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Survey: Hacks Decline, Worries Don't

For the fourth year in a row, losses due to network compromises and hacker attacks fell, according to the annual CSI/FBI Computer Crime and Security Survey. But analysts say the steady decline isn't cause for celebration. While the dip may partly be due to improved security and greater diligence against attacks, organizations are increasingly unwilling to report compromises or security incidents for fear that could affect their business.

As Gartner vice president Rich Mogull warns, these survey findings should be viewed with "extreme skepticism."

The CSI/FBI survey found that two-thirds of all attacks are external, mostly financial fraud (spam and phishing) and unauthorized access to information (hackers breaching security and malware infections that transmit data outside a company).

What's especially worrisome is that hackers are co-opting automated penetration testing tools to find previously undiscovered vulnerabilities, according to a report issued by Secure Computing. Tools such as Core Security Technologies' Impact and the open-source Metasploit Project use a process called "fuzzing" to brute-force applications to quickly find vulnerabilities. Take the Metasploit Project, which was able to announce a new Microsoft Internet Explorer vulnerability daily in July.

External threats are keeping security managers awake at night, but that may be changing. Security vendor Utimaco Software's survey of 400 IT security experts found that 61 percent say guarding against internal security threats is a growing concern. Chief on their priorities lists: 77 percent say "securing mobile end devices and central IT security administration are the major challenges in protecting company data."

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