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Budget Constraints Top Cyber Attacks as Biggest Threat to IT Infrastructure

October 3, 2013
By Rachel Lilly
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Would you rather be stuck in an elevator for 24 hours or have your network hacked? According to a new survey, 71 percent of government information technology decision makers think the elevator is a more appealing choice. But improving security still ranks second to the most important technology goal in the coming year—reducing costs.

The survey, conducted for Cisco by Clarus Research Group in early September, involved 400 decision makers from federal, state and local government. It’s little surprise in the current fiscal environment that a majority of respondents identified budget constraints as the greatest threat to their organization’s information technology infrastructure, topping cyber attacks, employee personal devices on the network, an increased demand for constituent services and limited network bandwidth. And 22 percent volunteered an “all of the above” statement, pointing to a combination of threats.

Despite budget reductions, 59 percent of information technology decision makers plan to amp up investments in cybersecurity with 45 percent increasing investments in the cloud. The increase in cybersecurity and cloud funding was expected, especially on the federal side, says Larry Payne, area vice president, U.S. federal sales, Cisco. In the state and local sector, investments in networking are expected to increase more rapidly than other areas.

With additional funds expected for cybersecurity, where will decision makers focus their efforts? Twenty-one percent of those surveyed said better technology is key to strengthening the nation’s cybersecurity, while 18 percent pointed to better enforcement of policies and 15 percent better employee training. Forty-two percent believe a combination of all three is needed. “What’s interesting is the fact that we see [cybersecurity] as a bigger problem than just technology. It has to do with process and in some cases culture. A large part of the cybersecurity market will be around services,” Payne notes.

The survey also explored perceptions of cloud computing. A majority of respondents reported having “some confidence” in the reliability, security and cost effectiveness of cloud computing. However, only 18 percent had “great confidence” in its reliability and 12 percent in its security.

When asked about software-defined networking (SDN), 46 percent were somewhat familiar with the term, and 58 percent expected SDN to become a viable solution within the next few years. However, fewer respondents were familiar with the concept of the “Internet of Everything,” also known as the “Internet of Things.” Only 15 percent were very familiar, 42 percent somewhat familiar and 41 percent not familiar at all. The term refers to connecting devices and sensors; for example, utilizing sensors in agriculture to measure water in the soil and automatically kick on sprinklers. Creating these machine-to-machine connections will become more critical as the number of devices grows exponentially in coming years, Payne says. “It’s early, but I was a little surprised that more people weren’t more familiar with the topic,” he notes.

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