Internal Abuse Overtakes Viruses as Security Threat

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Company insiders have overtaken viruses as the most reported security incident, the annual report from the respected U.S. Computer Security Institute (CSI) has reported.

The annual Computer Crime and Security Survey for 2007 surveyed 494 security personnel from U.S. corporations and government agencies, finding that insider incidents were cited by 59 percent of respondents, while only 52 percent said they had encountered a conventional virus in the previous year.

Both insider and virus incidents have been falling since a high in the year 2000, but this is the first time insider incidents have been more reported than viruses. The CSI defines such incidents in a very general way, covering abuses such as leaking or stealing company information, using pirated software, or accessing pornography.

The other type of incident on the rise was 'laptop and mobile device' theft, which at 50 percent of respondents in the survey could soon also overtake the virus to be the second most reported security hassle faced by IT staff.

The CSI steers away from drawing hard conclusions from the survey figures, noting more than once that security vendors have a vested interest in promoting their own particular area of business, including insider threats - as the most pressing one for companies to protect themselves against. This makes it hard to judge the seriousness -- as opposed to the incidence - of specific threats.

Respondents also reported a higher incidence of targeted attacks, where organizations felt they had been specifically singled out for attack. Twenty-eight percent of those questioned reported between one and five such attacks, with 67 percent having no idea whether they had been attacked in this way or not.

Internet-based attacks were now becoming tightly integrated, blurring the lines between company and consumer security, traditionally seen as separate concerns.

"In the past, the struggle has been cast as one between security professionals and the criminals who attack their networks. Now, the picture is more complicated. Criminals attack both enterprise networks and steal customer data. They use this data to then attack individual consumers," the report concludes.

The CSI survey draws a rather confusing and complex picture of security worries in U.S. companies, but it has one advantage over the legion of other mostly vendor-driven reports than now litter the news pages -- it is independent.

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