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Many Organizations Don't Go Public With Data Breaches Or Share Intel

Some 60 percent of organizations worldwide have an incident response team and plan in place to prepare for an attack, new report finds

There are likely many more breached retailers than Target, Neiman Marcus, Michaels, and Sally Beauty either unaware that they have been hit or not yet ready to go public. There also are many data breaches, even at retailers, that may never see the light of day: As a matter of fact, some 57 percent of organizations worldwide say they do not voluntarily report hacks that aren't bound by disclosure laws.

So says a new report published today by Arbor Networks and The Economist Intelligence Unit, which surveyed some 360 C-level or board-level business executives around the globe on their incident response posture. Some 77 percent of the respondents say their firms had been hit with a cyberattack in the past two years, but only about 35 percent say they share attack and threat information with other organizations in their industry, 32 percent say they do not share such intelligence, and 27 percent did not say one way or the other.

"Only a third of companies are willing to share information about incidents with other organizations ... But these days, the only way to defend is sharing," says Dan Holden, director of Arbor's ASERT.

Threat and attack intelligence-sharing is widely considered crucial to fight the bad guys and to give organizations information to prepare or defend against attack campaigns.

The U.S. is more active in intel-sharing than other nations, according to the report, with financial services, critical infrastructure and higher education as some of the most active in this practice. "Sharing information is one of the strengths of information security in the higher education industry, and we use multiple methods to share information and collaborate," says Brad Judy, director of information systems security at the University of Colorado, who was interviewed for the report.

[Breaches at Target and other retailers sound the alarm for retail industry to establish a cyber-threat Information-Sharing and Analysis Center. See Retail Industry Mulls Forming Its Own ISAC For Intel-Sharing .

Meanwhile, security incidents are becoming more common and frequent. While more than three-fourths say they have suffered an incident in the past two years, not all were not outsider-related: nearly 30 percent suffered major system outages and 27 percent, exposure of sensitive data by an employee.

Some 60 percent of organizations now have an incident response team and plan in place to prepare for an attack, with that rate on the rise, the report says. Some 80 percent of large organizations, and 70 percent of respondents overall, have third-party relationships in place with IR specialists. Those organizations hit with an attack in the past two years were more than twice as likely to have partnered with an IR specialist firm.

Execs see a well-orchestrated response to a security incident as a potential reputation-booster, the report found. Two-thirds of the respondents say that responding well to an incident can "enhance" the company's public reputation. "For Target, that's a big deal," Holden says, noting that the retailer suffered more customer fallout than TJX did. "Employee and customer awareness is different here [with Target] ... the saving face piece is big" today, he says.

The report also found that few execs are confident that their organization is prepared in the face of a security incident: Only 17 percent say they are fully prepared, and more than 40 percent say they would be better prepared if they had more knowledge about the threats out there. About half say they cannot predict how a breach would affect their business.

The execs surveyed for the report were spread across North America (31 percent), Europe (36 percent), and Asia-Pacific (29 percent).

The "Cyber incident response: Are business leaders ready?" report is available here (PDF) for download.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Add Your Comment" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message. Kelly Jackson Higgins is Senior Editor at DarkReading.com. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise Magazine, ... View Full Bio

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