- The Washington Times - Monday, January 28, 2002

Threats to corporate information technology systems are growing fast, according to a new report to be published today by a local Internet security firm.
In a survey of 300 companies, Alexandria technology firm Riptech Inc. concluded that the average number of cyber-attacks against businesses increased 79 percent from last July to December. Companies faced an average of 20 attacks per week in July, but by December it increased to 35 a week.
In the last six months of the year, Riptech clients suffered 128,678 cyber attacks.
The frequency of attacks has increased so much that a company is bound to face a cyber-attack once it connects its computer system to the Internet, according to the report.
"The hacking community is getting larger, they have more tools and the tools they have are more widely available," Riptech Chief Technology Officer Tim Belcher says.
It is the first report by the Internet security firm that attempts to quantify the rate of cyber attacks against businesses.
Mr. Belcher says he expects worms, which are like computer viruses but are potentially more insidious because they require no human interaction to spread, to become a more common hacker tool in future attacks. Two worm attacks last year, Code Red and Nimbda, were responsible for 63 percent of all attacks against Riptech's customers, according to the company's report.
Data gathered by Riptech also led the company to conclude that 39 percent of all attacks against corporate computer systems are deliberate, not random acts.
Companies that use technology and connect their systems to the Internet historically have spent little money to protect those systems, but they are expected to increase spending on information-security services.
Colleen Graham, a technology industry analyst at Gartner Group/Dataquest in San Jose, Calif., says corporate spending to protect computers continues to increase each year.
In 2001, about 3.3 percent of a company's information technology budget was spent on computer security. That will increase to an estimated 4.1 percent this year.
"That might be a conservative estimate now," Miss Graham says.
That is because the estimate was made before the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Arlington. Internet security companies have reported that inquiries from potential customers for cyber-protection following the September 11 attacks did increase.
"There is an increased focus on security since then," she says.
But spending more on security isn't the only way companies with computer systems connected to the Internet can guard against cyber-attacks.
Richard Clarke, the president's cyber-security adviser, last month urged companies making software patches, which shore up a weakness in software programs, to do more to help consumers. He said 90 percent of computer virus attacks could be prevented if software companies worked harder to make patches more widely available.
Viruses are computer programs designed to copy themselves and move to other computers, often through e-mail programs, and destroy data.
Most software companies that make patches simply place them on their Web sites.
In its new report, Riptech also concludes that 30 percent of all cyber-attacks originate in the United States. About 9 percent of attacks originate from South Korea and Chinese hackers are responsible for 8 percent of attacks.

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