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Survey: IT Struggling Over Security, Compliance Issues

IT pros are having a hard time balancing security, software patch management and IT auditing with a host of other duties, says a Shavlik Technologies survey.

IT pros are having a hard time balancing security, software patch management and IT auditing with a host of other duties, according to a survey released Monday by Shavlik Technologies.

The St. Paul, Minn.-based security consultancy gathered its findings from attendees at the recent RSA Conference and Infosecurity Europe events, both in April.

In summary, the group found that the No. 1 difficulty among IT pros was finding an all-encompassing approach to tackle vulnerabilities, protect data and meet compliance objectives -- all while doing that pesky thing: their actual jobs.

"[What we've found is] despite efforts to apply various technologies, companies continue to struggle with efforts to manage and close vulnerability gaps, while concerns over regulatory compliance are driving them to look for more ways to simplify through automation," wrote Mark Shavlik, founder and chief executive of Shavlik, in an e-mail to Redmondmag.com on Monday.

Mark Shavlik added that generally speaking, "organizations struggle to manage their security and compliance needs which leaves them open to attack or the discovery of a weak link by an auditor."

The company said that its survey of 491 IT pros -- which comprised attendees of both the San Francisco and London meetings -- identified the following as the top three priorities:

  • Data protection, integrity and information leakage prevention garnered the vote of 53.2 percent of respondents.

  • "Internal network security" considerations were the second-most visible priority, with 51.8 percent of respondents.

  • In third place were internal IT policy and procedure alignments and regulatory concerns -- the bane of many systems or security administrators' existence -- such as Sarbanes-Oxley, HIPAA, PCI DSS and others. This clocked in at 43.8 percent.

Rounding out the other issues deemed "significant" were patch management, something IT pros in the Windows enterprise space will have to deal with on Tuesday, and the fortitude of programs and applications housed on virtual machines.

Chris Fox, an IT audit expert with the consulting firm eDelta who is currently working on a project that maps the COSO internal control frameworks to various IT enterprise risk scenarios, said such concerns should be measured by the size of one's business and the complexity of a given processing environment. He said material risks are easier to identify at smaller businesses than at large ones because larger companies typically have intricate networks of systems, processes, control environments and organizational charts of process owners and management.

"In some IT shops, you've got one person manning a computer, and that person is maybe a sales person in his spare time," Fox said. "The same goes for a programmer who is also a developer, who is also a systems administrator. If that's the case, it shouldn't be a headache for you if you can demonstrate ways to mitigate clear risks."

About the Author

Jabulani Leffall is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in the Financial Times of London, Investor's Business Daily, The Economist and CFO Magazine, among others.

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