Author: David Kim, Managing Director, Verizon Australia & New Zealand
Last year saw some of the highest profile data breaches involving huge multinational organisations and government agencies. In fact, the Australian Government has reported that it can document at least one attack against its IT systems by a foreign power. Whether in the government, entertainment or retail sector, these organisations were forced to answer some tough questions by their stakeholders.
And they’re just the ones we hear about, and almost certainly just the tip of the iceberg. Many organisations don’t disclose the fact that they have been attacked for fear of reputational or financial damage.
Clearly, cybersecurity is big news. Just how big is it and, more importantly, what can be done about it?
Verizon’s ‘2015 Data Breach Investigation Report’ (DBIR), now in its eighth year of publication, has reviewed 2,100 confirmed data breaches and approximately 80,000 reported security incidents within the past year.
There are many reasons why attacks occur, and many ways for them to occur. Attackers may be looking for payment card data or sensitive commercial information, or may simply wish to disrupt business.
The methods of attack are also becoming increasingly sophisticated. Old techniques such as phishing and hacking are still being used but now in sophisticated combination with each other - the bulk of the cyber attacks analysed (70 percent) used a combination of techniques and also involved a secondary victim, adding even greater complexity to a breach.
Phishing remains popular with attackers and attacks have evolved to include the installation of malware. The data in the report suggests that such attacks are becoming more effective, with 23 percent of recipients now opening phishing messages and 11 percent opening attachments.
The threats facing data are becoming ever more complex and diverse, but using this approach enterprises are provided with the information to effectively prioritise their security efforts and establish a more focused and effective approach to fighting cyberthreats.
Another troubling area singled out in this year’s report is that many existing vulnerabilities remain open, primarily because security patches that have long been available were never implemented. In fact, many of the vulnerabilities are traced to 2007 – a gap of almost eight years. Sadly, in 60 percent of breaches, attackers are able to compromise an organisation within minutes. Yet research shows that many cyber attacks could be prevented through a more vigilant approach to cybersecurity.
In this year’s report Verizon security analysts used a new assessment model for gauging the financial impact of a security breach, based on the analysis of nearly 200 cyber liability insurance claims. The model accounts for the fact that the cost of each stolen record is directly affected by the type of data and total number of records compromised, and shows a high and low range for the cost of a lost record (e.g. credit card number, medical health record).
The new analysis showed that an organisation’s size has no effect on the cost of a breach. The headline-making losses reported by larger organisations can be explained by the fact that these involved the loss of more records. Breaches with a comparable number of records have a similar cost, regardless of organisation size.
New technologies are also generating more risk. Organisations are increasingly relying on mobile technology, leading to widespread concern that smartphones and tablets, especially those not controlled by the organisation, could be the next opportunity for hackers.
Verizon’s research shows that while mobile platforms may be vulnerable, they are still not the preferred attack target for attackers. The incidence of mobile malware is very low, and the bulk of it is low-impact infections — adware and other resource-wasting non-destructive activities.
Looking also at machine-machine (M2M) devices, not all of these will be Internet-visible or send sensitive information. Verizon predict that by 2020 there will be five billion enterprise IoT devices, and many billions more consumer ones. Even though there were few security incidents and little data disclosure involving M2M devices (like connected cars and smart cities) made public in 2014, this isn’t cause for complacency. IoT is becoming a growing part of the IT landscape and should still feature within a security strategy.
Organisations should do more to protect themselves. When we examine the common causes of breaches, we find that nearly 25 percent could have been prevented by using multi-factor authentication and patching Internet-accessible web services.
Key recommendations from the 2015 DBIR:
- Be vigilant
- Make people your first line of defence
- Treat all data on a ‘need to know’ basis
- Patch promptly
- Encrypt sensitive data
- Use two-factor authentication
- Don’t forget physical security
Our key message is to act now. Nobody is immune to cybercrime. The longer it takes for an organisation to discover a breach, the more time attackers have to penetrate its defences and cause damage.
Comprehensive security isn’t a business luxury, it is a daily necessity.
David Kim is Managing Director at Verizon Enterprise Solutions Australia and New Zealand. He is responsible for delivering global communications, IT and security solutions to Verizon’s enterprise customers in the ANZ region.