Banks take the protection of computers and computer data more seriously than companies in other industries, even though financial losses are rare, a recent survey indicates.

In the survey, more than 60% of the bank respondents said they considered "information and data security" extremely important, nearly twice the percentage of all respondents.

But few losses have stemmed from the types of problems covered in the survey.

Fewer than one in five banks said they had lost money in the past two years from "malicious acts" by employees or outsiders.

Fewer than one in 10 had lost money from computer outages caused by technical glitches or natural disasters.

Most banks said their total losses over the past two years from these problems were either "unknown" or under $100,000.

Awareness Draws Praise

But banks are to be praised for their concern, given the importance of computers in tracking and moving money, said Daniel E. White, a partner in the Chicago offices of Ernst & Young, a leading accounting and consulting firm.

"Banks are better than any industry in their interest in and awareness of the importance of information security," said Mr. White, who heads the firm's information security practice.

Ernst & Young conducted the survey in conjunction with Information Week, a computer magazine.

Computer chiefs and security administrators from 806 companies, including 67 banks. responded.

Most of the banks employed more than 1,000 people, although most of the other respondents employed fewer people.

Computer and data security is a topic of growing concern. Three-quarters of the bank respondents said their institution's "information and data security risks" have increased substantially or moderately over the past five years. Six in 10 of all the respondents agreed.

The security risk most commonly encountered was computer viruses. or other "malicious programs" designed to disrupt normal computer operations.

Half of the bankers. and nearly half of all the respondents. said they had encountered "malicious programs or viruses within the last year."

But, like with the other security problems. losses were minimal. Two-thirds of the respondents that had encountered viruses, and a like number of bankers. said the viruses were "disruptive" but did not cause a "financial loss."

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