Enterprises Starved for Security Threat Data to Justify Budget Hikes

The vast majority of businesses use publicly released threat reports to create their security strategy and need better data, according to a survey by one security firm.

Looking to design their security strategies for the coming year, companies overwhelmingly make use of the annual threat reports compiled by security and Internet-service firms, a new study has found.

Nearly seven out of every eight companies use the global threat reports created by firms such as McAfee, Microsoft, Symantec and Verizon to guide their security strategies, according to a survey conducted by security-services firm Solutionary.

Almost 80 percent of the security professionals who responded to the survey use annual threat data to support their requests for budget increases.

By creating reports that are more useful for their customers, security software specialists and service providers can benefit by helping their customers' security teams successfully argue for budget hikes, said Rob Kraus, director of research for the Solutionary Engineering Research Team.

"Through the history of security, we have always had that challenge of how do I justify this, how do I get the money, how do we tell our bosses that it is important, how do I let our C-level executives know that we need to do this to address a lot of threats out there that could cost us a lot of money," he said. "Organizations are still having difficulty overcoming and obtaining budget."

Solutionary conducted the survey to guide the creation of its own global threat intelligence report, gathering feedback on what its customers would like to see in their report. Nearly 180 companies responded to the questionnaire, but not all companies answered every question. There were a number of surprises, Kraus said.

Nearly nine out of 10 companies that do not currently use global threat reports in their security process would use the documents if there were more guidance on how to garner more budget for their security teams, Kraus said. The most important topic is how to conduct self-assessments and show companies' current weaknesses, according to more than 40 percent of surveyed companies.

"The security professionals we have out there are fighting the fight and doing a good job, but maybe they don't have the culture of security built into their environment so much that they actually need more guidance on how to secure that funding," Kraus said. "That's a staggering number."

In the past, compliance has driven budgets for security, but increasingly companies are looking to improve their security posture, not just follow the letter of compliance regulations, he said. For example, this year a growing number of organizations asked Solutionary for help analyzing malware, an activity not required by compliance regulations.

The most useful part of threat reports is the executive summaries, according to a fifth of the companies surveyed. Kraus argues that these shortened versions of reports are sent to executives to help make arguments for more money. About one-sixth of companies identified statistics on global threats as the most important information, and slightly less than that sought out specifics on identified threats.

The biggest threat on the radar for 2013 is the bring your own device (BYOD) trend, said Kraus. While companies gain productivity and lower costs when employees use their own information devices, they lack the security controls typically enforced on internal devices. In addition, distributed denial-of-service attacks are increasingly being used to mask other aspects of an attack.

"The culture of security needs to be ingrained in your organization, and it is not going to happen overnight," Kraus said. "Security is a team sport, and we all need to know that we need to overcome the obstacles in regards to funding."

Robert Lemos

Robert Lemos

Robert Lemos is an award-winning freelance journalist who has covered information security, cybercrime and technology's impact on society for almost two decades. A former research engineer, he's...