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Cyberattacks the greatest threat to nations, say global execs

John P Mello Jr | June 27, 2013
More than half of IT pros and top brass believe cybercriminals have invaded their systems in the past or are still inside them.

Business brass and IT pros around the world believe cyber attacks are a greater threat to their countries than a physical attack, a survey released Tuesday by Cyber Ark reveals.

Some 80 percent of more than 900 executives and IT pros from around the world polled for Cyber Ark's Global Advanced Threat Landscape survey felt their nations were at greater risk from cyberattacks than physical attacks.

"Businesses are realizing how important these threats are," Cyber Ark CMO John Worrall told CSO. "Their concern reflects the government's concern about the threats."

In recent months, publicity about cyberattacks connected with China, reports about the potential for cyberattacks on the nation's critical infrastructure and speeches by prominent military and government officials about cyber threats have raised the visibility of network attacks in the public eye — and apparently the corporate mind, as well.

"At a security conference in February, one security officer told me he'd been sent there by his CEO because the President had mentioned cybersecurity in the State of the Union address," Richard Stiennon, chief research analyst with IT-Harvest, said in an interview.

"That shows a growing awareness among executives," he said, "although many organizations still aren't close to understanding the magnitude of the threat."

Public reports and pronouncements may not be alone in fueling awareness in boardrooms. With cyberattacks increasing at alarming rates, awareness in many organizations is born from pain.

" DDoS attacks have increased 600 percent over the last year," former Navy Rear Admiral and head of the cyber security practice at Venable James Barnett told CSO.

The notion that many businesses have first hand knowledge of the risks of cyberattacks is reflected in the Cyber Ark study, too. It found that more than half of those participating in the survey (51 percent) believe a cyberattacker is currently residing or has resided on their systems during the past year.

What people believe and what would actually be found through forensic examination could vary. "That number sounds high to me, but it doesn't sound grossly inflated," said Sam Curry, chief technology officer for identity and data protection for EMC's security division, RSA.

Perceptions expressed in the survey could be influenced by fevered media coverage of the subject, but the risks are nonetheless real. "If you remove all the hyperbole," Curry said, "the real, imminent risk of a cyberattack is greater than a physical attack — although a physical attack poses greater risk of damage to your body."

"While a lot of damage can be done online," he continued, "I don't want to stand next to a nuclear bomb, and I'm actually OK standing next to a computer with Trojan in it."


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