Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Firms have 'pervasive sense of vulnerability' on hacking: survey

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TORONTO -- Canadian businesses have set themselves up to be hacked, and a new study has found some companies believe it's almost inevitable they'll fall victim to a security breach.

Telus and the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto say the annual study on IT security found a "pervasive sense of vulnerability" at many corporations.

"Security managers are not very confident that they can identify whether a breach actually occurred or whether they're actually in the midst of a current breach," said Walid Hejazi, a professor of business economics at Rotman.

He said the findings suggest Canadian companies are operating with "a false sense of security."

The fifth edition of the study, released Thursday, used qualitative evidence to back up past quantitative reports. Instead of compiling hard numbers, it relayed anecdotes from various industries around the country.

In one of the interviews, a chief information officer for a large company told Hejazi when he was hired, he laid it out for his bosses.

"I told senior management that we will be breached within the next 18 months, so get over it now," the report quotes the unnamed senior executive as predicting.

The executive declined to offer further comment when asked if a breach actually occurred.

Hejazi said the findings are reminiscent of the troubles former technology giant Nortel Networks faced when international hackers broke into its corporate computers and accessed information for nearly a decade.

The Nortel security breach gave hackers "plenty of time" and "access to everything," according to 19-year Nortel veteran Brian Shields, who was behind a six-month investigation into the security breach that is believed to have started in 2000, but was only made public in 2012.

Corporate hacking can be motivated by international espionage "hackivist" groups such as Anonymous who are working for a specific and often very public cause.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 8, 2013 B7

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