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Only Half Of CEOs Strongly Support Data Security Efforts

New Ponemon study finds lack of executive buy-in for security, disconnects between IT and security, and U.S. firms less confident of their data security

More than half of IT and security professionals worldwide believe their company's laptops and other mobile devices pose security risks to their organizations, and only half of them have CEOs who are strong advocates and supporters of data security efforts, according to new report issued today.

The new Ponemon Institute report, "State of the Endpoint: IT Security & IT Operations Practitioners in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand & Germany," which was commissioned by Lumension Security, also found that IT security is more worried about endpoint security (60 percent) than IT operations (53 percent), as well as other signs of inadequate communication and collaboration between the two groups.

And security and IT pros in the U.S. tend to be more pessimistic about security than their counterparts in other parts of the world. Only 40 percent of U.S. IT and security pros said their CEOs were strong supporters of data security efforts, and while 77 percent of German firms and 57 percent of U.K. firms said their networks are more secure now than a year ago, only 44 percent of U.S. firms thought so. Only 42 percent of Australian firms said their networks were more secure this year than last.

"I was surprised at the challenges in the U.S. market and how they didn't feel they had buy-in at the 'c' level," says Ed Brice, senior vice president of worldwide marketing for Lumension. U.S. firms are also the least likely to get bigger budgets for security in fiscal year 2010 -- 11 percent of U.S. security pros expected more money, and 6 percent of IT pros. "They had the lowest [numbers] in looking to increase their budget," Brice says.

Around 53 percent of all firms expect their security spending to remain flat, according to the report.

U.S. firms were also less inclined to consider compliance helpful to security of their endpoints -- 44 percent of U.S. companies said regulations improved their endpoint security, versus 54 percent in Germany, and 50 percent in the U.K.

More than 50 percent of firms worldwide said compliance helps their endpoint security because it helps them obtain more security resources. "There's a potential mismatch between the intent of compliance and what compliance really is: Is it a reality or a mindset?" Brice says. "There are very different mindsets in countries outside the U.S., where compliance helps with policy and controls. That doesn't resonate in the U.S."

When it comes to spending on compliance, German firms lead the way with $10.9 million a year in compliance budgets, followed by the U.K. with $7.7 million, and the U.S. at $7.2 million per firm.

Lumension's Brice says the survey demonstrates that adoption and implementation of cloud computing, Web 2.0, and virtualization technologies are coming faster than most organizations expected. "The adoption and implementation of these approaches is going to be more rapid than people are currently perceiving. The pressure to drive efficiency has never been greater as a result of the economic climate," he says. "And IT is no longer in position of saying, 'No, you can't do that.'

"At the same time, they have to be careful that they don't bring in additional risks. If you don't have the resources, you could have more risk coming into the endpoint as you try to cut costs."

Another big hurdle is the remaining disconnect between IT and security departments within organizations. Only 17 percent of the firms in the survey said they had "excellent collaboration" between the two departments, while 42 percent said it was "adequate" but needs improvement. Around one-third said collaboration was poor or nonexistent, Brice says.

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.

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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