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Many Security Pros In The Dark About Their Own Environments, Study Says

It's 9 a.m. Do you know how many Internet-facing servers you have? Many IT pros don't, according to a new RedSeal survey
In an ironic twist on Cybersecurity Awareness Month, many IT security professionals now admit they don't know some key facts about their own networks, according to a study published Wednesday.

The survey, which was conducted by Dimensional Research and RedSeal Systems, gathered data from nearly 2,000 IT and security professionals at the recent Cisco Live and Black Hat USA conferences. The results raise questions about cybersecurity awareness among those who are responsible for managing cybersecurity. A few of the numbers:

>> More than 71 percent of respondents admitted that their networks are exposed to external threats due to misconfiguration issues present in their security device infrastructures. >> More than 50 percent had no idea how many of their organizations’ internal hosts were actually exposed to the Internet.

>> Some 52 percent conceded that their vulnerability management tools and practices don’t allow them to prioritize remediation based on the likelihood of real-world attacks.

>> More than 75 percent of network management and security professionals believe that automated tools give hackers the upper hand in evading the defenses they've built to protect their critical data.

"The survey is a pretty dire readout on how IT and security professionals are doing in the war with hackers," says Mike Lloyd, chief scientist at RedSeal Systems. "They're trying, but they really don't feel they're doing all that well."

Lloyd says he is surprised that so many IT and security professionals were willing to admit that they are in the dark about such fundamental issues.

"On the one hand, it shows that, as an industry, we are growing up -- we're willing to admit we don't have all the answers," he says. "On the other hand, it also shows that it's time for many organizations to wake up and smell the coffee -- they don't have some of the information they need to build a comprehensive defense."

Many organizations are in the dark about their security proficiency simply because they don't have any metrics to measure it, Lloyd observes. Only 47 percent of survey respondents said they have consistent metrics that show the effectiveness of network security over time, he notes. Fifty-three percent of respondents said they have no way to determine the security impact of proposed changes to network access before they implement them.

"One of the key issues is that humans in the organization don't understand the impact of the changes they make to the network," Lloyd says. "They don't know until it's too late."

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