An August article suggested that the due to the large amounts of cyber breaches that have impacted both public and private sectors that have put millions of individuals personal identifiable information at risk, the general attitude toward breaches is becoming more mainstream and accepted. This is an unfortunate state of affairs when instead of compelling organizations to aggressively improve their network security practices, the public writ large is willing to accept credit monitoring for a period of time (usually 1-2 years) as a consolation prize. According to one source, the first half of 2016 has seen 538 breaches identified; 60 percent of businesses losing valuable intellectual property and/or trade secrets; and approximately 13 million records exposed.
The most significant fallouts from such highly publicized breaches have either been the resignation/firing of chief executive officers (e.g., the ones Target, Sony, U.S. Office of Personnel Management), or else a limited show of consumer discontent by stopping patronage of a particular organization, such as what the British telecom Talk Talk experienced after its breach. Target, after its 2013 breach became public, suffered an immediate massive earnings hit when consumers sought other retail alternatives. Yet, in many instances, loss of consumer confidence has proven to be short term; two years later, Target had bounced back both commercially, and in consumer trust.
Even the recent revelatory hacking incident that stole and then exposed U.S. Democratic National Committee sensitive information focused more on “who” perpetrated the act, rather than why was such a hack successful, and what had been the standard security practices at the time that facilitated the breach in the first place. In this instance too, senior individuals including the then Chairperson of the DNC resigned from their positions, perhaps distracting from the more pertinent point – what was the cyber security posture prior to the breach? Indeed, what’s particularly disconcerting about this incident is that sources have indicated that federal investigators had tied to war the DNC about a potential intrusion in their network months before the party had tried to fix the problem. If true, this certainly calls into question the gravity with which political organizations address cyber security. More importantly, it calls into question what steps are being taken to guarantee user data security and policies are being implemented to reduce further risk exposure in the future.
While it is always interesting to know who pulled off some of the more attention-garnering headlines, it ultimately does not help in addressing security at an organizational level unless a strategy is designed and put into place. A good first step is designing a risk management approach that helps organizations identify and preserve the very data that they should protect to ensure business operations. This includes incorporating the appropriate technologies, as well as creating and testing an incident response plan to better prepare an organization before, during, and post-breach.
While cyber security remains a challenging and difficult undertaking, complacency should not replace responsibility when it comes to holding organizations accountable for failing to properly secure the very information to which they are entrusted. Cyber insurance and identity theft does not replace a cyber security ecosystem designed to be resilient in the face of these activities. They are part of the post-breach remediation but they do not help prevent or reduce the threat from happening.
It is disappointing if organizations would rather assume the risk of major class action lawsuits from consumers and financial institutions to doing their due diligence with regards to taking responsible action with regards to protecting customer data. In the age where most concede that “it’s not if you’ll be breached, but when,” it’s time for organizations to understand that their constituents are their most prized asset, and that by protecting their interests, the organization secures the continued longevity of theirs in turn.
This is a guest post written by Emilio Iasiello.