A summary of the Data Breach: The Cloud Multiplier Effect” survey from Ponemon sponsored by Netskope is below.

The survey reveals how the risk of a data breach in the cloud is multiplying. This can be attributed to the proliferation of mobile and other devices with access to cloud resources and more dependency on cloud services without the support of a strengthened cloud security posture and visibility of end user practices.

Ponemon surveyed 613 IT and IT security practitioners in the United States who are familiar with their company’s usage of cloud services.

  • 51% say on-premise IT is equally or less secure than cloud-based services
  • 66% of respondents say their organization’s use of cloud resources diminishes its ability to protect confidential or sensitive information
  • 64% believe it makes it difficult to secure business-critical applications

A lack of knowledge about the number of computing devices connected to the network and enterprise systems, software applications in the cloud and business critical applications used in the cloud workplace could be creating a cloud multiplier effect. Other uncertainties identified in this research include how much sensitive or confidential information is stored in the cloud.

For the first time, Ponemon attempt to quantify the potential scope of a data breach based on typical use of cloud services in the workplace or what can be described as the cloud multiplier effect. The report describes nine scenarios involving the loss or theft of more than 100,000 customer records and a material breach involving the loss or theft of high value1 IP or business confidential information.

When asked to rate their organizations’ effectiveness in securing data and applications used in the cloud.

  • 51% of respondents say it is low
  • 26% rate the effectiveness as high. Based on their lack of confidence
  • 51% say the likelihood of a data breach increases due to the cloud

Key takeaways from this research include the following:

Cloud security is an oxymoron for many companies.

  • 62% of respondents do not agree or are unsure that cloud services are thoroughly vetted before deployment
  • 69% believe there is a failure to be proactive in assessing information that is too sensitive to be stored in the cloud

Certain activities increase the cost of a breach when customer data is lost or stolen.

An increase in the backup and storage of sensitive and/or confidential customer information in the cloud can cause the most costly breaches. The second most costly occurs when one of the organization’s primary cloud services provider expands operations too quickly and experiences financial difficulties. The least costly is when the use of IaaS or cloud infrastructure services increases.

Certain activities increase the cost of a breach when high value IP and business confidential information is lost or stolen

Bring Your Own Cloud (BYOC) results in the most costly data breaches involving high value IP. The second most costly is the backup and storage of sensitive or confidential information in the cloud increases. The least costly occurs when one of the organization’s primary cloud providers fails an audit failure that concerns the its inability to securely manage identity and authentication processes.

Why is the likelihood of a data breach in the cloud increasing?

Ideally, the right security procedures and technologies need to be in place to ensure sensitive and confidential information is protected when using cloud resources. The majority of companies are circumventing important practices such as vetting the security practices of cloud service providers and conducting audits and assessment of the information stored in the cloud.

The findings also reveal that 55% do not believe that the IT security leader is responsible for ensuring the organization’s safe use of cloud computing resources. In other words, respondents believe their organizations are relying on functions outside security to protect data in the cloud.

  • 62% of respondents do not agree or are unsure that cloud services are thoroughly vetted for security before deployment
  • 63% believe there is a lack of vigilance in conducting audits or assessments of cloud-based services
  • 69% of respondents believe there is a failure to be proactive in assessing information that is too sensitive to be stored in the cloud

There is a lack of confidence in the security practices of cloud providers

Respondents are critical of their cloud providers’ security practices. First, they do not believe they would be notified that the cloud provider lost their data in a timely manner. Second, they do not think the cloud provider has the necessary security technologies in place.

  • 72% of respondents do not agree their cloud service provider would notify them immediately if they had a data breach involving the loss or theft of their intellectual property or business confidential information
  • 71% of respondents fear their cloud service provider would not notify their organization immediately if they had a data breach involving the loss or theft of customer data.
  • 69% of respondents do not agree that their organization’s cloud service use enabling security technologies to protect and secure sensitive and confidential information
  • 64% say these cloud service providers are not in full compliance with privacy and data protection regulations and laws

Lack of visibility of what’s in the cloud puts confidential and sensitive information at risk

The number of computing devices in the typical workplace is making it more difficult than ever to determine the extent of cloud use. According to estimates provided by respondents, an average of 25,180 computing devices such as desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones are connected to their organization’s networks and/or enterprise systems.

Ponemon asked respondents to estimate the percentage of their organizations’ applications and information that is stored in the cloud. They were also asked to estimate the percentage of these applications and information that are not known, officially recognized or approved by the IT function (a.k.a. shadow IT).

30% of business information is stored in the cloud but of this, respondents estimate 35% is not visible to IT. This suggests that many organizations are at risk because they do not know what sensitive or confidential information such as IP is in the cloud.

What employees do in the cloud?

  • 44% of employees in organizations use cloud-based services or apps in the workplace
  • 53% use their personally owned mobile devices (BYOD) in the workplace
  • 50% of these employees use their own devices to connect to cloud-based services or apps.

Do certain changes in an organization’s use of cloud services affect the likelihood of a data breach?

  • 17% say the use of cloud-based services significantly increases
  • 34% say it increases the likelihood of a data breach. Ponemon define a material data breach as one that involves the loss or theft of more than 100,000 customer records or one that involves the theft of high value IP or business confidential information.

Calculating the economic impact of a data breach in the cloud.

Ponemon calculate what it might cost an organization to deal with a data breach in the cloud involving customer records. These calculations are based on Ponemon Institute’s recent cost of data breach research and the estimated likelihood or probability of a data breach based on cloud use. The calculation involves the following four steps:

  • First, drawing upon Ponemon Institute’s most recent cost of data breach study. Ponemon determine a cost of $201.18 dollars per compromised record.
  • Second, based on a data breach size of 100,000 or more compromised records in the survey and using the unit cost of $201.18 times 100,000 records. Ponemon calculate a total cost of $20,118,000
  • Third, from the survey results Ponemon extrapolate the average likelihood of a data breach involving 100,000 or more questions at approximately 11.8% over a two-year period.
  • Fourth, multiplying the estimated likelihood or probability of a data breach at 11.8% times the total cost of $20,118,000 Ponemon calculate a baseline expected value of $2.37 million as the average of what an organization would have to spend if it had a data breach involving customer records lost or stolen in the cloud.

Ponemon calculate what it might cost an organization to deal with a data breach in the cloud involving high value IP. Once again, these calculations are based on Ponemon Institute’s recent cost of data breach research and the estimated likelihood or probability of a data breach based on cloud use. The calculation involves the following steps:

  • First, drawing upon Ponemon Institute’s IT security benchmark database consisting of 1,281 companies compiled over a 10-year period, Ponemon estimate an expected value of $11,788,000.
  • Second, based upon the estimates provided by respondents Ponemon extrapolate the likelihood of a data breach involving the theft of high value information at 25.4%.
  • Third, multiplying the estimated likelihood or probability of a data breach at 25.4% times the total cost of $11.788 million Ponemon calculate a baseline expected value of $2.99 million as the average economic impact for organizations in our study.

What can cost an organization the most when it has a data breach involving the loss or theft of IP? The most costly scenarios involve the growth in the number of employees using their own cloud apps in the workplace for sharing sensitive or confidential information (a.k.a. BYOC) and an increase in the backup and storage of IP or business confidential information in the cloud.

The average costs to deal with these two types of data breaches are $5.38 million and $4.93 million, respectively.

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