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6/29/2010
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Security Managers Report Weak Threat Defenses

Many organizations don't realize when they're being hit by zero-day and other advanced attacks, and they aren't responding effectively either, the Ponemon Institute reports.

According to a new survey conducted by Ponemon Institute and sponsored by NetWitness, 83% of information security professionals said their organization has been recently targeted by advanced threats, and 71% report that such attacks have increased in the past 12 months.

But even as these advanced attacks increase, many organizations don't always know when they're being attacked. Indeed, 41% of the 591 surveyed IT security managers in the United States said that they were unable to determine how frequently they were targeted by advanced threats.

For the survey, these advanced threats were defined by Ponemon as being "a methodology employed to evade an organization's present technical and process countermeasures, which relies on a variety of attack techniques, as opposed to one specific type."

While zero-day attacks are the most prevalent form of advanced threat, according to Ponemon, "there are increasingly many instances where known attacks are being re-engineered and repackaged to extend their usefulness."

Security professionals told Ponemon that half of all advanced attacks target sensitive, proprietary data, while 48% gun for personal information, including customer, consumer, or employee records.

Security managers, however, report having a hard time adequately and quickly defending against these attacks. For example, 80% of security managers said it takes at least a day or longer to detect such attacks, and 46% said it requires at least 30 days, if not longer.

That delay, according to Ponemon, results from organizations often having the appropriate policies and procedures in place, but not the right technology or training. Indeed, more than half of respondents said they have sufficient security policies and procedures in place to deal with advanced threats. But only 26% said that in-house security skills were sufficiently advanced to safeguard their organization against more advanced threats, and only 32% said they have the required defensive technology.

Ponemon found that 69% of respondents use antivirus tools and 61% use an intrusion-detection system (IDS) to detect or prevent advanced threats. But nine out of 10 respondents said that exploits or malware have evaded their IDS, or else that they're not sure. An equal number say that exploits and malware have defeated their antivirus tools, or else they're not sure.

Finally, focus is another challenge, with only 19% of respondents characterizing their IT leaders as being fully aware of the challenge of, and requirements for, defending against advanced attacks.

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