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3/19/2009
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Study: Web Application Security Spending Relatively Unscathed By Poor Economy

New OWASP study also finds Web app security spending still only small chunk of overall security spending, and 40 percent don't run Web app firewalls

First the good news: Despite the global recession, two-thirds of organizations either have no plans to cut Web application security spending, or they expect their spending to increase this year. Now the bad news: Spending for security applications is less than 10 percent of the overall security budget in 36 percent of organizations, few of which have developers dedicated to security, according to a new Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) report (PDF).

Around 67 percent of the survey's respondents -- security professionals and executives from 51 companies -- have a dedicated IT security budget, while 89 percent of companies with 1,000 or more employees have a dedicated security spending pot. Not surprisingly, companies that had been hit with a data breach in the past two years were most likely (86 percent) to have a dedicated security budget than those that had not suffered a public breach (52 percent).

More than one-fourth of the companies in the survey say they will be spending more in Web application security this year than last; 36 percent expect their spending to stay the same.

But most aren't investing a lot in developers with security know-how. Around 40 percent of the respondents have less than 2 percent of their developer staff dedicated to security, according to the report.

Boaz Gelbord, project leader of the OWASP report, says he was most surprised by the low head count of developers dedicated to security, as well as the high number of companies (61 percent) that perform independent security reviews of Web applications before they deploy.

"These numbers imply that most companies have adopted an approach of building code while adhering to basic security practices, and then bringing in 'breakers' to find any remaining vulnerabilities," Gelbord says.

The alternative would be to have "security-breaking" built into each stage of the software development cycle, he says. "Ultimately, many companies probably adopt the 'building-then-breaking' approach, since finding security vulnerabilities is a specialized skill that the average developer can't be expected to have," Gelbord says.

Still, half of the respondents rate security experience as "at least somewhat" important for new developer hires, and most provide security training to their existing application developers.

Web application firewalls (WAFs) still aren't pervasive in organizations: Less than half of those in the survey say they run these tools to secure at least some of their Web applications. Around 17 percent say they deploy WAFs for all or almost all of their Web applications, 15 percent for most, and 7 percent for nearly half of their apps.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Discuss" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message Kelly Jackson Higgins is Senior Editor at DarkReading.com. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise Magazine, ... View Full Bio

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