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7/12/2007
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IT Security: The Data Theft Time Bomb

While viruses and worms remain the most pesky security problems, data theft concerns simmer beneath the surface, according to InformationWeek's 10th annual Global Information Security survey.

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Despite the billions of dollars spent on information security products, the aggressive patching and repairing of operating systems and applications, and the heightened awareness of the need for computer users to guard against identity theft, most organizations aren't feeling any more secure than they were a year ago. InformationWeek Research's 10th annual Global Information Security survey, conducted with consulting firm Accenture, shows that two-thirds of 1,101 survey respondents in the United States and 89% of 1,991 respondents in China are feeling just as vulnerable to security attacks as last year, or more so.

Contributing to this unease is the perception that security technology has grown overly complex, to the point where it's contributing to the problem. The No. 1 security challenge identified by almost half of U.S. respondents is "managing the complexity of security." So-called "defense-in-depth" is just another way of saying "you've got a bunch of technologies that overlap and that don't handle security in a straightforward manner," says Alastair MacWillson, global managing director of Accenture's security practice. "It's like putting 20 locks on your door because you're not comfortable that any of them works."

chart: That Vulnerable Feeling: Is your company more vulnerable to malicious code attacks and security breaches than it was a year ago?
Yet a case can be made that respondents aren't worried enough, particularly about lost and stolen company and customer data. Only one-third of U.S. survey respondents and less than half of those in China cite "preventing breaches" as their biggest security challenge. Only one-quarter of U.S. respondents rank either unauthorized employee access to files and data or theft of customer data by outsiders in their top three security priorities, and even fewer put the loss or theft of mobile devices containing corporate data or the theft of intellectual property in that category. This lack of urgency persists despite highly publicized--and highly embarrassing--data-loss incidents in the last year and a half involving retailer TJX, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Georgia Community Health Department, among many, many others.

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Instead, as with last year, the top three security priorities are viruses or worms (65% of U.S. respondents, 75% in China), spyware and malware (56% and 61%), and spam (40% in both countries).

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