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Brian Pennington

A blog about Cyber Security & Compliance

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November 2012

The average cost of a data breach is $8.9m in the US and £2.1m in the UK

The results of the Ponemon 2012 Cost of Cyber Crime Study for the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Australia and Japan. For the purposes of this post I have summarised the United States and the United Kingdom.

The study, sponsored by HP Enterprise Security, focused on organizations located in the United States and the United Kingdom many are multinational corporations.

Cyber-attacks generally refer to criminal activity conducted via the Internet. These attacks can include stealing an organization’s intellectual property, confiscating online bank accounts, creating and distributing viruses on other computers, posting confidential business information on the Internet and disrupting a country’s critical national infrastructure. Consistent with the previous two studies, the loss or misuse of information is the most significant consequence of a cyber-attack. Based on these findings, organizations need to be more vigilant in protecting their most sensitive and confidential information. 

  • The median annualised cost for 38 UK benchmarked organisations is £2.1 million per year, with a range from £.4 million to £7.7 million each year per company.
  • The median annualized cost for 56 US benchmarked organizations is $8.9 million per year, with a range from $1.4 million to $46 million each year per company. 

UK Summary

Cybercrimes are costly. The study found that the median annualised cost for 38 benchmarked organisations is £2.1 million per year, with a range from £.4 million to £7.7 million each year per company. 

Cybercrime cost varies by organisational size. Results reveal a positive relationship between organisational size (as measured by enterprise seats) and annualised cost. However, based on enterprise seats, Ponemon determined that smaller-sized organisations incur a significantly higher per capita cost than larger-sized organisations (£399 versus £89). 

All industries fall victim to cybercrime, but to different degrees. The average annualised cost of cybercrime appears to vary by industry segment, where defence, utilities and energy and financial service companies experience higher costs than organisations in hospitality, retail and education. 

Cybercrimes are intrusive and common occurrences. The companies participating in our study experienced 41 successful attacks per week, or about 1.1 successful attacks per organisation. 

The most costly cybercrimes are those caused by malicious insider, denial of service and malicious code. These account for more than 44% of all cybercrime costs per organisation on an annual basis. Mitigation of such attacks requires enabling technologies such as SIEM, intrusion prevention systems, application security testing solutions and enterprise GRC solutions. 

Cyber-attacks can get costly if not resolved quickly. Results show a positive relationship between the time to contain an attack and organisational cost. The average time to resolve a cyber-attack was 24 days, with an average cost to participating organisations of £135,744 over this 24-day period. Results show that malicious insider attacks can take more than 50 days on average to contain. 

Disruption to business processes and revenue losses represent the highest external costs. This is followed by theft of information assets. On an annualised basis, disruption to business or lost productivity account for 38% of external costs. Costs associated with revenue losses and theft of information assets represents 53% of external costs. 

Recovery and detection are the most costly internal activities. On an annualised basis, recovery and detection combined account for 55% of the total internal activity cost with cash outlays and labour representing the majority of these costs. 

Deployment of security intelligence systems makes a difference. The cost of cybercrime is moderated by the use of security intelligence systems (including SIEM). Findings suggest companies using security intelligence technologies were more efficient in detecting and containing cyber-attacks. As a result, these companies enjoyed an average cost savings of £.4 million when compared to companies not deploying security intelligence technologies. 

Deployment of enterprise security governance practices moderates the cost of cybercrime. Findings show companies that have adequate resources, appoint a high-level security leader, and employ certified or expert staff experience cybercrime costs that are lower than companies that have not implemented these practices. This so-called “cost savings” for companies deploying good security governance practices is estimated at more than £.3 million, on average. 

A strong security posture moderates the cost of cyber-attacks. Ponemon utilize a well-known metric called the Security Effectiveness Score (SES) to define an organisation’s ability to achieve reasonable security objectives. The higher the SES, the more effective the organisation is in achieving its security objectives. The average cost to mitigate a cyber-attack for organisations with a high SES is substantially lower than organisations with a low SES score.

Summary of US findings

Cybercrimes continue to be very costly for organizations. Ponemon found that the median annualized cost for 56 benchmarked organizations is $8.9 million per year, with a range from $1.4 million to $46 million each year per company. Last year’s median cost per benchmarked organization was $8.4 million. Ponemon observe a $500,000 (6%) increase in median values. 

Cybercrime cost varies by organizational size. Results reveal a positive relationship between organizational size (as measured by enterprise seats) and annualized cost. However, based on enterprise seats, Ponemon determined that small organizations incur a significantly higher per capita cost than larger organizations ($1,324 versus $305). 

All industries fall victim to cybercrime, but to different degrees. The average annualized cost of cybercrime appears to vary by industry segment, where defence, utilities and energy and financial service companies experience higher costs than organizations in retail, hospitality and consumer products. 

Cybercrimes are intrusive and common occurrences. The companies participating in our study experienced 102 successful attacks per week – or 1.8 successful attacks per organization. In last year’s study, an average of 72 successful attacks occurred per week. 

