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The Morning After: What Happens to Data Post Breach?

We need consumers and businesses to not simply shrug off data breaches but to take active measures to protect their data. We are hopeful that new insights will provide a compelling answer to the question “So what?”

Raj Samani

April 29, 2016

2 Min Read

No company is bulletproof when it comes to the compromise of data; this is the resounding message from Verizon’s 2016 Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR). With statistics detailing how many records have been compromised, the fundamental question that is often overlooked is “So what?”

I don’t mean to sound indifferent, but it is a response that we often hear. “Banks refund me anyway” and “Well, it’s just another notification letter. I get these all the time” are common refrains. Feeling numb to the dizzying statistics is a dangerous trend that without correct education could have significant repercussions to the data subjects that have been impacted.

To assist with that education, we have co-authored one section of the DBIR that explains what happens with data after a breach, in particular the monetization of stolen data and their associated markets. 

One of the biggest challenges we face when attempting to explain market pricing for stolen data is that not all data is created equally. How can we normalize various stolen data sets to establish “market prices?” In short, we cannot. It is for this reason that we focused instead on specific data sets—payment card information, financial account information, and medical data. 

What is particularly significant is how inexpensive it is to purchase this type of data, with payment cards selling for the price of a cup of coffee. However, we were surprised by the sharp drop in the price of stolen payment cards over the last several years. Apparently, the law of supply and demand applies to all markets, including the criminal marketplace. With so many recent confirmed payment card breaches, there is only one direction for the market price of these cards to move—downward!

We are hopeful that such insights provide a compelling answer to the question “So what?” As a society, we are increasingly dependent on digital systems. We need consumers and businesses to not simply shrug off data breaches but to take active measures to protect their data and not give criminals a shortcut to becoming millionaires. As the European Cybercrime Centre states in the report, “Only through a coordinated effort involving all parties will we be in a position to tackle this threat.”

About the Author(s)

Raj Samani

Chief Technology Officer of Intel Security’s Europe, Middle East and Africa division

Raj has previously worked as the Chief Information Security Officer for a large public sector organization in the UK. He volunteers as the Cloud Security Alliance EMEA Strategy Advisor, is on the advisory councils for Infosecurity Europe, and Infosecurity Magazine. In addition, Raj was previously the Vice President for Communications in the ISSA UK Chapter, having presided over the award for Chapter communications program of the year 2008, and 2009. He has had numerous security papers published, and appeared on television (ITV and More4). As well as providing assistance in the 2006 RSA Wireless Security Survey and part of the consultation committee for the RIPA Bill (Part 3). Raj is also the author of the upcoming book 'Applied Cyber Security and the Smart Grid' He can be found on twitter @Raj_Samani

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