By Sharon Gaudin
September 21, 2007
The number of companies suffering security breaches has dropped over the
last two years, but the severity of the breaches has doubled, according
to a new study.
The Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) released a study
showing that 66% of the 1,070 organizations surveyed said they did not
have a security breach in the previous 12 months. That's a slight
improvement from the 61.8% who said the same thing last year and the 42%
who said it two years ago.
However, while the number of incidents has dropped, the severity of
those attacks has gone in the opposite direction.
CompTIA reported that respondents rated the severity level of their
security breaches at a 4.8 on a 0 to 10 scale, where 0 is not at all
severe and 10 is very severe. Last year the severity rating stood at 2.3
and the year before that it was 2.6.
"People have learned that any type of breach is a catastrophe in the
making," said Steven Ostrowski, a spokesman for CompTIA, in an
interview. "What we've seen is more attention being paid to securing
information and networks and intellectual property."
The study comes out about a week after TD Ameritrade Holding disclosed
that a hacker broke into one of its databases and stole personally
identifying information for some of its 6.3 million customers. And just
two days ago, the State of Connecticut announced it is suing its own
computer consultant, Accenture, for losing personally identifying
information on 58 residents and hundreds of state bank accounts and
Ostrowski acknowledged that it certainly doesn't appear that companies
and government agencies are having fewer security breaches. The issue,
he added, is that before laws compelled companies to come clean about
break-ins, the public simply wasn't always told that it happened.
"That's why you're seeing all these situations getting more publicity,"
he noted. "Maybe IT also is getting better at catching these things."
The survey also showed that nearly one in four companies indicated that
they have had an insider security breach or threat in the last year.
Ostrowski contends that insider risk is growing because more and more
employees are working from home or on the road.
"The concern about internal breaches is growing greater, especially with
the number of remote workers growing," he said. "Every time you have
someone connecting from outside the organization's four walls, it's
As for the financial damage caused by all kinds of breaches, the average
cost across all companies surveyed is $369,388, reported CompTIA. That
cost, however, is driven upwards by a handful of companies that
estimated security breach costs to be in excess of $10 million. This,
noted the report, reflects the higher risk that larger companies face.
About half of respondents estimated the cost of their security breaches
in the last 12 months to be $10,000 or less.
Here's how the companies broke down the costs of a security breach:
-- Employee productivity impact, 35%;
-- Server or network downtime, 35%;
-- Impact on revenue-generating activities, 20%;
-- Impact on physical assets, 17%, and
-- Legal fees and fines, 8%.
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