Survey says 40 percent of networks at SMBs are not secure

Despite having anti-virus and anti-spam software as well as a firewall installed, four in 10 small and medium sized companies in the United States still do not believe their networks are secure, a new survey shows.

In a poll of 455 IT executives for U.S. SMBs, 42 percent said their networks were not secure, even though 96 percent and 93 percent of respondents respectively said they had anti-virus and a firewall installed. Eighty percent said they also used spam filtering. This may indicate that SMBs are starting to doubt the effectiveness of traditional perimeter security products in protecting them from other security threats, including data leakage and network breaches.

Conducted by eMediaUSA on behalf of GFI Software, an international developer of network security, content security and messaging software, 39 percent of survey respondents said e-mail viruses are the greatest risk to network security, followed by internet downloads (22 percent), and hacker attempts (10 percent). Only 7 percent considered insider attacks and the threat of portable storage devices -- such as USB sticks, CDs, floppies, smartphones, MP3 players, handhelds, iPods, digital cameras -- to be the greatest risk.

The survey also reveals that 32 percent of the U.S. companies surveyed had suffered a breach over the past 12 months mainly due to a virus attack (69 percent), followed by infected internet downloads (30 percent), and loss of hardware, e.g. laptops (24 percent). Only 2 percent reported a breach involving some form of fraud or identity threat.

Commenting on the results, Andre Muscat, GFI's director of engineering, said, "E-mail viruses top the 'greatest threat to network security' list and this does not come as a surprise. It is one of the easier attack routes and this is confirmed by those respondents who reported a breach. While companies are aware of, and are focused on, tackling viruses and malware, they appear to be giving sparse attention to other equally dangerous threats such us data theft and leakage from endpoints such as connected USB sticks, iPods, and PDAs on the network."

According to the survey, only 19 percent of the respondents said they had deployed an endpoint security solution on their network. This indicates that few companies may consider the fact that an employee's iPod or USB stick can be a threat and used to copy data from the network or else install unauthorized software or upload viruses and malware.

"There are other issues as well. How many companies are aware of vulnerabilities on their network that are not addressed through Microsoft's regular updates? At the end of the day, it boils down to education -- from the top of the organization down to the users. Our survey shows that just under half of the respondents believe security could improve if employees were more aware of security issues, while 25 percent believe that management should also have a better understanding of security matters," Muscat added.

On a daily basis, IT executives are most concerned with downtime (71 percent), while more than half of the respondents said daily user support was a concern. One in five said compliance was a daily concern; while a mere 3 percent indicated eDiscovery to be a daily issue.

When it comes to choosing the type of security measure to adopt, just under 90 percent said they used a software solution with 55 percent opting for a combination of software, appliances, and hosted services.

You can read the full survey.

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