Inside business: Hi-tech security fears grow

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The Independent Online
SOME of the world's leading companies are growing increasingly worried about whether their security systems are keeping pace with advancing computer technology, according to research from CSC, the management consultancy.

An estimated $2.7bn (pounds 1.8bn) was lost as a result of computer viruses alone in the United States in 1994 but senior managers were also concerned about the increasing dependence on networks, both inside and outside of the enterprise.

Ninety-seven per cent were worried about the threat of viruses; 93 per cent about the adequacy of their corporation's security measures; 85 per cent thought hackers were the greatest threat to security; 79 per cent were concerned about the threat of unauthorised changes to, or destruction of, data; 77 per cent felt threatened by the prospect of publicity stemming from a computer-related loss; and 41 per cent did not believe their organisation had the expertise to address the security requirements posed by technology.

"It's becoming more and more difficult to keep unwanted visitors out of computer networks," said Peter Hill, the international director at Index Performance Enhancement Programme, one of CSC's research arms. "As can be seen from the survey results, a growing number of companies are beginning to use more sophisticated devices in an effort to keep systems secure. But even the most modern security may not be effective for long."

The survey, conducted among 286 senior IT executives and development managers from mainly US-based large corporations, found that the most common security in place was a password (used by 99 per cent of respondent companies). Firewalls for the Internet and networks are used by 52 per cent, while 48 per cent use encryption. Only 1 per cent use biometric controls, while 21 per cent said they used other means.

Mr Hill concluded: "Concern about the vulnerability of networks to security threats will continue to rise. Vulnerability related to dial-in access and damage from computer viruses are currently at the top of the agenda. But as our technology changes, so will the threats."

The greatest area of uncertainty is over maintaining security in the rapidly emerging distributed-computing technologies and whether vendors are providing sufficient protection within their products.