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World's computer systems vulnerable to cyberattack

Study: 'Critical infrastructure not secure enough'

Good news for the ailing financial services industry: it's the only part of the world's critical infrastructure with a secure computer system. According to a survey, the computer systems that run the world's critical infrastructure are not nearly as secure as they ought to be. And this is upsetting those who work in the industry.

The survey, released yesterday, asked management, network engineers and administrators in nine infrastructure industries about the state of cyber security in the US, Canada, and Europe.

The critical infrastructure cyberattack survey can be found here (registration required).

Insiders felt that all of these industries, save financial services, were unprepared for cyberattacks. These unready industries included: water, utilities, oil and gas, telecommunications, transportation, emergency services, chemical and the shipping industry.

And that's bad news, because more than half of them said that their companies had already been hit with some sort of cyber incident, data leak, or insider attack. Another 14 percent said they were expecting something like this to happen in the next year. "None of them thought that they were very prepared for either insider threats or data leakage," said Elan Winkler, director of critical infrastructure solutions with Secure Computing.

About 90 percent of the survey's 199 respondents were directly employed in infrastructure industry with the other 10 percent listed some other occupation such as academic or consultant. Winkler's company paid for the study, which was produced by IDC's Energy Insights. (IDC is owned by PC Advisor's parent company, International Data Group.)

Although there have been scattered reports of computer compromises affecting critical infrastructure, most companies keep this kind of information secret because it is considered to be potentially embarrassing.

That's not the case in the IT security industry, which often prides itself on the open disclosure of information, and there is often a culture clash between IT security folks who push to make security information public, and more conservative utility security workers, who worry that this kind of knowledge could be misused.

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The critical infrastructure cyberattack survey can be found here (registration required).


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