90 percent of companies say they've been hacked

Are breaches becoming a statistical certainty for companies? A new survey suggests enterprises are losing the battle to keep malicious intruders out

If it sometimes appears that just about every company is getting hacked these days, that's because they are.

In a recent survey (download PDF) of 583 U.S companies conducted by Ponemon Research on behalf of Juniper Networks, 90 percent of the respondents said their organizations' computers had been breached at least once by hackers over the past 12 months.

[ Learn how to greatly reduce the threat of malicious attacks with InfoWorld's Insider Threat Deep Dive PDF special report. ]

Nearly 60 percent reported two or more breaches over the past year. More than 50 percent said they had little confidence of being able to stave off further attacks over the next 12 months.

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Those numbers are significantly higher than findings in similar surveys, and they suggest that a growing number of enterprises are losing the battle to keep malicious intruders out of their networks.

"We expected a majority to say they had experienced a breach," said Johnnie Konstantas, director of product marketing at Juniper, a Sunnyvale, Calif.-based networking company. "But to have 90 percent saying they had experienced at least one breach, and more than 50 percent saying they had experienced two or more, is mind-blowing." Those findings suggest "that a breach has become almost a statistical certainty" these days, she said.

The organizations that participated in the Ponemon survey represented a wide cross-section of both the private and public sectors, ranging from small organizations with less than 500 employees to enterprises with workforces of more than 75,000. The online survey was conducted over a five-day period earlier this month.

Roughly half of the respondents blamed resource constraints for their security woes, while about the same number cited network complexity as the primary challenge to implementing security controls.

The Ponemon survey comes at a time of growing concern about the ability of companies to fend off sophisticated cyberattacks. Over the past several months, hackers have broken into numerous supposedly secure organizations, such as security vendor RSA, Lockheed Martin, Oak Ridge National Laboratories, and the International Monetary Fund.

Many of the attacks have involved the use of sophisticated malware and social engineering techniques designed to evade easy detection by conventional security tools.

The attacks have highlighted what analysts say is a growing need for enterprises to implement controls for the quick detection and containment of security breaches. Instead of focusing only on protecting against attacks, companies need to prepare for what comes after a targeted breach.

The survey results suggest that some organizations have begun moving in that direction. About 32 percent of the respondents said their primary security focus was on preventing attacks, but about 16 percent claimed the primary focus of their security efforts was on quick detection of and response to security incidents. About one out of four respondents said their focus was on aligning security controls with industry best practices.

Jaikumar Vijayan covers data security and privacy issues, financial services security and e-voting for Computerworld. Follow Jaikumar on Twitter at @jaivijayan, or subscribe to Jaikumar's RSS feed. His email address is jvijayan@computerworld.com.

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This story, "90 percent of companies say they've been hacked" was originally published by Computerworld.

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