Survey signals Irish SME security weaknesses

11 Mar 2004

Many Irish small and medium companies have weak data security practices, a new Enterprise Ireland Study has revealed.

Enterprise Ireland commissioned the Galway-based consultancy BSM to research the IT and eBusiness status of small to medium sized Irish companies. The research was based on day-long visits to 96 Irish companies rather than survey responses. It involved discussions between experienced, professional consultants and the senior management of all of the businesses.

The eBIT study has identified “significant” weaknesses around IT management, particularly in relation to security and data back up. Almost half of the companies visited (47pc) were classified as being at serious risk due to IT weaknesses. Most of these businesses lacked a formal policy for protecting against viruses, for example.

In a quarter of these companies the risk arose from having totally inadequate virus protection or data backup procedures in place, or worse still, none at all. In more than 75pc of the companies IT strategy and IT vendor selection skills were classified as poor or very poor. Technical skills were also generally weak, although user skills were rated as average to excellent in the majority of companies.

The research showed a number of trends all pointing to greater risk of data loss, unauthorised access or system failure, highlighting the increasing need for tighter security. For example, many firms are now increasingly reliant on email and more people are carrying valuable data in laptops or handheld devices. Employees, customers, suppliers, contractors, and business partners are routinely allowed access to critical business data and the systems that process and store it.

The consultants were also concerned about the level of bespoke software in SMEs – that is, written and tailored specifically for the client’s purpose. In just over a quarter of companies, 30pc of their business processes were running on this kind of software, which was considered too high a figure and not a good long term strategy.

Enterprise Ireland is using the results of the study to help clients and other Irish companies make optimum use of IT and eBusiness, to become more competitive. Its e-business website contains more details on the latest research and provides a complete e-security guide as well as sample policies for security and privacy policies.

By Gordon Smith