Verizon 2009 Business Data Breach Report

By: Absolute Team | 4/23/2009

Verizon has released its 2009 Business Data Breach Investigations Report, following similar reports earlier this year from the ITRC and Ponemon. The report indicates that 285 million records were breached in 2008. This figure is much higher than the 35.7 million records that the ITRC estimated based on notification letters.

Highlights from the study include:

  • 91% of all compromised records were attributed to organized criminal groups
  • 99.6% of records were compromised from servers and applications
  • 74% resulted from external sources
  • 20% resulted from insiders
  • 69% were discovered by a 3rd party
  • 67% were aided by significant errors
  • 32% implicated business partners
  • 95% of data breaches were rated as high difficulty requiring advanced skills, significant customization, and/or extensive resources

The most successful breaches involved an attacker exploiting some mistake made by the victim, allowing them to hack into a network and collect data. Hacking and malware were the top single causes of breaches, both up from the figures for 2007.

Although much of the response to this survey has been on the thread of insider threats being lower than expected, I have to argue that the data seems in line with previous data. Although there is an indication that insider threats will go up for 2009, the 20% insider data breach figure quoted here is actually higher than the previously estimated 15.7%. I think fear of future insider threats has simply muddled our perspective of the past year.

The data about insiders, however, has been more revealing. On a per breach basis, insiders were responsible for more records lost, on average, per breach than other causes, such as external sources or partners.

The report suggests that mitigation efforts be focused on ensuring essential controls are met; finding, tracking & assessing data; collecting and monitoring event logs; auditing user accounts and credentials; and testing and reviewing web applications.

Financial Services