'Security lessons still not learned

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Published on Taipei Times http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/biz/archives/2003/10/20/2003072679

AFP, SINGAPORE Monday, Oct 20, 2003, Page 10

Corporate security worldwide is still at risk despite painful lessons learned from terrorism, the SARS epidemic and countless virus and hacker attacks, according to a business survey.

"Business leaders are more aware of security dangers, but need to do much more to prepare," research group Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) said after conducting a global poll.

The report found that very often the danger is within the company itself, with disgruntled or corrupt employees and lax controls over computer passwords compromising the security of information systems and valuable data.

In Asia, with SARS threatening a comeback, there is a new danger that companies will suffer again now that the crisis has passed and regional economies are on the upswing.

"Once the crisis was over, there was very little done to institutionalize learning and get ready for the next crisis," Hugh Bucknall, head of Mercer Human Resources Consulting in Asia, told the EIU.

"Companies need to look at a broader range of threats and have mechanisms to deal with them," he added.

Corporate security is heavily tilted towards information technology (IT) or protection of physical assets and personnel, following the 2001 terrorist attacks in the US and countless virus and hacker incidents.

But Dr Goh Moh Heng, executive director of Disaster Recovery Institute Asia, said that "SARS created a new scenario that most planners would not have thought of: denial of access to people."

Uncertainty about how the SARS virus is transmitted forced companies to segregate employees. One bank even imported virus-proof medical "space suits" to enable IT employees to continue working even if infected by SARS.

Asian health officials fear that SARS might make a comeback during the traditional flu season in the winter months.

SARS infected more than 8,000 people and killed nearly 800, mostly in East Asia, after it appeared in southern China almost a year ago.

The crisi was estimated to have caused billions of dollars in economic damage.