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Attacks/Breaches

'Security Fatigue' Could Put Business at Risk

The relentless march of security breaches may cause some individuals to drop their guard, but there's more to the story than that.

When the news is filled with stories of one disaster after another, responders talk about "compassion fatigue" to explain why people seem to care less about the loss with each succeeding event. So, with stories of data breaches affecting millions of records in the news, is it possible for consumers and employees to suffer "security fatigue" in ways that have an impact on their behavior?

Gary Davis, McAfee’s chief consumer security evangelist, says security fatigue may be responsible for some behavior, but it's not a complete explanation. "I read a report that talked about 'optimism bias.' People always tend to believe it's not going to happen to them — it will happen to their neighbor, so they don't have to be very proactive," Davis says. "It's the case of 'it's not going to happen to me' versus 'there's too much going on.'"

One of the factors contributing to a lack of urgency is ignorance about just how much pain is involved when an identity is stolen, Davis suggests. "I don't think people truly grasp just how painful it is to unwind something that's pretty far gone down a path. That's what people need to think about when they're thinking about protecting their identities," he explains.

Given the individual lack of action, organizations may have to step up their efforts to protect their customers and employees, Davis says. "With things like GDPR, there will be a more concerted effort for businesses to be more mindful," he says.

But the impetus to protect individual personal data is not simply regulation-driven. As the traditional network perimeter has dissolved, it's become more important for organizations to extend their technology and expertise to employee, partner, and customer devices in order to protect corporate assets. "We need a much stronger sense of collaboration and education for what you need to be doing to make sure you don't put yourself or your company at risk," Davis says.

What suggestions should the enterprise be making to customers and employees to help them keep both their own and enterprise data safe? Davis has a list of "bare minimum" steps he thinks every organization should suggest:

  • Apply patches and updates to the router, PC, and connected devices. If individuals do that, then they're doing something well.
  • Stay informed and educated. Phishing is a good example. There are simple things an individual can do to see whether a message or website is phishing.
  • Have active antivirus on the smartphone and PC.
  • Use freely available website reputation tools. They'll block access to a known-bad website.
  • Use a password manager. This could lead to both stronger passwords and the end of credential cascades in which a threat actor gets one password and gains access to dozens of websites.

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Curtis Franklin Jr. is Senior Editor at Dark Reading. In this role he focuses on product and technology coverage for the publication. In addition he works on audio and video programming for Dark Reading and contributes to activities at Interop ITX, Black Hat, INsecurity, and ... View Full Bio

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