Most IT and security professionals see Anonymous as serious threat to their companies

Bit9 survey shows that many IT professionals believe hacktivists are likely to target their organizations

The majority of IT and security professionals believe that Anonymous and hacktivists are among the groups that are most likely to attack their organizations during the next six months, according to the results of a survey sponsored by security vendor Bit9.

Sixty-four percent of the nearly 2,000 IT professionals who participated in Bit9's 2012 Cyber Security Survey believe that their companies will suffer a cyberattack during the next six months and sixty-one percent of them chose hacktivists as the likely attackers.

Respondents had the option to select up to three groups of attackers who they believe are most likely to target their organizations. The choices were Anonymous/hacktivists, cybercriminals, nation states, corporate competitors and disgruntled employees.

Anonymous was chosen by the largest number of IT professionals overall, but there were some differences based on the type of organization. For example, nation states was the top choice for people working in the government sector, while those working in retail selected cybercriminals as the top threat.

According to Verizon's 2012 Data Breach Investigations Report, hacktivists stole the largest quantity of data in 2011, but they were responsible for only 3 percent of the total number of breaches.

Respondents choosing hacktivists as a more likely source of cyberattacks than cybercriminals is similar to how most people fear flying more than driving, even though, statistically speaking, it's far more likely for someone to be involved in a car accident than in a plane crash, said Bit9 chief technology officer Harry Sverdlove.

The truth is that you are less likely to be attacked by Anonymous or hacktivists -- depending on what public statements you make -- than to be attacked by a cybercriminal enterprise or a nation state, he said.

Despite considering Anonymous the top threat, when selecting the method of attack they are most worried about, 45 percent of respondents chose malware, which is generally associated with cybercrime rather than hacktivism.

Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) and SQL injection, two attack types most commonly favored by hacktivists, worried only 11 percent and 6 percent of respondents, respectively.

Sverdlove believes that the reason why most IT professionals fear attacks from Anonymous is the bad publicity such attacks generate. If you're attacked by Anonymous the world is going to know because the announcement will be on Pastebin in 24 hours, whereas if you're attacked by cybercriminals, people might never find out, he said.

Despite this, almost 95 percent of respondents feel that data breaches should be disclosed to customers and the public. Forty-eight percent believe that companies should disclose the breach occurrence as well as what was stolen, while an additional 29 percent believe that companies should also disclose how the breach occurred.

Over half of those surveyed, 54 percent, believe that the most important machines in their business environment are the infrastructure servers. Forty-eight percent selected file and database servers, 46 percent selected Web and application servers and 45 percent chose email servers. Multiple choices were allowed.

When asked on which business machines they believe their cybersecurity protections to be most effective, the surveyed IT professionals chose them in a similar order. Forty percent believe their cybersecurity is strongest on infrastructure servers and only 26 percent believe it's strongest on endpoint machines.

Sverdlove thinks that respondents over-evaluated the strength of cybersecurity on their Web and database servers. As validated by a recent report from Hewlett-Packard, a lot of companies are far more vulnerable on their servers than IT professionals realize, he said.

HP's 2011 Top Cyber Security Risks Report, which was published on Wednesday, said that 86 percent of Web applications used by businesses are vulnerable to some type of injection attack that can be exploited by hackers to access internal databases.

More than half of IT professionals who participated in Bit9's survey believe that implementing best security practices and better security policies can have the biggest impact on the strength of an organization's cybersecurity. Only 15 percent of respondents felt that better technology will have a better impact and only 6 percent favored government regulation over other actions.

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