Survey: 75 percent of firms would take hours or longer to spot breach

Although 68 percent of companies said they are prepared for a breach, 75 percent estimated it would take hours, days, or weeks for them to notice that one had occurred, according to a new survey released this morning.

Osterman Research conducted interviews with 225 mid-sized and large organizations on behalf of Sunnyvale, Calif.-based security vendor Proofpoint, Inc. to assess attitudes and processes around data breaches and data loss prevention.

Only 6 percent of respondents said they were "very well prepared" to deal with data breaches, 27 percent said they were "well prepared," and 35 percent said they were "prepared." Another 18 percent said they were "somewhat prepared" and the remaining 14 percent were either not well prepared, poorly prepared, or not prepared at all.

However, only 4 percent of respondents said they could detect a potential breach within seconds, and 20 percent said it would take them several minutes.

For 37 percent of respondents, detection would take hours. For 21 percent, it would take days. The remaining 17 percent said that detection could take weeks or longer, or they did not know how long it would take.

"That's not even remediation, or stopping the exfiltration," said Kevin Epstein, Proofpoint's vice president, advanced security and governance. "That's just realizing that the remediation is happening. And given how fast data can be moved these days, that's the crown jewels leaving the company. There's a hole in the bucket and data is flowing out of it."

And companies were probably being overly optimistic in their estimates of how long it would take them to detect a breach, given the recent experience of high-profile victims.

Part of the reason is that many company still use manual methods to detect data breaches, said Epstein.

Although 80 percent of survey respondents rated their use of technology as 4 or higher on a 1 to 7 scale from "no technology used" to "we use technology extensively," 68 percent also rated their use of manual methods at 4 or higher.

Then, once a threat has been detected, many companies are still relying heavily on manual mitigation, he added.

While 76 percent of companies rated their use of technology as 4 or above when it comes to responding to data breaches, 71 percent rated their use of manual methods as 4 or higher.

"Organizations are still relying significantly on analysts sitting there looking through alerts," said Epstein. "And, based on the headlines, that's not working."

And he's not surprised, he added.

"If you're an analyst getting 30,000 alerts a day from your system, its hard to keep up with the crucial information," he said. "Attackers are succeeding because there are too few firemen and a lot of fire alarms going off."

The firemen are wasting their time responding to too many false alarms, he added.

Companies should be looking at technologies that allow them to prioritize the alerts, he added, to sort out the false positives, and the cases where an employee installed an ad toolbar on their laptop, and focus on the instances where an attacker is trying to get data out of the company.

Proofpoint is one of the companies that offers this kind of technology.

According to the survey, organizations put a median of 4.3 IT and related staff members per 1,000 employes to work dealing with the immediate aftermath of a breach, and increase that to 4.4 employees in the follow-up.

However, only 31 percent of organizations had a budget in place for data breach mitigation, and only 45 percent had data breach insurance in place.

Just over half of the organization that have a budget in place plan to increase it next year, while the rest plan to keep it the same. Only 1 percent of companies plan to decrease their breach mitigation budgets.

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