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A Crisis of Confidence Among Security Pros

New report shows that a majority of security professionals worldwide doubt they can stop or quell attacks.

There's a sense of unease among security professionals around the globe on how well they can truly protect their organizations from cyberattacks, a new report finds.

Some 57% of security pros say their organizations aren't protected from advanced attacks, and 63% don’t think they can stop confidential information from leaking out of the enterprise, a new report by the Ponemon Institute says. Nearly 70 percent say they believe threats slip by their installed security systems.

Ponemon surveyed 4,881 IT and IT security practitioners in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Mexico, the Netherlands, Singapore, Sweden, the UK, and the US, for the report. Some 44% say they had been hit with one or more "substantial" attack over the past year.

Existing security products don't provide much help, either, in more than half of the organizations, and 59% say they don't have sufficient intelligence about attacks or are unsure about the impact of them. 

The responses in the report may be the result of the realization that attacks are inevitable, as well as a touch of pessimism, according to Jeff Debrosse, director of security research at Websense, which commissioned the report. "The very fact that a large percentage of the respondents -- 69% -- believe that their existing security systems are missing some of the attacks means that the false sense of security is decreasing. The idea of 'no silver bullet' is taking hold, and more organizations are realizing that one or two point solutions just aren’t going to cut it."

Many security pros aren't confident they truly grasp the threats to their organizations, with just 41% confident that they do. Some 37% were sure that confidential or sensitive data had been lost in an attack, and 35% of those organizations didn't know specifically what data had been taken.

"The above-ground economy has historically done a pretty poor job at organizing and sharing intelligence on attackers, victims, and the tactics and techniques. The contrast to the underground economy is significant," Debrosse says. "Attackers reuse known tools and tactics, share intel on their targets/victims, and have organized themselves at different times -- staying fluid to dynamically adjust to their circumstances."

Company executives still are not getting the true cost of a breach: 80% of the respondents say their execs don't see the connection between lost data and potential lost revenue, and nearly 60% say their execs have  "sub-par" comprehension of security threats and issues.

"While there are significant differences among countries for specific questions (such as availability of cyberattack intelligence), the overall analysis indicates that a majority of security professionals do not feel adequately armed to defend their organizations from threats," says Dr. Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder of the Ponemon Institute. "This challenge is further compounded by a perception that company leaders do not believe that data breaches will lead to loss of revenue. Our research has shown this is simply untrue."

Meanwhile, customer data is the most commonly targeted data, in 47% of the cases, followed by intellectual property (35%), and financial records (19%). Some 35% say they don't know what type of data is targeted.

Ponemon's full "Exposing the Cybersecurity Cracks: A Global Perspective" report is available for download here.

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