Online Trust Alliance Determines Over 90 Percent of Data Breaches in First Half of 2014 Could Have Been Easily Prevented

Findings in newly released OTA Data Protection Best Practices and Risk Assessment Guides

January 22, 2015

3 Min Read


Seattle – Jan. 21, 2015 – The Online Trust Alliance (OTA), the non-profit with the mission to enhance online trust, today released its 2015 Data Protection Best Practices and Risk Assessment Guides, revealing that over 90 percent of data breaches that occurred in the first half of 2014 could have easily been prevented.

OTA also announced that it has analyzed over a thousand breaches involving the loss of personally identifiable information (PII) in 2014, as reported by the Open Security Foundation (OSF) and the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. OTA found that only 40 percent were the result of external intrusions, while 29 percent were caused by employees—accidentally or maliciously—due to a lack of internal controls. The balance of incidents was primarily attributed to lost or stolen devices or documents (18 percent); and social engineering/fraud (11 percent).

In response to the growing breach threat, OTA identified through a multi-stakeholder effort the top 12 most critical yet achievable security practices that all companies should follow. In its Risk Assessment Guide, OTA introduced a framework detailing how to complete an assessment of both one’s own security practices and that of third-party vendors upon which businesses are increasingly reliant. These practices complement those recently outlined by President Obama to enhance data and consumer protection.

The best practices directly correlate to some of the most infamous data breaches of the last two years. For instance:

  • Following OTA’s guidelines for enforcing effective password management and also assessing the security protocols of cloud-based partners would have prevented the 2014 hacking of private celebrity photos.

  • OTA’s recommendations for assessing third-party vendor partners for vulnerabilities and also segregating internal systems would have helped prevent and contain breaches impacting major retailers including Target and Home Depot.

“Businesses are overwhelmed with the increasing risks and threats, yet all too often fail to adopt security basics,” said Craig Spiezle, Executive Director and President of OTA. “Releasing the Guides and best practices in advance of Data Privacy Day will provide businesses with actionable advice. When combined with other controls, these can help prevent, detect, contain and remediate data breaches.”

As a companion to the Data Protection Best Practices Guide, the OTA Risk Assessment Guide instructs readers about how to help evaluate the vulnerabilities of not only their own organizations, but also their third-party cloud service providers and vendor partners. Such business relationships are an often overlooked and increasingly exploited liability.

Data Privacy & Protection Day Workshops

OTA will address the content of its Guides and the state of the current data breach epidemic—including the Sony and Home Depot hacks—at three upcoming OTA Town Halls in Silicon Valley (Jan. 28), New York (Feb. 3) and Washington DC (Feb. 5). These interactive events will include sessions featuring leaders from the FBI, FTC, FCC, Secret Service, the New York and California Attorney General's office, American Greetings, PayPal, Publishers Clearing House, Twitter and more.

The Town Halls are designed to provide businesses with prescriptive advice about how to navigate complex cybersecurity and data privacy issues, while enhancing brand trust and product innovation. The events are underwritten in part by leading companies including Act-On Software, Brunswick Group, Bryan Cave, Epsilon, Holland & Knight, Identity Guard, Sailthru, Sitelock, Symantec and TRUSTe, and organizations including the Anti-Phishing Working Group, Better Business Bureau, Center for Democracy & Technology,, Digital Content Next, ESPC, Future of Privacy Forum, Identity Theft Council, local InfraGard chapters, StopBadware, Smart Card Alliance and others. To attend a Town Hall, visit

About OTA:

The Online Trust Alliance (OTA) ( is a non-profit with the mission to enhance online trust and user empowerment while promoting innovation and the vitality of the Internet. Its goal is to help educate businesses, policy makers and stakeholders while developing and advancing best practices and tools to enhance the protection of users' security, privacy and identity. OTA supports collaborative public-private partnerships, benchmark reporting, and meaningful self-regulation and data stewardship. Its members and supporters include leaders spanning the public policy, technology, ecommerce, social networking, mobile, email and interactive marketing, financial, service provider, government agency and industry organization sectors.


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