According to the poll of 410 information technology decision makers in North America and Europe, 81 percent now believe that the possibility of losing business because of downtime is a financial risk, up from 67 percent in 2004.
Compliance and legal liability was cited by 74 percent of responding companies as a financial risk – an increase of 17 percent from two years ago – while 73 percent sited the "value of the secured asset," a category that scored 15 percent higher than 2004.
More than 70 percent of those asked also feared the potential loss of revenue due to negative publicity and the risk of losing intellectual property value. Neither category was cited by 60 percent of businessmen polled two years ago.
The survey also revealed that "senior decision-makers" drive information security initiatives at 90 percent of responding companies. Senior executives within IT departments make such decisions at 60 percent of companies, while other senior executives do so at 22 percent of responding organizations – as do senior managers in business at 8 percent of companies.
Robert W. Holleyman, II, president and chief executive officer of the BSA, said Monday at the RSA Conference in San Jose that evolving malicious users have driven up the profile of IT security.
"This is heavily driven by certain concerns," he said. "How do you deal with criminal activity and where do you go to report it at the same time."
Holleyman also pointed out a trend of malware being used more frequently for financial gain, instead of just to disrupt systems for kicks, adding, "These are not just the internet hackers. These are not just the kids who can't get a date."
Steven Martinez, deputy assistant director of the FBI's Cyber Division, said at the conference that online crime has jumped to the bureau's third-highest priority behind counterterrorism and counterintelligence.
"(Private sector awareness) is a big part of the reason for our participation in events like this," he said. "You don't want to have an incident be the first time you meet an FBI agent."