A security vendor's analysis of breach data from first-quarter 2019 suggests an organization that discovers a security breach on its own is actually likely to take longer to disclose it than an organization alerted to a breach via an external source.
Risk Based Security found that when organizations first learned of a breach from an external source such as law enforcement, they publicly reported the incident within 43 days, on average. In contrast, when organizations discovered a breach via an internal team, they took a much longer 74 days on average to report it. Half of all externally discovered incidents were reported in just eight days compared with a median of 46 days for internal discovery.
That finding is somewhat unexpected. It runs counter to the theory about organizations that are better able to detect a breach also being better prepared to respond to it, says Inga Goddijn, executive vice president of Risk Based Security. "We're very interested in understanding whether the first-quarter report findings are an outlier or a more typical result," Goddijn says.
For now, the reasons why it might be happening are really anyone's guess, she says. "We have some theories as to why companies that discover their own breaches would take longer to disclose them. But we'd like to see more data before pointing to possible reasons for the delay," Goddijn notes.
Risk Based Security's report shows that an astounding 1,903 breaches were publicly disclosed in the first three months of this year. That number has already put 2019 on track to being the worst year ever for data breaches. The number of reported breaches in first-quarter 2019 was 56.4% higher than the number reported in the same period last year. The number of exposed records shot up 28.9% from about 1.5 billion in 2018 to 1.9 billion this year.
As is usually the case, a handful of breaches were responsible for a vast majority of the records that were compromised last quarter. One breach alone — at email verification company Verifications.io — exposed some 983 million records containing names, email addresses, dates of birth, personal mortgage amounts, and other data. Most reports of the incident so far have pegged the number of exposed records at a smaller, but still staggeringly high, 763 million.
Risk Based Security's report showed that, together, the top five breaches in the first quarter accounted for about 1.3 billion of the total number of exposed records. In other words, the number of records exposed in the remaining 1,898 breaches combined was around 600,000.
Web Compromises Remain Top Cause for Data Exposures
Malicious hacking remained the top cause for data breaches. It accounted for 84.8% of reported security breaches last quarter. However, significantly more records once again were compromised through exposures on the Web — of the accidental, negligent, and malicious variety — than any other breach cause. Risk Based Security's analysis showed that nearly 68% of the records that were compromised in the first quarter were via leaks on the Web.
"Researchers are increasingly going public when they discover sizable, unprotected databases containing sensitive information," the Risk Based Security analysis noted. "Unfortunately, they aren't terribly difficult to find when you know where to look." The massive compromise at Verifications.io, for instance, happened because a MongoDB database containing the sensitive information was left completely open — without even password protection — and accessible to the Internet.
More than eight in 10 (85.6%) of the records that were exposed last quarter belonged to organizations in the business sector, which in Risk Based Security's counting includes finance and insurance companies. Meanwhile, the government and education sectors — often criticized for lax security practices — accounted for some 5.8 million exposed records or less than 0.03% of the total last quarter.
"Despite so much attention on the need for improving security, breaches are still happening at an unprecedented rate," Goddijn says. "There really is no sign of a slowdown in breach activity, which to me illustrates just how difficult it is to protect networks and data."
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