Last month, Verizon published its ninth annual Data Breach Investigations Report. Researchers analyzed a total of 64,199 security incidents and 2,260 data breaches that occurred in over 82 countries for this year’s publication. They ultimately used their findings to highlight new patterns, steady trends, and interesting tidbits in the evolving threat landscape.
Verizon’s report provides an invaluable look into how threats are evolving worldwide. Even so, it offers just one type of view into the world of digital threats. Multiple perspectives with varying levels of analysis are also needed if we are to obtain a fuller picture of information security.
With that being said, it is important to study security incidents at the national level. Doing so can help countries develop a better understanding not only of the unique challenges they face in the digital realm but also of how they can collaborate with other countries to address issues that transcend national boundaries.
Towards that end, the United Kingdom has published its annual Cyber Security Breaches Survey for 2016, a report that analyzes UK businesses’ cyber security preparedness.
In particular, Her Majesty’s Government in collaboration with the Ipsos MORI Social Research Institute and Institute for Criminal Justice Studies at Portsmouth University asked 1008 UK businesses, 278 micro firms, 174 small firms, 349 medium firms, 203 large firms, and 136 real estate and admin firms whether they had experienced at least one data breach in the past year.
A quarter of respondents answered in the affirmative. That percentage was even greater for large businesses (65 percent).
Taking a closer look at the breaches themselves, the report found that malware, spyware, and viruses not only accounted for the most common type of breach among respondents (68 percent) but also caused the most disruption to businesses. Impersonation of the organization, by contrast, caused just below one-third of breaches (32 percent).
There is a bright side. Half of all organizations experienced only one breach in 12 months, and close to 80 percent of breaches recovered from the incident within just one day.
“This reflects the qualitative findings which suggest that, outside of exceptional cases that businesses would generally not experience firsthand, cyber security breaches were generally considered to be minor irritants that were often dealt with automatically by antivirus software or quickly taken care of by an outsourced provider,” the report’s authors reveal.
“In other words, due to the nature of most detected breaches being relatively insignificant, some participants did not consider cyber security breaches overall to be a serious threat to their business.”
To be fair, reality might be harsher than perception in this particular case. Just five percent of UK businesses invested in financial monitoring in the past 12 months, which means an overwhelming majority of respondents might be underestimating the costs of what they incurred as a result of a breach.
But that would be true only to a small extent. It would not significantly affect businesses’ median and mean breach costs.
Large-sized businesses ultimately experienced the highest mean and media breach costs at £36,500 and £1,300, respectively. This figure reflects the costs of securing the accounts of thousands if not millions of customers.
To illustrate, last year’s TalkTalk hack compromised 156,959 customers’ personal information and 15,656 banking details and/or sort codes. The incident cost the UK telecommunications provider between £30 million and £35 million.
Then again, some businesses both large and small might not have adequately protected themselves against the threat of a breach. In 14 percent of attacks deemed intentional, respondents reported that internal human error was to blame. Nearly three in 10 (28 percent) of the most disruptive breaches were caused by email attachments or websites, and only 10 percent of companies had formal incident management processes in place prior to experiencing a breach.
Given those shortcomings, one would expect most businesses have since invested in establishing clearly defined, enforceable security policies.
That has not been the case.
“The most common actions taken following breaches are around bringing in or updating antivirus or anti-malware software, and firewall configurations, or raising staff awareness via training or communications. Relatively few have created or updated cyber security policies in response to their most disruptive breach, and a fifth (20%) have taken no action at all.”
Organizations that fail to adequately protect themselves against digital threats are doing themselves a grave disservice, notes Digital Economy Minister Ed Vaizey. As quoted by The BBC:
“The UK is a world-leading digital economy and this government has made cyber security a top priority. Too many firms are losing money, data and consumer confidence with the vast number of cyber attacks. It’s absolutely crucial businesses are secure and can protect data.”
Breach defense begins with a thorough understanding of what endpoints are installed on the corporate network and how an organization can effectively protect them against malicious actors.
To learn more about how endpoint protection is the first step towards breach prevention, please click here.
To read the UK Cyber Security Breaches Survey in full, click here.
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