Security Experts:

Survey Says: Mobile Devices 'Biggest Risk' in 2014

Security professionals tasked with managing enterprise networks are most worried about the risks posed by mobile devices, according to a new survey by the Ponemon Institute.

After polling 676 security practitioners with involvement in endpoint security, Ponemon found that 75% of the respondents identified mobile devices such as smart phones as "the greatest risk of potential IT security risk within the IT environment." 

The study, commissioned by Lumension, confirmed that managing risk at the endpoint layer is "more difficult than ever" with 71% of the security professionals saying the security threats created by vulnerabilities to the endpoint have become more difficult to stop or mitigate. 

According to the survey, 68 percent say their mobile devices have been targeted by malware in the last 12 months, yet 46 percent of respondents say they do not manage employee-owned mobile devices.

Mobile Security Another big headache heading into 2014 is the issue of APTs (advanced persistent threats) or targeted attacks using customized malware. The Ponemon study found that 39% of those surveyed report APTs as one of their most concerning risks, up 55 percent from 2009. 

While 40% report they were a victim of a targeted attack in the last year, another 25% say they aren't sure if they have been, revealing many organizations don't have security mechanisms in place to detect such an attack. 

The respondents also report the volume of malware continues to be an escalating problem. More than 40% said they experienced more than 50 malware attacks a month, up 15 percent from those that reported that amount three years ago.  

Although there is a recognition that malware attacking the endpoint should be a top priority, the security pros report that budgets are still lagging behind. In the past 24 months, the Ponemon study found that only 29% reporting that spending has either significantly increased or increased for endpoint security during that time. 

"Malware incidents are straining IT security budgets," it said. About 50% of respondents say their organization's IT operating expenses are increasing and this is an increase from 46 percent of respondents in 2012.  Almost 70% said malware incidents contributed a very significant or significant increase in these expenses, up slightly from 64 percent in 2012.

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Ryan Naraine is Editor-at-Large at SecurityWeek and host of the popular Security Conversations podcast series. Ryan is a veteran cybersecurity strategist who has built security engagement programs at major global brands, including Intel Corp., Bishop Fox and GReAT. He is a co-founder of Threatpost and the global SAS conference series. Ryan's past career as a security journalist included bylines at major technology publications including Ziff Davis eWEEK, CBS Interactive's ZDNet, PCMag and PC World. Ryan is a director of the Security Tinkerers non-profit, an advisor to early-stage entrepreneurs, and a regular speaker at security conferences around the world. Follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanaraine.