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3/8/2017
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Fortune 1000 Companies See Security Ratings Drop

Fortune 1000 businesses report more breaches, and lower security performance, than their non-F1000 counterparts.

Fortune 1000 companies are at greater risk for cyberattacks compared with non-Fortune 1000 businesses, due to the types of data they possess and weak security strategies, according to new research from security ratings firm Bitsight.

Bitsight analyzed the security performance at Fortune 1000 companies by comparing them with a random sample of 2,500 businesses with similar industry breakdown and at least 2,500 employees.

Fortune 1000 companies are at a weaker security level than their counterparts, explains Stephen Boyer, CTO and cofounder at BitSight. As of Jan. 31, the median rating for Fortune 1000 companies was 700 (on a scale of 250 to 900), when non-F1000 businesses were performing at 730.

Over the past 15 months, one in every 20 Fortune 1000 organizations experienced a publicly disclosed breach; nearly double the rate of non-F1000 companies.

Fortune 1000 companies' security performance overall also dropped: although 52 companies improved, 103 saw their ratings fall between October 2016 and January 2017.

"A likely cause of this may be that Fortune 1000 organizations possess the type of data that make them more likely to have a legal obligation to disclose a breach," says Boyer.

Researchers also foundAndroidBauts and Necurs in 10% of Fortune 1000 companies. The Necurs botnet is responsible for driving several ransomware campaigns and known to have strong DDoS capabilities. The prevalence of AndroidBauts, a malicious adware and infostealer for Android, is a sign of the growing mobile security challenge, Boyer says. 

Despite comparatively weak performance, Boyer notes many Fortune 1000 companies have a strong security posture. The 75th percentile of these businesses is on the same level as their counterparts; however, a larger percentage of Fortune 1000 companies are at the bottom end of the spectrum. Many share the same flaws.

"There were a few areas where Fortune 1000 companies, on aggregate, appear to have weaknesses," he explains. "One area is the rate of system compromises on their networks." In March 2016, over 40% of these businesses had at least one occurrence of system compromise.

Many organizations also fail to secure their online services, Boyer continues. Most Fortune 1000 companies run Telnet on an open port. The unencrypted remote administration service can enable attackers to access communications or remotely control machines.

Because it's fairly simple to put these services behind a firewall or VPN, Boyer says this fallback could signify the existence of larger problems in an enterprise security program.

Previous Bitsight reports have found businesses with more online services are more likely to suffer data breaches. An earlier study on cyber practices and data breaches discovered 60% of breached organizations had at least 10 ports exposed to hackers, compared with 40% of non-breached businesses.

Boyer shares a few pieces of advice for those working to improve their security posture.

"Fortune 1000 companies should, first and foremost, prioritize incident detection and response," he says. "Companies that ensure system compromises are quickly remediated will likely reduce the chance of data exfiltration and breaches."

Businesses should also ensure there are no unnecessary open services on their network being exposed to the Internet.

"While it may seem obvious to some, an astonishing rate of organizations run some services on an open port that may introduce immediate security risk," he says.

Related Content:

Kelly Sheridan is Associate Editor at Dark Reading. She started her career in business tech journalism at Insurance & Technology and most recently reported for InformationWeek, where she covered Microsoft and business IT. Sheridan earned her BA at Villanova University. View Full Bio

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