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Failing The Basics Will Get You Hacked

Information security firm Sophos evaluated 580 PCs over a 40-day period and found businesses of all sizes can't tackle even the most basic things when it comes to IT security.

Information security firm Sophos evaluated 580 PCs over a 40-day period and found businesses of all sizes can't tackle even the most basic things when it comes to IT security.While examining nearly 600 PCs during little more than a one-month period isn't a very large sampling, it's big enough for a taste of what's out there. And it's certainly not sweet.

The Sophos Endpoint Assessment Test gives systems a basic evaluation for things like missing patches, the state of client firewalls, and other security tests.

The bottom line: 81% of the endpoints failed one or more of those fundamental checks. That's fairly bad news considering that any of those conditions -- outdated patch level, firewall disabled, or out-of-date AV signatures -- can lead to a significant breach. But this test must have been targeting those unsophisticated SMBs, you say, and that's what tainted the results. Not so. Here's the demographic run down:

"39% of the end users were part of an organization with fewer than 100 users

36% were part of an organization size between 100 and 1,000 users

25% were from organizations larger than 1,000 users

"

And the evaluation ran in fairly IT savvy geographies, too:

North America represented 39% of the sample base, while the United Kingdom made up 36%, and Australia and Germany were 11% and 9%, respectively (5% being other countries).

Said Bill Emerick, VP of product management for network access control at Sophos: "We're holding up to the light an aspect of endpoint security that has long been evaded by IT departments -- the inability to properly assess and control baseline endpoint security requirements such as updated patches, enabled firewalls, and current anti-malware signatures updates. Ultimately, machines that fail such a test represent the low-hanging fruit for cybercriminals and a real danger to their corporate networks."

And that's one of the most accurate quotes I've read in a press release in a long time.

This blog was updated at 9:45 a.m. to correct a quote.

About the Author(s)

George V. Hulme, Contributing Writer

Contributor

An award winning writer and journalist, for more than 20 years George Hulme has written about business, technology, and IT security topics. He currently freelances for a wide range of publications, and is security blogger at InformationWeek.com.

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