The most costly cybercrimes are those caused by denial of service, malicious insider and web-based attacks. This account for more than 58% of all cybercrime costs per organization on an annual basis.4 Mitigation of such attacks requires enabling technologies such as SIEM, intrusion prevention systems, applications security testing solutions and enterprise GRC solutions. 

Cyber-attacks can get costly if not resolved quickly. Results show a positive relationship between the time to contain an attack and organizational cost. The average time to resolve a cyber-attack was 24 days, with an average cost to participating organizations of $591,780 during this 24-day period. This represents a 42% increase from last year’s estimated average cost of $415,748, which was based upon an 18-day resolution period. Results show that malicious insider attacks can take more than 50 days on average to contain. 

Information theft continues to represent the highest external cost, followed by the costs associated with business disruption. On an annualized basis, information theft accounts for 44% of total external costs (up 4% from 2011). Costs associated with disruption to business or lost productivity account for 30% of external costs (up 1% from 2011). 

Recovery and detection are the most costly internal activities. On an annualized basis, recovery and detection combined account for 47% of the total internal activity cost with cash outlays and labour representing the majority of these costs. 

Deployment of security intelligence systems makes a difference. The cost of cybercrime is moderated by the use of security intelligence systems (including SIEM). Findings suggest companies using security intelligence technologies were more efficient in detecting and containing cyber-attacks. As a result, these companies enjoyed an average cost savings of $1.6 million when compared to companies not deploying security intelligence technologies. 

A strong security posture moderates the cost of cyber-attacks. Ponemon utilize a well-known metric called the Security Effectiveness Score (SES) to define an organization’s ability to achieve reasonable security objectives. The higher the SES, the more effective the organization is in achieving its security objectives. The average cost to mitigate a cyber-attack for organizations with a high SES is substantially lower than organizations with a low SES score. 

Deployment of enterprise security governance practices moderates the cost of cybercrime. Findings show companies that invest in adequate resources, appoint a high-level security leader, and employ certified or expert staff have cybercrime costs that are lower than companies that have not implemented these practices. This so-called “cost savings” for companies deploying good security governance practices is estimated at more than $1 million, on average. 

UK report is here – registration is required. 

US report is here  – registration is required.

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The Top 25 “worst” passwords

SplashData have published their 2012 password survey results.  

They analysed of millions of stolen login credentials posted by hackers discovered that for the third year in a row, “password” was the most commonly used password, with “123456” and “12345678” sin second and third place.
 
The top 25 most common passwords for 2012 are:-

Rank Password Change in rank since last year
1 password Unchanged
2 123456 Unchanged
3 12345678 Unchanged
4 abc123 Up 1
5 qwerty Down 1
6 monkey Unchanged
7 letmein Up 1
8 dragon Up 2
9 111111 Up 3
10 baseball Up 1
11 iloveyou Up 2
12 trustno1 Down 3
13 1234567 Down 6
14 sunshine Up 1
15 master Down 1
16 123123 Up 4
17 welcome New
18 shadow Up 1
19 ashley Down 3
20 football Up 5
21 jesus New
22 michael Up 2
23 ninja New
24 mustang New
25 password1 New

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The Prudential is fined £50,000 for breaching the Data Protection Act

The UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has fined the Prudential £50,000 after an administrative error in two accounts that led to tens of thousands of pounds, meant for an individual’s retirement fund, ending up in the wrong account.

This is the first monetary penalty served by the ICO that doesn’t relate to a significant data loss.

The original error, in March 2007, was caused when the records of both customers, who share the same first name, surname and date of birth, were mistakenly merged.

The problem was eventually resolved in September 2010. This was despite the company being alerted to the mistake on several occasions, including a letter from one of the customers in late April 2010 which clearly indicated his address had not changed for over 15 years. The company failed to investigate thoroughly at this point and the penalty imposed today relates to the inaccuracy then present which continued for a further six months.

Stephen Eckersley, ICO Head of Enforcement, said:

“Organisations must make sure the information they hold on their customers’ files is accurate and kept up to date in order to comply with the Data Protection Act. In this case two customer files were consistently confused and the company failed to remedy the situation despite being alerted to the problem on more than one occasion before it was finally resolved.

“This case would be considered farcical were it not for the serious sums of money involved.”
Last year the public made more complaints about the way money lenders were handling their information than for any other sector. Around 15% of the almost 13,000 data protection complaints received by the ICO during the last financial year were due to concerns relating to this group, with inaccurate data the third most complained about issue across all sectors.

Commenting on the ICO’s concerns in this area, Stephen Eckersley continued:

“While data losses may make the headlines, most people will contact our office about inaccuracies and other issues relating to the misuse of their information. Inaccurate information on a customer’s record, particularly when the record relates to an individual’s financial affairs, can have a significant impact on someone’s life.

“We hope this penalty sends a message to all organisations, but particularly those in the financial sector, that adequate checks must be in place to ensure people’s records are accurate. Staff should also receive adequate training on how to manage and maintain them, with any concerns fully investigated in order to ensure problems are addressed at an early stage.”

Prudential has committed to staff training and an improvement in processes to ensure that the accuracy of customers’ records is maintained at all times.

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