Survey reveals CIOs' top security concerns

Federal chief information officers are concerned that hackers will gain control of federal computers and damage Web sites or hurt the systems of other agencies, according to a new survey.

The survey, conducted by the System Administration, Networking, and Security (SANS) Institute of Bethesda, Md., queried 15 CIOs, 11 chief information security officers and 30 network security administrators.

"They were much more focused on operational issues," said Alan Paller, director of research for the SANS Institute. "They were clearly focused on hackers stopping operations or changing Web sites such that they would be misleading to the public."

The respondents outlined the top barriers to implementing effective security programs as:

  • Lack of security training in technology personnel.
  • Lack of consensus on what the most important security threats or priorities are.
  • Resistance to security initiatives by program officials.

"These things happen all the time," Paller said. "Every one is a real event."

When presented with seven threats and given a hypothetical $100,000 to deal with the problems, those surveyed picked three top threats accounting "for 64 percent of the perceived risk."

Twenty-five percent of respondents were concerned with having their systems used to attack computers at other agencies. Twenty-four percent worried about having their systems damaged with the prospects of it taking weeks for the systems to be repaired and brought back online. Fifteen percent feared data on the agency Web site would be changed in order to mislead the public.

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