Survey finds gap between perceived and actual IT security

A survey released Monday to mark cyber-security awareness month in October shows that consumers are aware of security risks online, but there is a big gap in what they have done versus what they think they have done to protect themselves.

A McAfee survey found that 93 percent of people surveyed believe they have virus protection on their computers, but 48 percent have expired anti-virus programs. Another 61 percent think they have protection against unsolicited commercial e-mails, and computer checks showed that 21 percent did. Just 12 percent had software to combat "phishing" scams that use phony e-mails and Web sites, even though 27 percent thought they did.

"What we learned from the study is we've done a good job increasing awareness," said Bari Abdul, the vice president of consumer marketing for McAfee. But he said consumers need to better understand their real levels of protection and the threats their computers face.

Panelists at a national security awareness summit on Monday said the issue is important because weak security -- whether it's a person, business or government agency -- can affect everyone. Greg Garcia, the cyber security "czar" for the Homeland Security Department, said each person must take "reasonable precautions" to protect their corner of cyberspace.

A survey of business leaders released by the Business Roundtable showed that the private sector, which controls 80 percent of the nation's critical infrastructure, is not fully prepared for cyber threats, either. Tom Lehner, a security policy director at the group, said businesses are not fully aware of their dependence on the Internet, and they could use better real-time information on threats and analysis on trends that could grow into bigger threats.

The U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team had 37,000 reports of security incidents last year, compared with 24,000 the year before. Michael Witt, the deputy director of CERT, said 1 million users are now receiving CERT alerts as they are released. He also warned executives that their corporations are "highly likely" to be involved in some type of incident.

Witt said one problem is how little some businesses spend on security. He also said in some cases equipment is so old that data patches are not available for security fixes.

Garcia said the jump in security incidents for CERT shows an increase in both attacks and reporting, and the numbers will not grow smaller. He added that better cyber security is "something we can't afford not to do."

"It's vital to national security, public safety and economic prosperity," Garcia said.

Richard Pethia, the director of CERT's software engineering institute at Carnegie Mellon University, said CERT offers 400,000 hours in online security training in bite-sized packages. He said cyber crime is growing because the Internet has boosted productivity for the bad guys, too. "It makes them more efficient," Pethia said.

He said another big problem is that the Justice Department does not have enough online forensic investigators to bring charges against cyber criminals. "A lot of cases are being thrown out of court because the government can't do the investigation fast enough," Pethia said.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    Download
  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

    Download
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    Download
  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

    Download
  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

    Download
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    Download
  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.