CISOs at financial firms worry about insider threats: survey

Deloitte survey shows that only 36% of the respondents expressed confidence that their organizations are prepared to prevent or block cyber-attacks from internal threats.

A survey of 250 chief information security officers involved in the financial-services world shows that while they have increasing responsibility for IT strategy and planning, they harbour growing concerns about internal security and management support amid the sharp economic downturn.

The Deloitte survey "Protecting What Matters: The Sixth Annual Global Security Survey" released Wednesday shows that only 36% of the respondents, who collectively hail from North America, Asia, Europe and Latin America, expressed confidence that their organizations are prepared to prevent or block cyber-attacks from internal threats. In contrast, 66% were confident they could block external attacks.

"There is increased concern about internal breaches," says Mark Steinhoff, principal in the security practice at consulting firm Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu. "There are concerns about disgruntled employees, social networking and mobile networking, proliferation of the types of devices that present a challenge."

The survey polled 250 CISOs from 32 countries working at 100 of the largest global financial institutions, 100 of the top banks and 50 of the major insurance companies last year.

In a question about the "level of concern regarding internal/external people's misconduct involving information systems," 36% had a greater level of concern regarding internal, vs. 13% for external people, with the balance of respondents citing equal concern for both.

In some respects, North American CISOs appeared to have the bleakest outlook about what is happening with their jobs and their companies.

While most CISOs worldwide said they believe they have support from corporate executive management, only 63% in North America felt that way, down from 84% in 2007.

"This finding is discouraging -- and is, in fact, the lowest across all regions -- because when the C-suite is no longer engaged, other areas suffer, for example, budget, visibility," the Deloitte report states, noting the survey question was asked even before the economic turmoil had peaked in late 2008.

North America was also the lowest region, at 28%, in terms of the perception among CISOs that "security and business initiatives were aligned."

North America also had the second-highest reporting at 51% about external security breaches last year, although that was down from 87% in 2007. Internal breaches, as reported by North American CISOs were said to have fallen from 27% in 2008 from 44% in 2007.

While security budgets worldwide, according to the survey, largely held steady or even increased last year, there were also widespread doubts among these CISOs that they had "the required competencies to handle existing and foreseeable security requirements."

And "budget constraints" and the "increasing sophistication of threats" were the top problems cited as "major barriers to information security."

As in previous years, "human error" was cited in 2008 as the "root cause of information systems failure," with 86% calling this the greatest weakness.

As far as adopting newer technologies, security log and event management systems were cited the most as in pilot mode and most likely to be deployed in the next 12 months. The main purpose is to help organizations "to convert security data into management reports to meet the demands of regulatory compliance," the Deloitte survey report notes.

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