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Report: Human Error, System Problems  Cause Most Breaches
Report: Human Error, System Problems Cause Most Breaches

By Jennifer LeClaire
June 7, 2013 10:58AM

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"While external attackers and their evolving methods pose a great threat to companies, the dangers associated with the insider threat can be equally destructive and insidious," said Larry Ponemon, chairman of the Ponemon Institute. "Eight years of research on data breach costs has shown employee behavior to be one of the most pressing issues facing organizations today."
 


Human errors and system problems caused two-thirds of data breaches in 2012 and pushed the global average to $136 per record. So says a new study from Symantec Corp. and the Ponemon Institute called "2013 Cost of Data Breach Study: Global Analysis."

The companies point to issues like employee mishandling of confidential data, lack of system controls, and violations of industry and government regulations. Heavily regulated fields including healthcare, finance and pharmaceutical-incurred breach costs 70 percent higher than other industries.

"While external attackers and their evolving methods pose a great threat to companies, the dangers associated with the insider threat can be equally destructive and insidious," said Larry Ponemon, chairman of the Ponemon Institute. "Eight years of research on data breach costs has shown employee behavior to be one of the most pressing issues facing organizations today, up 22 percent since the first survey."

Malicious Attacks Most Costly

Overall, the global cost per compromised customer record was up over last year. But the United States total cost per data breach incident was down slightly at $5.4 million. That decline, the report suggested, is thanks to the appointment of chief information security officers (CISOs) with enterprise-wide responsibilities, comprehensive incident response plans, and stronger overall security programs.

"Given organizations with strong security postures and incident response plans experienced breach costs 20 percent less than others, the importance of a well-coordinated, holistic approach is clear," said Anil Chakravarthy, executive vice president of the Information Security Group at Symantec. "Companies must protect their customers' sensitive information no matter where it resides, be it on a PC, mobile device, corporate network or data center."

According to the report, and not surprisingly, malicious and criminal attacks are the most costly everywhere. Consolidated findings show that malicious or criminal attacks cause 37 percent of data breaches and are the most costly data breach incidents in all nine countries. U.S. and German companies experience the most expensive data breach incidents caused by malicious or criminal attackers at $277 and $214 per compromised records, respectively.

Getting to the Root

We caught up with Jim Butterworth, chief security officer at HBGary, to get his take on the findings. He told us by conducting a forensic investigation to determine the root cause of an incident, a victim is able to determine the extent and breadth of an intrusion.

"In years past, folks would essentially 'overreport,' meaning if a database was accessed, the assumption was made that it was copied. However, there are digital artifacts present that can play a huge role in risk mitigation, regulatory compliance and satisfy the due diligence aspects of any liability," Butterworth said. "By collecting and analyzing these artifacts as part of its overall incident response program, a victim can significantly reduce the financial impact and civil liability typically associated with these breaches."

Symantec recommends the four best practices to prevent a data breach and reduce costs in the event of one: educate employees and train them on how to handle confidential information; use data loss prevention technology to find sensitive data and protect it from leaving your organization; deploy encryption and strong authentication solutions; and prepare an incident response plan, including proper steps for customer notification.
 

Tell Us What You Think
Comment:

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Sean:

Posted: 2013-06-25 @ 3:55am PT
Given the lack of repect big companies especially give to their staff, it is not surprising that company loyalty is becoming less and less. All the preventative measures described in this article are about training users / employees, but how about training senior management in the companies to treat their staff better and make people less inclined to cause breaches?

Maureen Robinson:

Posted: 2013-06-20 @ 1:34am PT
The fact that human errors and system problems caused two-thirds of data breaches in 2012 shows that we still have a lot to work to better manage application security. And although industries including healthcare, finance and pharmaceutical are heavily regulated, the fact that breach costs 70% higher than other industries shows that they are not yet enough regulated. We also wrote a blog article explaining the threats banking applications are exposed to and some steps which might help addressing and improving the overall security posture. The article is available here: http://blog.securityinnovation.com/blog/2013/01/hardening-your-banking-applications-from-attack.html



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