QuinStreet Survey: Extent of Cyber-Attacks Is Rampant

A whopping 76 percent of survey respondents said their organization experienced a damaging breach within the past 12 months.

We're all quite aware that cyber-attacks on businesses and individuals are on the upswing, but what we all might not realize is extent of the damage being done by both hackers and inside-the-firewall crooks.

To better understand the scope of these attacks, the burdens they place on IT departments, and their effects on daily business, QuinStreet Enterprise surveyed IT decision makers asking about their security concerns. QuinStreet is the publisher of eWeek. The findings were released April 30.

Some of the results may surprise you. For example, a whopping 76 percent of a total of 387 respondents said their organization experienced a damaging breach within the past 12 months. This number is way up from the 40 to 50 percent figures recorded one to two years ago in other enterprise security research.

The consequences of these breaches aren't trivial. They included corruption of servers, prolonged email system failure, revenue loss, customer dissatisfaction and loss of employee information. The types of information compromised as a result of the breaches included intellectual property, employee and human resources data, customer accounts and financial information.

Preventing Cyber-Attacks Is Job 1 for Many Companies

Another data point: A full 50 percent of respondents said preventing cyber-attacks ranks among their organizations' top three issues, in some cases ahead of product development, customer service and profitability.

Other key findings:

--44 percent of respondents said their organizations have increased the portion of their IT budget allocated to security.

--Most respondents' organizations have taken some type of new action after a security breach to prevent new attacks.

--Only 14 percent of respondents reported no breaches of note in the last year. However, this number could be deceiving and not represent the true security picture because many breaches go unnoticed for a long time. This was the case in one recent large-scale breach that went undetected for 18 months.

Cyber-thieves are targeting companies of all sizes to compromise systems and steal information that can be used to commit fraud and carry out other crimes. Any of these breaches can lead to additional problems. For example, a compromised server might be used to gain information for other attacks, or employee information might be used for identity theft or to craft more realistic (and more targeted) phishing attacks.

Only 29 percent of respondents in companies with less than 1,000 employees reported that they have established best practices to try to get the problem under control.

Best Security Practices Still Need More Attention

In larger organizations with more than 1,000 employees, all of these percentages were higher. Fifty-eight percent ranked preventing cyber-attacks among their top three IT issues. Thirty-four percent said they have established best practices for the entire company.

If nearly half of enterprises are increasing their security spending, where are the increased dollars for preventing attacks going? Most companies said that after a breach, they were adding additional security software, hardware and accompanying services; reviewing installed solutions to ensure they were up-to-date, and establishing and updating security best practices.

In large organizations, there is growing concern about shielding against distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks. These sophisticated attacks use compromised servers and PCs and botnets to generate large volumes of traffic aimed at a particular Website. The traffic overwhelms the site, effectively blocking access to the site by legitimate users.

Industry studies have noted that the frequency and size of these attacks have grown significantly in the last year. In the QuinStreet survey, 71 percent of respondents from large organizations rated DDoS security protection very important.

The increased sophistication and variety of current cyber- threats are having an effect on the solutions used to protect companies. In the past, a company might rely on antivirus software, a firewall and an intrusion prevention system (IPS). Now, by contrast, almost all of the respondents (95 percent) noted that they need multiple solutions--meaning six or more security products.

Trusted Vendors in the Sector

When asked which vendors offered the most comprehensive solution for cyber-attacks, Symantec, Cisco and Intel Security (which includes the security solutions from McAfee) ranked highest, selected by 44 percent, 36 percent and 32 percent of the respondents, respectively.

Most users also ranked these three companies as the ones with which they had the most familiarity. One additional company with a strong familiarity ranking was Microsoft. However, the rating for the comprehensiveness of its solutions was lower (22 percent) than the other three companies.

Another significant finding is the increased role of traditional infrastructure companies in providing security solutions. From a familiarity standpoint, the traditional antivirus security companies (Symantec, Microsoft, Intel/McAfee, Kaspersky and Trend Micro) all were ranked fairly high.

Cisco, HP, EMC, Dell and IBM also rated on the high side. This might be due to the changing nature of attacks and their perceived threat. For example, as noted above, protecting against DDoS is now a great concern, and this type of attack needs infrastructure elements to help detect and minimize its impact.

How the Survey Was Conducted

The QuinStreet Enterprise security survey was conducted via an online questionnaire. The questionnaire was emailed to a list of visitors to QuinSteet Enterprise’s B2B Websites. The IT decision makers who took the survey are involved in the purchase process for security solutions. As an incentive, the first 100 survey respondents received a $10 Amazon gift certificate. All those who completed the survey were eligible for a sweepstakes for one $300 Amazon gift certificate. All told, 387 qualified participants completed the survey.

To download a copy, go here.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 13 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...