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7/20/2007
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China Weighs In On Its IT Security Challenges

A blog by my InformationWeek China colleague Jon Tian entitled "Borders of Information Security" provides some cultural perspective for several key findings in InformationWeek Research's 10th annual Global Information Security Survey.

A blog by my InformationWeek China colleague Jon Tian entitled "Borders of Information Security" provides some cultural perspective for several key findings in InformationWeek Research's 10th annual Global Information Security Survey.

"The Internet is borderless, accordingly, security threats are borderless, too … Certainly, Chinese companies follow their U.S counterparts in many IT application areas, including the field of information security. But I recalled the words of John W. Thompson, CEO of Symantec during an interview this March in Beijing, 'Our life has changed from real world to the digital world, now we've learned how to protect ourselves in the real world, but we have not learned the skills and experiences to protect ourselves in the digital world.' "

Tian goes on to note that China is "hanging behind" in some IT areas, but not in others:

"This kind of 'following up' happens in many, but not all, the IT application areas. For example, survey results indicate that phishing threats faced by Chinese companies are much less than U.S companies. Some may argue that it is because online banking and electronic payment are not as popular in China as in North America. However, rapid development of China's online financial services in recent years is obvious to all, yet only 16% and 17% of Chinese companies in most recent surveys [indicate] they were attacked by phishing, and the percentages of U.S companies almost doubled."

In fact, Tian argues, technology development in China in some areas has even leap-frogged the West:

"One of the facts that is most frequently mentioned by Americans is telecommunication development in China, directly leaping from fixed phone communication to mobile communication. In fact, China has become the lab of many different cutting-edge technologies. This kind of leap happens in information security as well. For instance, Chinese banks started their online banking systems much later than U.S banks, and learning from their U.S counterparts, Chinese banks pay much attention to security from the very beginning. Take ICBC (Industrial and Commercial Bank of China), for example -- its online banking system requires users to use U-dun (a kind of USB security device) to access their online accounts in order to ensure the transaction security."

As a result, Tian believes Accenture's observations that Chinese businesses are several years behind Western businesses in their security deployments should be put in perspective:

"Considering the leap during application transformation, the three to four years gap between Chinese companies and American companies in information security may not be that bad. And as more Chinese companies are going abroad, borders in information security will gradually disappear. Globalization forces Chinese companies to adopt more international standards to improve their IT governance. Take a joint funding company, for instance -- its IT department has to be well-prepared for internal auditing by their foreign investor at least twice a year. Last year, many Chinese companies listed overseas made a lot of effort to measure up the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. Though requirements of the Act are somewhat difficult for the companies, most of them have accomplished this task."

He concludes:

"Threats of information security are borderless, so effective measures to dealing with security threats should be borderless as well."

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