the information at the heart of the business, regardless of the form the attacks may take or where they may originate."

Despite their widened remit, security professionals continue to experience difficulty in getting their views heard at board level. As in 2006, only half of respondents (52 per cent, compared with 54 per cent in 2006) said IT security was a board-level issue at their organisation. In addition, a significant minority – one in 10 – only takes a reactive approach to security management.

"Outside the government or financial sectors, the imperative to discuss information security at board level simply is not strong enough," King said, adding that organisations should look towards developing a "defence in depth" strategy as a way of dealing more effectively with the trend towards targeted attacks at specific institutions. ®

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