2009 Data Breach Investigations Report


285 Million records were compromised in 2008. The Verizon Business RISK Team conducted a study of first hand evidence collected during data breach investigations of 90 confirmed breaches as part of their caseload. This 2008 caseload of more than 285 million records, exceeded the combined total from 2004 to 2007.

2009 Data Breach Investigations Report pdf_logo.

Investigators concluded that 87 percent of breaches could have been avoided through the implementation of simple or intermediate controls. All of these were the standard practices in the industry. In only 13 percent of cases were costly controls (in terms of effort and expense) recommended as the most efficient and effective means of avoiding the breach. Most of these were standard security controls, even though they are costly.

They conclude with these recommendations:

Align process with policy: Many organizations set security policies and procedures yet fail to implement them consistently. Controls focused on accountability and ensuring that policies are carried out can be extremely effective in mitigating the risk of a data breach.

Achieve essential, and then worry about excellent: We find that many organizations achieve very high levels of security in numerous areas but neglect others. Criminals will almost always prefer the easier route. Identifying a set of essential controls and ensuring their implementation across the organization without exception, and then moving on to more
advanced controls where needed is a superior strategy against real-world attacks.

Secure business partner connections: Basic partner-facing security measures as well as security assessments, contractual agreements, and improved management of shared assets are all viewed as beneficial in managing partner-related risk.

Create a data retention plan: Clearly, knowing what information is present within the organization, its purpose within the business model, where it flows, and where it resides is foundational to its protection. Where not necessitated by valid business needs, a strong effort should be made to minimize the retention and replication of data.

Control data with transaction zones: Based on data discovery and classification processes, organizations should separate different areas of risk into transaction zones. These zones allow for more comprehensive control implementations to include but not be limited to stronger access control, logging, monitoring, and alerting.

Monitor event logs: All too often, evidence of events leading to breaches was available to the victim but this information was neither noticed nor acted upon. Processes that provide sensible, efficient, and effective monitoring and response are critical to protecting data.

Create an Incident Response Plan: If and when a breach is suspected to have occurred, the victim organization must be ready to respond. An effective Incident Response Plan helps minimize the scale of a breach and ensures that evidence is collected in the proper manner.

Increase awareness: Delivered effectively, training that educates employees about the risks of data compromise, their role in prevention, and how to respond in the event of an incident can be an important line of defense and discovery.

Engage in mock incident testing: In order to operate efficiently, organizations should undergo routine IR training that covers response strategies, threat identification, threat classification, process definition, proper evidence handling, and mock scenarios.

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