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Federal Agencies: Online Collaboration, Cyber Terrorism, Mobility, Web 2.0 Their Biggest Security Threats

New survey by Ponemon Institute also finds more than one-third of agencies have suffered one or more hacks in the past 12 months

Senior federal IT executives say collaboration tools, cyber terrorism, mobility, and Web 2.0 are among the top threats to federal government data and systems and the nation's critical infrastructure, according to a new report published today by the Ponemon Institute.

The Cyber Security Mega Trends Study, which was commissioned by Computer Associates, is based on a survey of 217 senior-level federal IT executives. Nearly 80 percent of federal IT execs say the increasing use of collaboration tools in agencies increases the storage or unstructured data that can contain sensitive or confidential information that's not properly secured. And more than 70 percent say cyber terrorism is on the rise and is a real threat to proprietary systems and the U.S.'s critical infrastructure, while 63 percent consider mobile technology usage by federal agencies contributes "significantly" to endpoint security, including malware and botnet attacks.

More than 50 percent consider social networking, blogging, and Wikis as possible data-leak sources for agencies, as well as purveyors of malware and botnet threats.

"Many federal agencies are moving to take advantage of the efficiencies made possible by today's technological innovations in order to save time and money, but those improvements must not be made without consideration to the threats to information security," said Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder of the Ponemon Institute, in a statement. "In order to maintain the public trust, information security must be integral to any updates, and not an afterthought."

The survey also found that 40 percent of agencies say data breach incidents contribute to these risks; 44 percent, virtualization technology; 39 percent, cloud computing; 34 percent, outsourcing to insecure third party vendors; and 18 percent, open-source applications.

Around 35 percent say their department had been hit by a hacking incident one or more times during the past 12 months, and 38 percent say they were "unsure" about any intrusions. Wireless devices were the most serious target in their organizations, with 57 percent pointing them out as such, followed by endpoints (35 percent), networks (29 percent), databases (25 percent), applications (12 percent), paper documents (11 percent), and offline devices (6 percent).

Agency IT execs consider outsourcing the top root cause of risking insecure sensitive data (69 percent), followed by unstructured data at 42 percent, and data breaches at 33 percent.

Around 60 percent say cybercrime is the core cause of risk to the critical infrastructure, followed by cyber terrorism (25 percent).

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Kelly Jackson Higgins is the Executive Editor of Dark Reading. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

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