Data Breach Remains Top Security Worry

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

The ever-present threat of data breaches is keeping business executives awake at night, according to a new survey from IBM

The continued threat of data breaches and safeguarding sensitive corporate information are the key factors behind the growing investment in security strategies and technologies, a new survey has found.

The survey of 115 C-level business executives in the UK was conducted by The Ponemon Institute and commissioned by IBM. Alarmingly, the report, entitled “The Business Case for Data Protection: A Study of CEOs and other C-Level Executives in the United Kingdom“, found that 77 percent of C-level executives reported that their organisation has experienced a data breach at some point, while all respondents disclosed that they have had their data attacked in the last 12 months.

Data breaches are major concern for CEOs

These figures show that data breaches continue to be the number one worry for corporate executives. This was confirmed by 76 percent of respondents feeling that reducing potential security flaws within business-critical applications is the most important aspect of their data protection programme.

There is little doubt that good data protection practices help organisations deal with issues such as compliance, reputation management and customer trust, but it seems that executives are nervous of any future threats. Only 18 percent of respondents are very confident that their organisation will not suffer a data breach within the next year. However, 81 percent did feel that investing in a security strategy can greatly reduce or mitigate the risk of data loss or theft.

“In the face of growing security threats, business leaders are finally recognising that a strong data protection strategy plays a critical role to their bottom line,” said Dr. Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder of The Ponemon Institute. “Once viewed as purely a technical issue, the responses garnered in our survey highlight a shift in how organisations are treating their investments in security software. Today, C-level executives believe the cost savings from investing in a data protection program is substantially higher than the estimated value of recovering from a breach.”

Indeed, the investment to safeguard corporate data does seem to impact on an organisation’s bottom line, after the survey found that the average cost savings or revenue improvements resulting from data protection initiatives totalled £11 million for those organisations.

“We are witnessing C-level executives implement security strategies at a much higher rate than ever before,” said Dr. Daniel Sabbah, general manager, IBM Rational. “The results from this Ponemon Institute study underscore the increased understanding among business leaders around the importance of addressing security defects at the earliest stages possible, before they become too costly to fix and cause irreversible harm and damage to the business.”

The study estimated that the average data breach cost, per compromised record, is £112, while CEOs estimated it to be £143 per compromised record. Meanwhile 34 percent of respondents perceive that the frequency of security attacks happens on an hourly basis.