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The Inconvenient Truth About Breaches

Assume you've been attacked and line up the tools and information to predict, detect, and respond to it, new Dark Reading Analytics Alert says

It's no longer a matter of "if" you'll get hacked, but when. When a legendary security firm like RSA gets owned, and targeted attacks out of China go after Google and Adobe, it's high time for all organizations to start thinking about how to measure their security posture and the real threats they will likely face.

Taking a second and more critical look at log management, security metrics, and the types of security tools you should have in your toolbox are some of the steps to prepare for the inevitable, according to Dark Reading's new Analytics Alert, "Monitoring Tools and Logs Make All The Difference."

Collecting security event logs and information is the relatively simple part: It's categorizing, correlating, and searching it that's the big challenge -- as well as just how much to collect. According to Andrew Hay, senior security analyst with The 451 Group, the issue of deciding which data to collect is a balancing act.

“There are two schools of thought. One is that some organizations say, ‘I’m going to log absolutely everything and anything,’ and then that becomes a management nightmare. Logging everything for any sort of real-time analytics or security operations is going to be very difficult,” Hay says. “You really need to understand what those logs are before you log them. So the other camp says, ‘Only log what you need.’ But the challenge is, how many organizations really understand what they need?”

Getting actionable information out of all of that data collection can mean the difference in spotting and stopping a breach, especially in a stealthy, targeted attack from a so-called advanced persistent threat (APT) attacker. Some organizations have been under siege by these types of attacks for so long by the time they discover it that forensics investigators can’t even trace the original machine that was infected. The majority of the 120 victim organizations that enlisted the help of Mandiant in the past 18 months were first hit by the targeted attack two years before, according to Kevin Mandia, founder and CEO of Mandiant.

It's not about preventing an attack, but it's more about assuming the ATP attacker is inside and then predicting, detecting, and responding to his moves, according to Mandiant.

Meanwhile, cybercriminals are changing their tactics. According to Verizon Business' recent data breach report, the bad guys are waging smaller, more focused attacks with relatively unsophisticated methods. "I think what we’re seeing is that there’s a big change in the type of data that criminals are going after,” says Dave Ostertag, global investigations manager at Verizon Business. “There’s a glut of personal data out there now, and there really isn’t a great market for it. The value of intellectual property, on the other hand, is much higher—criminals are finding that they can make as much money from stealing a smaller number of highly sensitive records as they can from stealing a big database of customer information."

The number of compromised records hit in the data breaches Verizon and the U.S. Secret Service investigated dropped from 144 million in 2009 to only 4 million in 2010. But this year’s report covers approximately 760 data breaches, the largest case load to date, according to the researchers. So while the number of breaches continues to go up, the number of records affected is going down.

The full Dark Reading report is available for download here.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Add Your Comment" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message.

Kelly Jackson Higgins is the Executive Editor of Dark Reading. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

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