The joint survey by the Business Software Alliance (BSA) and the Information Systems Security Association (ISSA) queried 850 ISSA members online between December 2004 and January 2005. The members represent large to small businesses.
Seventy-six percent of the companies said raising security as a priority gives them a competitive advantage. Their systems are down less often, they're not losing customers due to lack of trust, and their brand is not threatened, said Robert Holleyman, BSA president and CEO.
The survey also showed that in the last 12 months, more companies have raised security to the senior management level - 44 percent in 2004 versus 39 percent in the previous 2003 survey. Of those companies that have raised security to the upper management level, nine out of ten said they had the financial resources to make investments in security, Holleyman said.
"When senior managers pay attention, the resources are devoted and action's taken," he said. "That helps the bottom line of those businesses."
Ninety-one percent of the respondents have an information security officer and 78 percent have formal infosec programs. And certain practices have become almost universally adopted such as antivirus protection and firewalls.
Daniel Caprio, chief privacy officer and deputy assistant secretary for technology policy at the U.S. Dept. of Commerce, said the survey show that companies are beginning to make security part of their corporate culture.
Moving forward, companies will need to remain diligent in addressing cybersecurity, which is a complex issue involving people, processes, technology, law enforcement, and a public-private partnership, Caprio said.
"It's a long, long journey. It's a journey, not a destination, but this survey shows we're making progress," he said.
Holleyman agreed and said even companies that are making cybersecurity a priority cannot rest on their laurels.
"The number of attacks are growing and becoming more sophisticated," he said. "But the good news is the sky is not falling. There are practical things people can do and that needs to become the role model for others."