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Hacking rises despite increased security spending

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Spending more for computer security alone won't protect your network from hackers and cyber-saboteurs, 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% over the last two years, so are cyber-attacks. Eight out of 10 companies have been hit this year in the U.S., the survey said.

The number of companies spending more than $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 $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 information security professionals. It was co-sponsored by Reston, Va.-based ICSA.net and Global Integrity and appeared in the September 2000 issue of Information Security, ICSA.net's independent magazine.

According to the survey, companies need to devote more attention to cyber-sabotage, 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% 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% of the breaches experienced in the past year, followed by virus infection (70%), use of company computers for illegal or illicit purposes (63%), abuse of computer access controls (58%), installation and use of unauthorized hardware (54%), use of company computing resources for personal profit (50%), physical theft or sabotage (42%), electronic theft or sabotage (24%) and fraud (13%).

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

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 cyber-crime 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.

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