SAN FRANCISCO -- Companies are taking more safety measures to protect the security of information on their computer networks, according to a recent study by the Computer Security Institute.
The study, the institute's first, said 60 percent of 242 companies and government agencies surveyed use encryption technology to protect their data.
Computer network security has become more important as more companies connect far-flung operations using local and wide area networks. When a company uses a network or has users dial into a network using public telephone lines, the risk of security breaches rises.
"There is a dearth of statisticalevidence of what is going on. We are trying to make up that gap," said Richard Power, information security analyst for the group. It publishes a newsletter and offers consulting and training to member companies.
Almost 30 percent of those surveyed increased their use of encryption by at least 50 percent during the past year, the study found. And 12 percent reported that they had lost $66 million as a result of unauthorized access.
Two companies reported $1 million in losses as a result of telecommunications eavesdropping. Other companies reported losses of between $1 million and $50 million because of system intrusions or unauthorized access by insiders, the study found.
Increased use of the global Internet also has raised security concerns, industry experts said. In April, a program that identified weaknesses in corporate networks caused a furor when it was released over the Internet.
While the program's architect said it could be used by companies to test their systems, some corporate executives said they were concerned that so-called hackers would use it on corporations first.
"Most companies simply are not aware of the exploitations that have occurred, and thus do not realize how much money it has actually cost their organizations," said Rebecca Herold, who manages information security for the Principal Financial Group.