SANS Study Says Reputation Is a Cyber-Casualty

The latest security study says that you've probably been attacked and your reputation has taken the biggest hit.

There is, it seems, no end to the things that can keep security professionals up at night. A new SANS study, sponsored by Infoblox and McAfee, asked about that list of things and found that ransomware, insider threats and DoS attacks were at the top.

The survey, "Sensitive Data at Risk: The SANS 2017 Data Protection Survey," gathered data from over 250 IT security administrators, engineers, developers and privacy experts in North America. It asked, broadly, about what threats the professionals worry about, how badly those threats have hurt them and what to do about all the threats in the IT landscape.

Attacks are ubiquitous. Seventy-eight percent of the respondents reported that their organizations have seen two or more incidents involving the major threats in the last 12 months. In addition to the big three threats mentioned earlier, identity spoofing, privilege elevation and identity theft were among the threats that organizations dealt with, in the 12 months covered by the survey.

While attacks were common, significant data loss due to the attacks was not. Only 12% of those answering said that they had experienced a significant breach to sensitive data in the last 12 months. Of those who did, the most common data lost was user login and password data (more than 40%) followed by privileged credentials and customer-identifiable personal information (more than 30% each). With relatively little data actually lost, were companies really damaged by these attacks? According to the survey, they were, indeed.

What kind of pain results when the loss of critical information isn't the primary damage? Three types of damage stood at the top of the list of cyber-pain inflicted:

  • Loss of customer confidence

  • Legal headaches and fees

  • Loss of brand reputation

Two of these three could be seen as problems of perception; humans have trouble getting past the rules of the jungle, in which weakness means being cut from the pack and cast out. The pain that untrusting citizens don't inflict, the legal and regulatory systems do. Put them all together and they form a block of reasons to avoid becoming a victim if at all possible.

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It's hard to defend against something if you don't know where it's coming from and there are two big sources of the pain inflicted on organizations through their IT systems. The first, not surprisingly, is hacking. Whether it takes the form of direct hacking or malware, criminals are a problem for more than 40% of companies taking the survey.

Next up is the insider threat. Now, it's important to note that this is not accidental loss from a clumsy or inattentive employee. No, this is insiders taking direct action against the organization, a problem faced by more than 35% of companies. No other source comes close to these two -- and defense has to address each.

So what's to be done about making things better? Step one is visibility. When the attacker knows more about your data, your applications or your network than you do, you're in a very vulnerable position.

The next step sounds the simplest: Do the things you know you need to do. Most security is common sense -- secure your assets and take care to control access to your systems -- but far too few organizations take the time and dedicate the resources to do the things that have long been known as best practices. Brush, floss, follow best security practices. These are things that you should do every day.

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— Curtis Franklin is the editor of Follow him on Twitter @kg4gwa.

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About the Author(s)

Curtis Franklin, Principal Analyst, Omdia

Curtis Franklin Jr. is Principal Analyst at Omdia, focusing on enterprise security management. Previously, he was senior editor of Dark Reading, editor of Light Reading's Security Now, and executive editor, technology, at InformationWeek, where he was also executive producer of InformationWeek's online radio and podcast episodes

Curtis has been writing about technologies and products in computing and networking since the early 1980s. He has been on staff and contributed to technology-industry publications including BYTE, ComputerWorld, CEO, Enterprise Efficiency, ChannelWeb, Network Computing, InfoWorld, PCWorld, Dark Reading, and on subjects ranging from mobile enterprise computing to enterprise security and wireless networking.

Curtis is the author of thousands of articles, the co-author of five books, and has been a frequent speaker at computer and networking industry conferences across North America and Europe. His most recent books, Cloud Computing: Technologies and Strategies of the Ubiquitous Data Center, and Securing the Cloud: Security Strategies for the Ubiquitous Data Center, with co-author Brian Chee, are published by Taylor and Francis.

When he's not writing, Curtis is a painter, photographer, cook, and multi-instrumentalist musician. He is active in running, amateur radio (KG4GWA), the MakerFX maker space in Orlando, FL, and is a certified Florida Master Naturalist.

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