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Regulatory compliance takes the lead as the most important driver of information security, surpassing worms and viruses

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Regulatory compliance takes the lead as the most important driver of information security, surpassing worms and viruses

Yet organizations are missing the rare investment opportunities that compliance offers to promote information security as an integral part of their business says Ernst & Young's 8th annual Global Information Security Survey

London and New York – 2 November 2005 – Compliance with regulations has taken the lead as the primary driver of information security, for the first time surpassing worms and viruses, according to a survey released today by leading professional services provider Ernst & Young.

The sheer number of regulations and the consequences of not complying with them has escalated information security to the boardroom. Nearly two-thirds of survey respondents – representing 1,300 global companies, government and non-profit agencies in 55 nations – cited compliance with regulations such as Sarbanes-Oxley, the EU's 8th Directive or their equivalent as the primary driver of information security.

However, organizations are missing the rare investment opportunities that compliance offers to promote information security as an integral part of their business. "Compliance is proving to be more of a distraction than a catalyst for information security becoming strategically aligned within organizations," Edwin Bennett, Global Director of Ernst & Young's Technology and Security Risk Services, said. "One might assume that with the attention information security is receiving due to regulatory compliance, organizations' information security postures are improving and information security as a function is becoming more integral to their strategic initiatives. Unfortunately, this is not happening on a consistent basis. The gap continues to widen between the growing risks brought on by rapid changes in the global business environment and what information security is doing to address those risks. This pattern is consistent across organizations, regardless of size or location."

Business demands pushing the adoption of emerging technologies

The Ernst & Young survey found that business demands and the declining cost of wireless connectivity are driving the rapid widespread adoption of mobile technology. But with these devices leaving the safety of the corporate control environment, the information assets and intellectual property they carry are increasingly becoming the responsibility of individuals to protect—a responsibility that many organizations have not yet fully accepted nor anticipated. "Less than half of organizations make provision for general users of information to be trained or made aware of the impact of information security issues with these technologies, and fewer still receive training on responding to security incidents," Bennett noted.

Other rapidly developing technologies such as voice-over IP telephony, open source, and server virtualization, which hold the potential of increasing organizations' competitive advantage are reported to be a significant security concern among fewer than 20% of organizations, despite the serious threats they bring with them. Organizations consider emerging technologies in general to be a growing security concern in the next 12 months. However, over a quarter of them have no plans to take action to address the concern during that time period or beyond.

Third party risk remains an issue

Outsourcing remains an information security threat as many organizations are still not paying adequate attention to vendor risk management—the process of assessing and mitigating risks, including due diligence and regular reviews of practices and procedures supporting vendors' products and services. The survey reveals that one-fifth of respondents do not address the issue of vendor risk management at all, and one-third report they have only informal procedures in place to do so.

"It is no longer enough for organizations to consider just their own information security issues and threats," Bennett said. "As the world becomes increasingly smaller, and with more and more information flowing between companies, all organizations need to consider the security of their business partners, outsourcing arrangements, suppliers and customers. Otherwise, the value created by these arrangements can quickly diminish or disappear due to perceived or real security, privacy, or identity breaches. Organizations should also consider demonstrating their own commitment to good information security by applying recognized standards or becoming certified, "

Organizational alignment and execution

Although awareness about information security has risen as a critical issue among boards and executive management, they continue to focus information security activities on operational and tactical issues at the expense of addressing strategic concerns.

"With proper organizational alignment and execution, information security can make significant contributions to the organization's strategic initiatives and overall risk management," Bennett noted. "Organizations which employ information security in this way continuously involve business, IT, and information security leaders in identifying specific areas where information security can contribute to strategic initiatives, such as mergers and acquisitions and outsourcing of business operations. They apply recognized information security standards, leading practices and the appropriate resources."

VeriSign's Gabriel Swift Responds

See the 2006 Survey

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