Half all small firms will be hacked by 2003

One in two small companies will get hacked by 2003, says a Gartner study

Fifty percent of all small and medium-sized businesses face an inevitable security breach by 2003, according to a survey released by analyst GartnerGroup this week.

Gartner says smaller companies particularly lack the security expertise necessary to fend off computer attackers. Its research suggests that, without taking immediate steps to remedy the situation, 50 percent of these businesses will be the victim of a successful hack or a damaging virus outbreak in the next couple of years. It suggests that as much as sixty percent of companies may not realise that their defences have been breached until serious damage has been done.

The research paints a gloomy image for small to medium enterprises and a lawless picture of computer trends. A growing amount of evidence suggests that potentially damaging computer attacks have become an inevitable hazard for modern businesses. This is reflected in the fact that a number of corporate insurance policies now include malicious hacking as a potential cause of damage.

"With small and midsize enterprises doing more business on the Internet, their networks are exposed to security breaches," comments Gartner research director James Browning in a release. "Defensive action is required to protect the enterprise from unauthorised and malicious users."

As well as employing all the usual antihacking technologies, such as firewall and antivirus software, Gartner recommends that small companies have a professional security firm carry out an audit of potential security risks at least once a year. Particularly precarious companies such as financial institutions should, however, carry out a more comprehensive security reviews, Gartner recommends.

A particularly weak link for small firms is remote access, says the Gartner study. It recommends that all firms use encrypted virtual private networks (VPNs) to ensure that connections from other locations are secure.

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