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Businesses can't take chances over info' security threats

Friday 30 November 2012

News Release

Businesses can no longer afford to play a game of chance when it comes to high-stakes information security threats

In a world where cloud platforms, social networks and mobile devices are common place, the latest ‘Global State of Information Security® Survey 2013 released by PwC US in conjunction with CIO and CSO magazines, reveals there is a high degree of misplaced confidence in New Zealand businesses security strategies. Indeed, despite optimism, businesses must improve security strategies to stay ahead of the game.

More than 9,300 executives from 128 countries, including 180 New Zealand executives, took part in the worldwide survey, which was conducted online from 1 February 2012 to 15 April 2012. The aim of the survey is to provide insights into the key security issues facing organisations in an ever changing threat landscape.

“When it comes to global security threats, New Zealand’s geographical location presents a dichotomy”, says Mr Colin Slater, PwC New Zealand Security Partner.

“As a small nimble country with a reputation for prospering from innovation, New Zealand businesses rely heavily on personal connections and our relatively safe environment to protect us. If you consider we trade and connect to the world the same as everyone else, we need to take a more skeptical view of the ways we look at security and threats.

“It is surprising and disappointing only 30 percent of New Zealand businesses have a security strategy in place, and in fact, 25 percent of respondents are planning to reduce their security budgets. While not taking an alarmist stance, businesses need to balance risk taking, in a more controlled fashion,” adds Mr Slater.

Globally, 88% of consumers use a personal mobile device for both personal and work purposes. Yet, only 45% of companies have a security strategy for personal devices in the workplace, and 37% have malware protection for mobile devices.

The New Zealand result is consistent with this global trend and BYOD (Bring your own devices), social media and mobile strategies are becoming a part of the furniture in Businesses across the country.

But Mr Slater warns, “With technology adoption moving faster than security businesses that want to be information security leaders should prepare to play a new game, one that requires advanced skills and strategy to win against emerging threats.

“Some businesses tend to consider cloud computing as simply outsourcing, and because it’s handled by third parties, they believe detailed strategies aren’t critical. But it is vital businesses embrace a new way of thinking in which information security is both a means to protect data, as well as an opportunity to create value to the organisation.”

Mr Slater also points out people power is also an effective tool, which isn’t being utilised enough: “One of the best ways for businesses to protect information is to make sure their staff understands what security is in place and how they can help enforce it.”

However, less than a third of New Zealand respondents offer security awareness programmes to staff, and even fewer have staff responsible for improving security awareness.

“There’s an underlying expectation staff know about the importance of security and take action to ensure they’re secure. Yet, staff assume their employer has appropriate information security controls, so it’s not something they need to worry about. Interestingly social engineering is one of the most common and effective forms of security breach,” says Mr Slater.

Globally, the number of organisations with staff dedicated to employee awareness programmes is dropping every year (from 58% in 2009, to 47% in 2012) which indicates that once embedded the level of investment required will diminish over time.

“Security training is clearly not a priority for New Zealand businesses. It’s often harder to quantify what value it will bring to the business, so obtaining budgetary approval can be difficult. These programmes don’t need to be complex or expensive and there are simple and effective ways to deliver the security message. The cost of dealing with an avoidable incident is far greater than the cost of any awareness programme,” concludes Mr Slater.

Other key findings include:

• Employees remain the biggest threat (48%) despite a 19% decrease in security incidents carried out by employees

• Identity theft has been the big mover with an 18% increase (from 6% to 24%)

• The business impact of incidents has seen a reduction in financial loss (42% to 27%) and IP theft (42% to 19%).

• The financial losses have been relatively small (< $10K) and downtime as a result of an incident is minimal.


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