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Incompetence a bigger IT security threat than malign insiders

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Accidental security incidents involving workers happen more frequently and have the greater potential for negative impact than malicious insider attacks, according to new research from RSA.

The poll of 400 top level execs in the UK, France, Germany and the US casts doubt on the conventional wisdom that malicious insiders are the greatest single threat to an organisation. Accidental security breaches, inappropriate access and misuse of information by workers posed a greater threat to organisations' bottom lines than malicious insiders. However, security spending often focused on technologies designed more to thwart malicious insiders than accidental breaches.

The 400 respondents to the survey, carried out by analyst house IDC and commissioned by RSA, admitted to 6,244 incidents of unintentional data loss, 5,830 malware attacks from within the enterprise, and 5,794 incidents of risks created by allowing privileged access to sensitive systems to the wrong people.

Half (52 per cent) of those quizzed described insider threat incidents as predominately accidental, with only 19 per cent concluding that threats were deliberate. Two in five (40 per cent) of organisations intend to increase security spending while only six per cent intend to make cuts.

IDC concludes that organisations ought to apply a comprehensive risk management-based approach to information security, rather than firefighting security problems. ®

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