In the Land of the Security Blind

Michael Vizard


When it comes to data security, most IT organizations don't have a handle on how often and to what extent their data is compromised.

A recent survey of 1,176 IT professionals conducted by the market research firm Securosis on behalf of Imperva, a provider of a range of data security technologies, found that the vast majority did not know how many times they may have experienced a major attack either eternally or internally, nor did they know what type of data had been stolen.

According to Imperva CTO Amichai Schulman, most IT organizations are not very effective in assessing the scope of the damage incurred by a security breach even when they are aware of the breach. And as the number of these breaches increases along with attacks aimed at the application layer, too many IT organizations are still overly dependent on a single line of defense at the security perimeter.

This situation not only makes it hard to justify security budgets, it frequently means that IT organizations during tough times are making hard choices in how to apply those budgets. Although applications are increasingly the primary point of attack, fear and inertia result in most of the IT security budget being spent on defending the network perimeter.

The Securosis survey shows that most IT professionals believe that most of the security technology they acquire is effective to one degree or another. It also shows that USB media encryption and data loss prevention technologies are at the top of the IT shopping list. In addition, the survey finds that the most effective security controls are full-drive encryption, access management tools, e-mail filtering and data loss prevention systems on the network. Survey participants also identified e-mail filtering and USB media encryption as the top two least effective security controls.

In the meantime, Schulman notes that the people launching these attacks are becoming more sophisticated by the day thanks to the influx of funding from organized crime syndicates. The end result is that IT organizations are increasingly outgunned when it comes to security.

Therefore, the challenge going forward, says Schulman, is figuring out how to size the appropriate level of security to the value of the data threatened. Unfortunately, many IT organizations don't have a handle on the value of any given piece of data because they tend to manage all data as if it were of equal value. And until that situation changes, it's only a matter of time before something bad happens that the IT organization may or may not know anything about.

Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Oct 18, 2010 5:10 PM Anonymous Anonymous  says:
So the IT types want USB encryption, which was shown in the survey to be among the least effective methods, along with e-mail filtering which was showing to be both at the top and bottom ends of the efficacy spectrum. Sounds like survey respondents just don't know the answers. Reply
Oct 26, 2010 12:10 AM Anonymous Anonymous  says:
What fundamentally lacks is proper risk management, which can be clearly concluded from the statement 'because they tend to manage all data as if it were of equal value'. Without a proper assessment, followed by a risk treatment plan and implementation of the respective countermeasures there is no justification for information security. One major problem in the industry is the fact that technical skilled staff is often being given the managers' role and once a fact he/she is not capable of speaking the language of the business but instead continues believing in solving every problem with a technical solution. IT managers are not born, they are created. Educate staff before becoming a statistical number on top of the list of security breaches. Reply

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