Hacking rises despite increased security spending

Spending more for computer security alone won’t protect your network from hackers and cybersaboteurs, according to a recent survey published in Information Security magazine. While the money U.S. companies are spending for security products and services is up 188 per cent over the last two years, so are cyberattacks: eight out of 10 companies have been hit this year in the United States, the survey said.

The number of companies spending more than US$1 million a year on computer security has nearly doubled in 2000, compared with 1999, yet internal and external security breaches continue to rise, because of employee carelessness and increased hacker activity.

The consulting industry spent the most on security, topping the chart with US$2 million in the average budget, followed by banking and finance firms, which averaged $950,000. Post-secondary education institutions spent the least for security, with an average security budget of $100,000.

The study, titled “The 2000 Information Security Industry Survey,” surveyed 1,897 high-tech and infosecurity professionals. It was co-sponsored by Reston, Virginia-based ICSA.net and Global Integrity Corp. and appeared in the Sept. 2000 issue of Information Security, ICSA.net’s independent magazine.

According to the survey, companies need to devote more attention to cybersabotage, as well as hacking. Nearly twice as many companies experienced insider attacks, such as theft, sabotage or intentional destruction of computer property, as compared to 1999. Meanwhile, 41 per cent more companies had to deal with employees who intentionally disclosed or destroyed proprietary corporate information.

The installation and use of unauthorized software accounted for 76 per cent of the breaches experienced in the past year, followed by virus infection (70 per cent), use of company computers for illegal or illicit purposes (63 per cent), abuse of computer access controls (58 percent), installation and use of unauthorized hardware (54 per cent), use of company computing resources for personal profit (50 per cent), physical theft or sabotage (42 per cent), electronic theft or sabotage (24 per cent) and fraud (13 per cent).

Outsider breaches experienced in the past 12 months included viruses, trojans and worms, which affected 80 percent of survey respondents, followed by denial of service attacks (37 per cent), active program scripting or code “exploits” (37 percent), insecure password attacks (25 per cent), buffer overflows (24 per cent) and attacks on Web server bugs (24 per cent).

Companies engaging in business-to-business or business-to-consumer electronic commerce were easier targets, the survey said. In fact, companies involved in e-commerce were twice as likely to have their Web servers attacked by hackers as those not involved in e-commerce. And e-commerce sites experienced more attacks in 15 out of 16 categories than sites not involved in e-commerce, said Andy Briney, editor-in-chief of Information Security, in a statement issued Thursday.

Information Security’s study also indicated that the best defense against security attacks is a layered defense, which uses overlapping computer technologies to detect and react to security breaches. Companies that deploy multiple computer-security measures detect a far greater number of attacks than those using fewer controls, which helps the companies fight cybercrime more effectively, according to Briney.

The lesson in all this is that companies need to spend more time thinking about security, not just throwing more money at it, Briney said.

Complete results of the survey are available at http://www.infosecuritymag.com/.

Information Security is based in Norwood, Mass. and ICSA.net, based in Reston, Va., can be contacted at http://www.icsa.net/.