Study: Information Security 'Protected' During Economic Downturn

63% of global survey respondents say spending on security function will increase or stay the same in spite of economic downturn

October 16, 2009

4 Min Read


NEW YORK and FRAMINGHAM, Mass., Oct. 15 /PRNewswire/ -- According to the 7th annual Global State of Information Security Survey½ 2010, released today, six out of ten respondents (63 percent) expect spending to either increase or stay the same - in spite of the worst economic downturn in decades - or perhaps because of it. The study, the largest of its kind, is conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC) in conjunction with CIOand CSOmagazines. More than 7,200 executives from 130 countries across all industries were asked about their information security expectations. The results demonstrate that global leaders appear to be "protecting" the information function from budget cuts - but at the same time are placing it under intensive pressure to "perform."

"The increased risk environment has visibly elevated the role and importance of the information security function to the entire business organization," says Mark Lobel, an Advisory principal at PricewaterhouseCoopers. "After years of misalignment, business and IT leaders seem to be starting to think like each other. This year, as we move from 2009 to 2010, may turn out to be a high-stakes 'coming of age'."

The Global State of Information Security Survey½ 2010 shows that across industries and from the private to the public sector, the downturn has had a major impact on security spending. A few key industry trends from this year's survey include:

-- Financial Services - This year, fewer financial services respondents predict spending will increase (40 percent in 2009; 46 percent in 2008) yet two- thirds (64 percent) expect spending to either increase or stay the same. - For the first time in the history of this survey, the majority of metrics used to track advances in security-related capabilities - across all major security domains, including strategy, structure, people, process and technology - have, by and large, for the financial services industry, not improved. - Seventy-five percent of financial services respondents have an overall information security strategy in place, compared to 74 percent in 2008. - Fifty-nine percent of financial services respondents report they conduct threat and vulnerability assessments (unchanged from 2008). - Also unchanged from 2008 - 61 percent of financial services respondents require employees to complete training on privacy policies/practices.

"It's hard to avoid the conclusion that the economic 'freight train' has impacted financial services companies more than those in any other industry - and largely stopped the global financial services industry's multi-year investment in security capabilities effectively, if temporarily this year, 'in its tracks'," points out Lobel.

-- Health Industries - A key priority this year will be addressing a global trend in stiffer requirements for breach notification and specific technical controls. - More than 6 out of 10 provider respondents (61 percent) report that their organization does not have an incident response policy to report and handle breaches with third parties handling data. - As many countries address the security implications of electronic health record policies, U.S. providers need to address the HITECH Act. - On February 17, 2009, President Obama signed into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 ("ARRA"). Part of the ARRA, the HITECH Act strengthens and expands the scope of the HIPAA privacy and security rules. - As complexity and regulation increase within the industry - with heightened penalties and disclosure requirements for breaches and missteps - U.S. providers will need to understand the financial and operational implications for their organization.

-- Utilities - Reported incident type levels have declined across all elements, except one: the exploitation of data is now the leading type of incident. - Utility companies have advanced their security and privacy capabilities in the past year in areas including strategy, security leadership, privacy-related assessments, and integration.

-- Public Sector - Today a new generation of government employees is accessing social networks from work in great numbers, often without the knowledge of the IT department - and in circumvention of the traditional countermeasures employed by many. Some organizations have moved quickly to close this gap - but most need to do more - only 35 percent of government agencies have security technologies in place that support Web 2.0 exchanges. - In the U.S., advancing cyber security and private/public partnerships are additional emerging priorities.

While the "full damage report" for 2009 is not yet clear, the survey finds that business impacts such as financial losses, compromises to brand or reputation, and loss of shareholder value, have increased.

Global Trends

The survey reveals that North American and Asian security practices are no longer on par with one another, as was reported in last year's survey. Asian respondents are far more likely than their North American colleagues to estimate that spending on security over the next year will either increase or stay the same (73 percent vs. 59 percent). South America also shows advances this year -

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