Now in the early stages of budget planning for 2010, security professionals are "cautiously optimistic" that they will receive additional funds next year -- a chunk of which they plan to spend on application security solutions, a new study has found.

The 246 respondents to the study, released Tuesday and conducted by research firm TheInfoPro, remain hopeful for increased dollars, despite the fact that 42 percent reported their budgets dropped from 2008 to 2009 -- the first time in six years that the study showed a year-over-year decline.

Looking to the rest of 2009 and the first half of 2010, the respondents -- from Fortune 100 and midsized companies in North America and Europe -- said application security technologies are likely to receive increased budget dollars.

Many respondents said they already have devoted spending to perimeter security and encryption, and are now planning to invest in application code analysis tools and application firewalls.

“Organizations are now realizing applications are the weakest link in the chain, so to speak,” Bill Trussell managing director of security research at TheInfoPro, told on Tuesday.

Specifically, respondents said applications available outside the corporate firewall are their top application security concern, followed by unauthorized use of applications, third-party application vulnerabilities and malware injection into applications.

A recent report from Forrester Research also found that web application firewalls are necessary technologies for many businesses. In addition, the report concluded that compliance regulations are a purchasing driver for application security solutions.

The TheInfoPro study also showed that respondents plan to earmark additional money to data leakage prevention solutions that contain encryption capabilities, Trussell said. That is because organizations want a comprehensive plan to mitigate the threat of data loss while analyzing where information is being stored.

But any security budget increases will depend on the economy. John Pescatore, vice president and research director at Gartner, told on Tuesday that he suspects about one-third of spending plans will rise, one-third will fall and one-third will remain stable.