Majority of Businesses Failing to Apply IT Security Practices: Survey

By Nathan Eddy  |  Print this article Print

The study revealed many organizations are critically unaware of what security practices are currently in place.

A new study on IT security best practices revealed an epidemic of security worst practices, with a majority of organizations failing to adhere to simple data-protection standards. The research revealed that many organizations are critically unaware of what security practices are currently in place.

Venafi, a specialist in enterprise key and certificate management solutions, in conjunction with Echelon One, an IT security research company specializing in security programs and guidance, today released the 2011 IT Security Best Practices Assessment. Echelon One led the effort to establish a set of 12 best practices and worked closely with Venafi to evaluate how well 420 enterprises and government agencies implemented them.

The assessment evaluated where organizations rank in the implementation of 12 IT security and compliance best practices, ranging from how organizations leverage and manage encryption to how often they conduct security awareness and training programs. The top five best practices, their high failure rates, and recommendations for mitigation include performing quarterly security and compliance training, which had a failure rate of 77 percent, and encrypting all cloud data and cloud transactions, which had a failure rate of 64 percent.

The third best practice suggestion was to use encryption throughout the organization, which had a failure rate of 10 percent, followed by having management processes in place to ensure business continuity in the event of a CA (certificate authority) compromise, which had a failure rate of 55 percent, and rotating SSH (Secure Shell) keys every 12 months to mitigate the risk incurred by average two-year employee-turnover rates of service. That best practice had a failure rate of 82 percent.

"The assessment findings were startling. We suspected we would find that many organizations were challenged, but we had no idea that failure rates would run this high," said Bob West, founder and CEO of Echelon One. "The good news is that with this information and free self assessment, organizations can see where they rank in comparison to peers, and determine where weaknesses exist. They can identify steps to significantly reduce security and compliance risks by leveraging automated processes with multilayered data security strategies, including managed encryption."

The assessment further revealed that almost 100 percent of evaluated organizations had some degree of security, compliance or operational risk.

When asked if their organizations encrypted data stored in leading public clouds such as Google Apps, Salesforce.com and Dropbox, 40 percent said they did not know. When asked how often critical encryption assets such as SSH keys were rotated, 41 percent responded that they did not know, and when asked if their organizations were using encryption keys and certificates for data security and system authentication, 10 percent said they were not.

"The biggest security struggle organizations face today is managing the unknown—a.k.a. the unquantified and unmanaged risks. Your best security assets can easily turn into liabilities if not managed properly," said Jeff Hudson, CEO of Venafi. "If this assessment demonstrates anything, it's that IT and security departments have got to gain greater visibility over all of their security and compliance activities, and take steps to better understand and manage them."