Security tech fails without awareness

Human error is the biggest threat to IT security, and businesses are still failing to spread awareness of policies to their staff.

This was according to chairman and founder of the Security Awareness Special Interest Group (SASIG) Martin Smith, who was speaking at a keynote at the Gartner IT security summit in London.

Smith was talking about the "hundreds" of data breaches which had occurred and been headline news in recent memory, ever since the Nationwide laptop loss and the high-profile incident when HMRC data was lost on CDs.

He said that many of the incidents were due to human error and that many of them could not have been stopped by technology because as he put it: "the people screwed you in the end." This meant that although IT spending was continually increasing, the situation was getting worse.

Smith claimed many employees were unlikely to have read the staff handbook outlining policies, or even kept their contract or letter of employment, despite information given to new employees being recognised as one of the best ways of raising awareness.

"Awareness is the oil that makes the engine work, and you do not have that oil," Smith said. "You have all this fantastic machinery but none of it really works because there is no oil in the engine."

He said that it was also crucial for businesses to have the input of senior management. "If you do not have that support it is just like pushing porridge uphill," he said. "You are really just wasting your time."

"Senior management aren't very bright, right at the top, at board level. What's more they have very, very short attention spans and not interested in what we [security] do at board level."

Smith said it was necessary for security professionals to grab boardroom attention by pushing the case that businesses with good security would also be the best performing.