Vast majority of federal IT professionals feel their agencies are at risk

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Ninety percent of IT professionals in the federal government feel their organizations are vulnerable to a cyber security attack, according to a recent report by Vormetric.

The numbers are disconcertingly high considering they come from professionals tasked with protecting the confidential information of millions of Americans as well as the classified information from certain federal programs and policies.

Despite those high numbers, nearly 60 percent of responding government IT professionals believe their network defenses are “very” effective at safeguarding data, a number the report notes is notably more optimistic than their private-sector counter parts; the U.S. average is 53 percent. Such optimism would appear to be at odds with respondents’ vulnerability fears, yet one possible explanation is the perception that compliance equals good policy. Among respondents in the U.S. Government IT community, 57 percent feel meeting compliance requirements is a “very” or “extremely” effective way to protect sensitive data.

In addition to threat perception, the report also measured the rates of data breach failures, the professionals’ data security stances and IT security spending plans. Nearly two thirds of respondents – 61 percent – recorded experiencing a data breach, with one third of those coming in the last year.

As for combating rising risks, a perception of complexity was identified as the number one data security barrier with more than half of all respondents listing it as an issue, while skill shortages and budgetary constraints were also among the top reasons given for inadequate data security, a sentiment echoed by others in the field and previously documented on this site.

Though organizational needs are not yet reflected in the size of most IT departments, this does appear to be slowly changing, as 58 percent of responses report recent increased spending in their agencies. When asked what they believe that increased spending should target, respondents most common answer was network defenses at 53 percent, followed by analysis and correlation tools at 46 percent.

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