Wake-up call to business: Tighten up on information security

Jun 30, 2008

According to the Department of Trade and Industry there are 4.5 million businesses in the UK of which 99.3% are small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs), employing 0-49 employees. These comprise 58.9% of the total workforce of 24.4 million and account for 51.9% of the £2,600 billion UK turnover. Bruce Hallas, a specialist in information security, said "SMEs are particularly prone to poor or even non-existent information security. As awareness of the importance of information security increases, the SMEs stand to lose competitiveness, potentially losing contracts with existing clients and suffering the financial consequences that are increasingly arising from information security incidents."

An over reliance on Information Technology (IT) has developed over recent years. According to Hallas, this is the result of confusing Information Technology with Information Security (IS). With 'insufficient' money to invest in expensive information security expertise, many SME's are investing heavily in IT in the mistaken belief that IT will ensure IS.

"Yet the largest business drivers for security investment are contractual, regulatory, market pressures from consumers, corporate clients and the public sector. Not the typical domain of IT. The biggest security vulnerability lies with people," Hallas says. "Security is about managing the risk from people, both known and unknown, interacting with your information and information systems. It is more about people management than technology."

Tyler Moore of the Computer Laboratories, University of Cambridge expanded, "Information security is now a mainstream political issue, and no longer the province of technologists alone," he said. "People used to think that the internet was not secure because there was not enough of the right technology, not enough sophisticated cryptographic mechanisms, authentication or filtering etc. so advanced encryption, public key infrastructure and firewalls were added. The internet did not get any safer," he added. "In 1999 it became clear that even the latest and greatest technology will not solve all our problems if those who protect and maintain them are not sufficiently movitated. The issue is one of incentives."

The impact of an under-incentivised workforce can have devastating consequences in business such as denial of service attacks allowing viruses to infect the IT system, hospitals putting access to data above patient privacy, bank customers suffering phishing attacks by poorly designed banking systems.

"Economics can explain many of the failures and challenges in a new way" Tyler Moore said. "As companies are beginning to realise the value of good information security practice so security measures are being used not only to manage the evils of the attackers but also to support the business models of companies."

Now that the Achilles heel of the information security problem has been identified, companies, especially banks, often fight shy of divulging information about attacks, whether they have been successfully repelled or not because the information concerned may be sensitive.

Help is at hand in the form of a new report "Security Economics and the Internal Market" which outlines police options regarding the economic problems in providing IS.

The report's first recommendation is for the EU to issue a comprehensive breach notification law to notify consumers when their details have been compromised so they can protect themselves.

Source: Economic & Social Research Council

Explore further: Mapping drone prompts China to scramble fighter jets: report

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Banks harvest callers' voiceprints to fight fraud

Oct 13, 2014

(AP)—The caller said her home had burned down and her husband had been badly hurt in the blaze. On the telephone with her bank, she pleaded for a replacement credit card at her new address.

Korean chat app vows to protect user privacy

Oct 13, 2014

(AP)—Popular South Korean messaging app Kakao Talk said Monday it will stop fully cooperating with authorities seeking to access private messages as part of a government crackdown on online criticism.

Recommended for you

Christian Bale to play Apple's Steve Jobs

5 hours ago

Oscar-winner Christian Bale—best known for his star turn as Batman in the blockbuster "Dark Knight" films—will play Apple co-founder Steve Jobs in an upcoming biopic.

How to find a submarine

9 hours ago

Das Boot, The Hunt for Red October, The Bedford Incident, We Dive At Dawn: films based on submariners' experience reflect the tense and unusual nature of undersea warfare – where it is often not how well ...

Government ups air bag warning to 7.8M vehicles (Update)

Oct 22, 2014

The U.S. government is now urging owners of nearly 8 million cars and trucks to have the air bags repaired because of potential danger to drivers and passengers. But the effort is being complicated by confusing ...

HP supercomputer at NREL garners top honor

Oct 21, 2014

A supercomputer created by Hewlett-Packard (HP) and the Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) that uses warm water to cool its servers, and then re-uses that water to heat its building, has been ...

User comments : 0