Expanded Study Finds More Insider Threats, Greater Use of Social Engineering, Continued Strong Organized Criminal Involvement
Recently Verizon, in collaboration with the United States Secret Service, released their 2010 Data Breach Report. I would like to take a moment to share my praise, concerns, and general findings.
I’ll begin with business practice findings. In the past, it was emphasized that there was a gap in termination procedures as pertains to access removal from network assets. Based upon the metrics brought forth from this report (an astounding 26% increase in breaches attributed to “insider” threats), this is still a persistent issue. Here, another concern arises when one mentions the concept of segregation of duties; often trusted “insiders” have unhindered or UNDERhindered access to a broad pool of resources.
As corporations fail to recognize this, and respectively provide resource access controls and limitations, this will continue to be an issue. Interestingly enough, the percentage of breaches implicating business partners has dropped by 23%. One may attribute this to the increased business awareness and legal controls implemented in the contract phase over the past year. If this trend continues (which it should, as the public is more aware than ever of the threats “in the wild”), this number should continue to drop at a decreasing rate.
Additionally, the report indicates that a vast 48% (26% increase) of breaches discovered over the past reporting period involved privilege misuse to some extent – while only 40% of breaches involved “hacking” proper (-24%). This continues to make it obvious that nefarious users do not necessarily have to be “hackers,” and may employ conventional information gathering tactics to procure sensitive data. This may be attributed to the presence of the inevitable “human layer,” and can only be mitigated through a strong, broad-scale, employee education policy. If the point is still unclear, it was reported that 28% (a sizable increase since 2009) of breaches made use of social engineering tactics at some point.
While a corporation may have the most “locked-down” and “secure” internet presence, it remains possible that a loose-lipped employee may still unknowingly play a role in facilitating a data breach.
On a rather interesting (read: disturbing) note, 79% of reported victims that were subject to the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS) had NOT achieved compliance. 86% of breaches were preventable via use of reasonable, simple-to-intermediate controls. While PCI may only provide a baseline data security model, following the standard ensures that basic defense mechanisms are in place – and, if a breach happens, the standard assures that the incident will at least be tracked to some extent. On a somewhat related note, 86% of breach victims had substantial evidence logged, yet 61% of breaches were reported by a third party. This indicates to me that log correlation/SIEM tools are not in place (or underreferenced) in many scenarios; avoid becoming a victim by implementing a strong log reference policy. The burden of sorting through can be eased significantly by use of common string parsing tools.
Some examples of commercial-grade log/event correlation and management tool vendors include LogLogic, ArcSight, and Q1 Labs. By the way, PCI 10.6 mandates log maintenance.
As far as demographics are concerned, the report continues to indicate that the focus of data breaches remains within the Financial Services, Hospitality, and Retail sectors. This does not surprise me, and should not surprise anybody; Cash is King. Note, however, that this may be attributed in part to the fact that – in the United States (the primary source for the data contained within this report), these sectors are required to adhere to strict breach reporting requirements (due to such regulatory standards as PCI and HIPAA).
On a closing note, the report indicates that approximately 13% of the reported breach cases involved organizations that had recently been involved in a merger or acquisition (as opposed to 9% in 2009). This indicates the all-too-obvious truth that, in the common flurry associated with large-scale corporate policy changes, security assurance is frequently sacrificed.
Based upon reading this report, I believe that – in a world where cyber crime continues to be on the rise – large companies need to take a moment to smell the coffee. Making small sacrifices in project deadlines and procuring additional software resources (e.g. log correlation tools, which are essential for far more than just security) to ensure their bottom lines are not only met, but exceeded, while maintaining brand stability.
The 2010 report may be found here
Verizon’s 2009 report (not collaborated with USSS) may be found here