TechnologyAccounting SoftwareDTI: Computer attacks double since 2002

DTI: Computer attacks double since 2002

UK businesses must do more to combat the increasing danger to IT systems. Iain Thomson looks at the findings of a new DTI survey.

Computer attacks on UK businesses have more than doubled in the last two years, according to research from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

In its Information Security Breaches survey, unveiled at the Infosecurity 2004 show, the DTI found that each serious IT security breach costs large businesses on average £120,000.

The research found that UK companies are on average attacked once a month.

In large companies, malicious incidents, such as viruses, unauthorised access and misuse of systems, are now a weekly occurrence. Three quarters of respondents – and 94% of large organisations – have suffered a security incident in the last year.

Speaking at the launch Stephen Timms, minister of state for e-commerce, described the research as an important wake-up call to business. ‘The survey is a call to action; the stakes are high. It shows the scale of the effort business needs to make.

‘The costs will only increase until companies follow best practice. Until now it could be thought that information problems were something that happened to other people,’ he said.

Timms praised firms for adopting the internet so wholeheartedly, but said that it places new stresses on them, from handling new viruses to basic server management. He stressed IT security’s direct effect on a company’s bottom line.

But despite some businesses taking the problem seriously, under-investment and ignorance is rife.

‘Security expenditure is increasing, and that is an improvement,’ said Chris Potter, the partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, who directed the survey of 1,000 companies.

‘But those rosy-looking numbers mask a problem. Roughly a quarter of the companies we surveyed are investing above what you would expect. However, the majority are not spending nearly enough – not even 1% of turnover.’

The survey also discovered a skills gap affecting the industry, with only 10 % of companies having any staff with formal IT qualifications.

And there was more bad news for the government, as only 12% of respondents had heard of BS7799, the international standard on information security.

Overall, business is pessimistic about the future: just 15% of firms believe the security situation will improve next year.

The survey results show how IT security is a key business issue facing companies of all sizes. If your organisation has recently improved its e-security to better trade electronically, then enter the Accountancy Age-sponsored DTI/InterForum E-Commerce Awards.

They are open to businesses with over 250 employees, and are run at both regional and national level, rewarding innovation in how information technology is used to improve the business performance of SMEs.

The Awards – now in their sixth year – include new categories, such as best use of teleworking and best use of broadband. The overall national winner could walk away with £40,000.

  • Go to www.ecommerce-awards.co.uk.

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