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Friday, January 20, 2006

FBI releases 2005 Computer Crime Survey

The FBI has released its 2005 Computer Crime Survey, with nearly two thirds of respondents claiming security breaches had hit them where it hurt: the wallet. Losses averaged $24,000 for those targeted.

That figure may not be much if you're a Walmart or a General Motors, but of the 2,066 businesses surveyed, nearly three quarters (72 per cent) employed fewer than 100 staff and 45.8 per cent claimed sub $5m annual revenues.

That $24,000 a year suddenly means a lot more to them, especially when on the face of it, they have already deployed standard fayre security measures, such as antivirus (98.2 per cent) and firewalls (90.7 per cent). Yet this still means roughly one in ten is running without firewall protection.

Security deployments appear to be in waves. Beyond antivirus and firewalls, roughly three-quarters also used antispyware and antispam solutions, then around half said they had VPNs, access control lists, physical security and desktop management. Encryption, IDS and content filtering had been adopted by a quarter, while smartcard and biometric solutions counted for around one in 20.

Yet the threats continue to proliferate, with 87 per cent repondents suffering some kind of attack. In all the respondents tallied more than 5,000 incidents between them.

Four in five professed to have had to deal with incidents originating from viruses and spyware. Data or network sabotage was also high, at 22.7 per cent, and network instrusion at 14.2 per cent. This is worrying as only 23 per cent had actually deployed intrusion detection systems which would strengthen defences against these attacks.

It might appear that businesses these days are pinned down by external digital assaults, but in fact 44.4 per cent cited unauthorised access incidents originating from within the company.

Respondants said the vast majority of threats appear to come from the US and China - 26.1 and 23.9 per cent respectively said they had experienced intrusion attempts from these countries. Around one in 20 said they had been aware of such attempts from Nigeria, South Korea, Germany, Russia and Romania. Perhaps the anomaly here is the appearance of the Pitcairn Islands, with 12 or so respondents having been attacked from there.

Of course determining the original IP address of attacks is no easy task - attacks might be proxied through any geographical location. But China's strong presence here masks a troubling problem for the FBI. 'Difficulty tracking IP addresses and prosecution in China combined with other economic, military and political concerns make this an unusually troubling statistic' the report reads. 'especially when considering the potential impact of industrial espionage and state sponsored cyber warfare efforts.'

But the overall picture painted by the report is that businesses are only reporting what they are able to detect and that they are falling victim to a great deal more criminal activity than they are aware of.

Dr Eugene Spafford, Computer Security Professor at Purdue University and advisor to Presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush said: 'So long as we continue to apply patches and spot defenses to existing problems, the overall situation will continue to deteriorate. Without a significant increase in focus and funding for both long-term cyber security research and more effective law enforcement we can only expect more incidents and greater losses, year after year.'

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