Breaches Rise In U.K. Firms Along With Wireless, VoIP, Social Networking

Pricewaterhouse Coopers survey finds large organizations hit with an average of 45 data breaches a year
Breaches are up in the U.K. -- and so is the use of wireless, VoIP, social networking, and cloud-based services, according to recent survey by Pricewaterhouse Coopers.

More than 90 percent of large organizations (more than 250 employees) say they suffered a data breach in the past year, up from 72 percent in 2008, the last time the survey was conducted. About 83 percent of small organizations (50 or fewer employees) were hit last year, up from 45 percent in 2008

On average, large U.K. firms were hit with 45 breaches in the past year, three times as many incidents as they reported in 2008. Small firms were hit with an average of 14 breaches, more than two times the number they logged two years ago.

At the same time, U.K. organizations are rapidly adopting new technologies and services. Nearly half use voice-over-IP (VoIP) -- up from 17 percent two years ago -- and 85 percent run wireless networks, twice as many as in '08. Social networking is important to business for 32 percent of the organizations, and 34 percent say they are "critically dependent" on cloud-based, hosted software services.

"Unfortunately, as in the past, security controls appear to be lagging behind the use of new technology," says the report, which was commissioned by Infosecurity Europe and received responses from 539 organizations.

Security is considered a priority at most organizations in the U.K., and 90 percent of the respondents say their firms either increased or kept their IT security spending the same this past year. "Given the recession and the associated pressure on costs, one might have expected security expenditure to have dropped. In contrast, the amount small respondents are spending is the highest level ever recorded in this survey," the report says. "The changing environment, combined with the amount of media coverage, has kept security high on management’s list of priorities."

Even so, only 16 percent say they expect to experience fewer security incidents in the coming year.

When it comes to the types of attacks on large organizations, 61 percent say they discovered a "significant" attempted hack in the past year, twice as many as in '08. More than 60 percent were infected by viruses or malware in the past year, up from 21 percent. And 15 percent report detecting an actual break-in from an outsider.

"Small respondents report similar rises in external attacks. For example, three times as many of them were infected by viruses as in 2008," the report says.

Meanwhile, staffers lost or leaked confidential data in 46 percent of the large organizations, with 45 percent of those saying the information exposed was "very serious" or "extremely serious."

Supply chains are demanding more security assurance, according to the report; 68 percent of large respondents say their customers have asked them to demonstrate compliance with security standards, and 61 percent include provisions for security in their contracts with third-party providers. Only 21 percent get reports from these providers on breaches that affect their data.

"These attacks are creating a demand for assurance across the supply chain," the report says. "However, at the moment, organisations do not appear well-prepared to meet the wider demands for assurance. In particular, organisations that use third party services often do not demand the same level of assurance that their customers are demanding from them."

The full report is available here (PDF).

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.