McAfee: Abundant Gaps in Security

Tuesday, March 6, 2012 @ 05:03 PM gHale

You think companies don’t suffer from cyber incidents? Think again as 79 percent of the companies surveyed in new report had a significant security incident in the past year.

That is a sign there are huge gaps in security plans that companies must address. That was one finding in the annual McAfee “State of Security” survey. They also found effective information security is possible only by creating a Strategic Security Plan (SSP) which incorporates a comprehensive threat analysis and an in-depth, layered security risk mitigation approach, a new survey said.

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“Every organization needs to take a layered approach to security, utilizing both processes and solutions designed to prevent compromise,” said Jill Kyte, vice president at McAfee. “Complicating the challenge of managing risk and securing data is the fact that ‘the enterprise’ now extends far beyond office walls and perimeter firewalls. Companies are giving network access to business partners and contract workers, and in some cases, even to customers. Workers access the enterprise network remotely using mobile devices, many of which are personally owned and not controlled by the company whose network they access. Moreover, data and applications are being moved into public and hybrid cloud environments where the data owners have little direct control over security and all of this requires a business to have a Strategic Security Plan.”

The key findings of the “State of Security” include:

• Organizations are confident about identifying the most critical threats to their environments and knowing where their critical data resides. However, most companies are not confident about quantifying the potential financial impact of a breach should one occur.
• Organizational awareness and protection against information security risks is very important. However, one-third of the “Optimized” companies are uncertain about their IT security posture in terms of awareness and protection. Despite having formal strategic plans, 34 percent of the companies believe they do not have adequate protection against information security risks which could impact their business.
• A majority of the respondents said as they develop SSPs, they include consideration of potential threats and the associated risk to business and financial analysis. Yet, four out of five of the companies experienced a significant security incident in the past 12 months.
• Almost a third of organizations surveyed have either not purchased or not yet implemented many of the next-generation security technologies designed to address current-day threats, despite more than 80 percent of the organizations identifying malware, spyware and viruses as major security threats.
• Two out of every five organizations have either an informal or ad hoc plan or no security strategic plan in place. The size of the organization matters when it comes to having a formal SSP. Six of every ten large enterprises have a formal SSP, two out of every three mid-size enterprises has a formal SSP, while this ratio dips to only one in two small enterprises.
• Organizations in North America and Germany are more likely to have a formal SSP than those organizations in other regions of the world. This may be because of the regulatory environments in those countries.
• Top priorities for 2012 include implementing stronger controls to protect sensitive data and ensuring business continuity. The lowest priority is to reduce capital and operating expenditures for security infrastructure, which in turn indicates organizations are willing to spend on the right kind of security solutions.

While organizations are working on their strategic security plans and putting in their best efforts toward protecting business systems and critical data, there is much room for improvement.
Step up to a higher security maturity level. Only 16 percent of the survey respondents classify their organizations as being at the “Optimized” level. Worse, however, is the fact that 9 percent of the organizations are “Reactive” in their approach to IT security.
Executive involvement is crucial. While IT and security personnel may take the lead in developing the plan, it’s important to have insight from those who best understand the business systems and the data they use. Moreover, executive involvement is critical to set the tone for the importance of security throughout the organization.
Test early, test often, and make adjustments as needed. What good is a plan if it is developed and put on a shelf? If it is never tested? Unfortunately, 29 percent of “Compliant” companies never test how they would respond to an incident. What’s more, the fact 79 percent of the surveyed companies had security incidents in the past year indicates there are gaps in the security plans they must address.
Use budget allocations wisely. Though every manager would like to have a bigger budget to be able to apply more safeguards, the “Optimized” companies have found ways to reach the highest level of performance with the same level of funding (percentage-wise) as the companies who are less prudent with their budgets.
Use the right tools for the current threats. The survey shows 45 percent of the companies have not deployed next-generation firewalls. Mobile security is another high risk area, yet 25 percent of the organizations have not purchased any tools for this purpose.
Focus on protecting the lifeblood of the company-the sensitive corporate data. The top priorities for 2012 include implementing stronger controls to protect sensitive data and ensuring business continuity. Additional high-priority activities should improve each organization’s overall security posture. This is encouraging because without timely recognition and mitigation of security threats, an organization may be the next news headline—and nobody wants that dubious distinction.