Operating-system upgrades were the second-most frequent response, cited by 16% of executives.
CIOs were asked, "Which of the following initiatives are the highest priorities for your IT department in the next 12 months?" Their responses:
"Security is moving from being regarded as largely a defensive measure to one that has become an integral part of systems design, said Katherine Spencer Lee, executive director of RHT.
"The increasing sophistication of threats, along with new security requirements mandated by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and other government regulations, means that ensuring network security now demands a proactive, enterprise-wide strategy."
Lee also said the growing importance of information security translates into increased employment opportunities for highly skilled professionals.
"As this issue moves to the forefront, firms that had included security as part of the network administrator's role, in many cases, are creating new positions focused entirely on this function," she noted.
The national poll includes responses from more than 1,400 CIOs from a stratified random sample of U.S. companies with 100 or more employees. It was conducted by an independent research firm and developed by RHT, a provider of information technology professionals on a project and full-time basis.