The welter of compliance regulations, such as Sarbanes-Oxley and the EU's 8th Directive, have toppled worms and viruses as the prime driver for information security, according to accounting firm Ernst & Young's eighth annual security report.
Two-thirds of the 1,300 global companies interviewed put it top of their list of information security concerns, despite it being a bumper year for virus and worm activity.
But companies that view compliance as a distraction are missing an opportunity to embed security into their business. "Compliance is proving to be more of a distraction than a catalyst for information security becoming strategically aligned within organisations," says Edwin Bennett, global director of Ernst & Young's Technology and Security Risk Services.
"One might assume that with the attention information security is receiving due to regulatory compliance, organisations' information security postures are improving and information security as a function is becoming more integral to their strategic initiatives. Unfortunately, this is not happening on a consistent basis."
The study reveals a mismatch between business objectives and security. A commanding 81% of the respondents perceive compliance with corporate policies and procedures as more important than business objectives such as mergers and acquisitions, product launches and delivery.
Only 41% of the companies say they are using compliance as an opportunity to make changes to their security architecture.
Ernst & Young predicts that compliance will remain in its pole position for the next 12 months.
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