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2/25/2016
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Breach Stats: Improving From Abysmal To Just Awful

Breach response times and volumes decreased significantly last year, but overall numbers still look ugly.

IT organizations are getting better at identifying data breaches more quickly and breach statistics are seeing ever-so-slight improvements, according to two new reports out this week. But these studies show the big picture numbers for breach volume and incident response still remain pretty abysmal, with tons of work left for security teams to clean up their acts.

On the positive front, the Mandiant M-Trends report out today shows that the median number of days it takes for victim firms to discover breaches dropped significantly to 146 days from 205 days in 2014. This is the fourth year in a row that the number has fallen. Compared to 416 days of 2011, this figure shows the industry has made marked improvements.

In the same vein, data breach volumes have also decreased significantly. According to a report out yesterday from Gemalto, breach statistics compiled within its Breach Level Index (BLI) database show that the number of compromised records decreased in 2015 by 39%. Though not quite as marked, the number of breach incidents have also seen improvement, according to the BLI, which recorded a decrease in the total number of breach incidents by 3.4%.

"Perhaps the best thing one can say about 2015—from a data breach standpoint—is that it wasn’t 2014," Gemalto's report explained. "The year had its own share of highly publicized and damaging attacks, and these incidents continued to keep cybersecurity in the headlines."

The numbers still looked pretty ugly for 2015. According to BLI, over 1.9 million records were stolen or lost every day, with total losses racking up to 707.5 million records. Meanwhile, there were 1,673 publicly reported data breaches last year. That's nothing to sneeze at. And incident and response readiness likely has to do with a lot of it.

The M-Trends report showed that fewer than 10 percent of organizations recognized an alert as an indication of ongoing threat activity and were able to respond appropriately. In nearly all of Mandiant's Red Team testing engagements last year where the organization had no knowledge prior to the test, customers universally fell prey at the perimeter, " even when those attacks resulted in successful compromise and a full perimeter breach," the report noted. 

Interestingly, Mandiant also reported that the very security tools, such as SIEMs, meant to help organizations pinpoint attacks are wide open for attackers to exploit in advance attacks. 

"Given the high level of privileges under which these controls execute and their importance to the security posture of the organization, they make a particularly interesting target," the M-Trends report notes. "Our Red Team regularly leverages compromised security infrastructure to perform reconnaissance, gain additional access, and even observe the security team’s activities."

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Ericka Chickowski specializes in coverage of information technology and business innovation. She has focused on information security for the better part of a decade and regularly writes about the security industry as a contributor to Dark Reading.  View Full Bio

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The cybersecurity profession struggles to retain women (figures range from 10 to 20 percent). It's particularly worrisome for an industry with a rapidly growing number of vacant positions.

So why does the shortage of women continue to be worse in security than in other IT sectors? How can men in infosec be better allies for women; and how can women be better allies for one another? What is the industry doing to fix the problem -- what's working, and what isn't?

Is this really a problem at all? Are the low numbers simply an indication that women do not want to be in cybersecurity, and is it possible that more women will never want to be in cybersecurity? How many women would we need to see in the industry to declare success?

Join Dark Reading senior editor Sara Peters and guests Angela Knox of Cloudmark, Barrett Sellers of Arbor Networks, Regina Wallace-Jones of Facebook, Steve Christey Coley of MITRE, and Chris Roosenraad of M3AAWG on Wednesday, July 13 at 1 p.m. Eastern Time to discuss all this and more.