Businesses are leaving themselves open to viruses and malicious hackers by allocating more budget to printers than network security.
According to a report from analyst IDC, firms invested $42bn during 2003 in security products, less than five per cent of the total IT spend and less than the $43bn annual spend on printers and multifunctional peripherals during the same period.
IDC European internet security programme manager Thomas Raschke said in statement: "2003 was characterised by a tidal wave of viruses and worms. It therefore seems incongruous that spend on IT security is equal to that of the total spend on printers.
"Companies have to ask themselves what impact losing business-critical data will have. Those companies without the essential means of defence will be only too painfully aware."
According to IDC, antivirus software is not enough to protect a network and the data contained within it.
"Viruses, worms, and other security breaches are evolving all the time, and there is an increasingly short period of time between identification of an attack and the time available for the software vendors to produce a suitable patch," said Raschke.
"As sources of security attacks increase, there will be no let up in criminal ingenuity, carelessness of some staff or the impact of new regulations."
The study warns that breaches of security affect businesses in lost productivity, financial losses, regulatory compliance and shareholder value, and recommends that 'boardroom ownership' of security and its implications should become mandatory.
The research predicts that total spend on security technology worldwide will exceed $48bn in 2004. It estimates that the security market will increase from 4.8 per cent to seven per cent of the overall IT budget by 2007.
IDC also predicts that the mobile security software market, driven primarily by the demand for remote access, will grow at a faster rate than the security market as a whole.
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