Survey: Disparity Between IT Security Needs, Technology Purchases

RSA Conference recently released the results of a recent survey of security professionals regarding the critical security threats and infrastructure issues they currently face, including those exacerbated by the current economic climate. The study, “What Security Issues Are You Currently Facing?,” includes responses from nearly 150 C-level executives and professionals charged with directing, managing and engineering security infrastructures within their respective organizations.

The study indicates that even though practitioners are most concerned about email phishing and securing mobile devices, technologies addressing these needs are at risk of being cut from IT budgets. Seventy-two percent of respondents indicated a rise in email-borne malware and phishing attempts since Fall 2008, with 57 percent stating they have seen an increase in Web-borne malware. Concerns about zero-day attacks and rogue employees as a result of layoffs were cited by 28 percent and 26 percent of survey respondents, respectively.

When asked about the top security and organizational challenges they expect to face in the next 12 months, 57 percent of respondents cited budgetary constraints; 44 percent cited employee education as a major concern and 40 percent called out lost or stolen devices.

The survey also asked what technology investments will likely be bypassed or curtailed due to spending freezes and budget cuts. Given the above information, however, the survey illustrates that even though employees are seeing increases in email- and Web-borne malware and phishing, IT budgets are not being sufficiently allocated to defend against these issues.

Specifically, the survey demonstrates that even though 72 percent of respondents have seen a rise in email-borne malware and phishing, 8 percent still plan on cutting money that would previously be earmarked to attempt to mitigate those risks. Even more alarming is that 40 percent of respondents admitted that securing lost or stolen devices -- like the iPhone or Blackberry -- is a top concern in the coming year, yet 15 percent of those surveyed will be reducing spending in this area.

“It is very disconcerting to see that while the trends and the experience of security professionals point to web and email-borne malware as the biggest threat, companies are cutting messaging and web security budgets,” said Andreas Antonopoulos, senior vice president and founding partner at Nemertes Research. “Companies tend to focus too much on the spectacular attacks (zero-day and organized crime) versus the mundane but extremely costly attacks (phishing and malware). Security controls should be driven by risk/reward calculations that soberly evaluate the impact on the business, rather than sensationalist media reports. Security professionals know where the real threats are but often find it difficult to quantify and explain the risks to senior management.”

In an attempt to uncover the impact of the recent Facebook and Twitter phishing attacks that have received extensive media coverage over the last several months, RSA Conference asked respondents how their organizations were affected. The survey found that while 84 percent of respondents allow the use of these tools, only a mere 3 percent were seriously affected by the attacks. Conversely, 73 percent said that their organization was not impacted at all and 24 percent indicated they were somewhat affected.

For more information and to see additional survey results, visit

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