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Security Monitoring An Elixir For Intrusion Costs?

A recent study of the costs of cybercrime finds that security intelligence, including monitoring and threat intelligence, reduces the costs of cyberattacks the most
Companies that want to reduce the cost of detecting, responding, and recovering from cyberattacks should invest in technologies designed to give businesses better visibility into the security of their networks and systems, according to a recent Ponemon Institute survey tallying the cost of cybercrime.

The 56 companies surveyed by the security research firm lost, on average, $8.9 million due to cyberattacks each year. The survey found that companies that detected attacks more slowly incurred greater costs. In the 2012 survey, the surveyed companies needed 24 days, on average, to resolve a cyberattack, racking up a hefty bill of more than $590,000 per incident -- 42 percent more than the previous year.

Little wonder then that technologies for monitoring and gaining intelligence on threats, called "security intelligence" in the report, correlated most strongly with a reduction in cybercrime costs.

"Some organizations seem to experience a lower cost, but not a zero cost, if they do certain things," says Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder of the survey firm. Security intelligence "is really important and helpful -- not only in the detection of the cybercrime -- but in the containment and ultimately remediation of the crime."

Companies that had deployed security information and event management systems or intrusion detection systems had, on average, $1.7 million less in cybercrime costs, according to the Ponemon survey. Companies that had implemented access and identity management tools saved $1.6 million, and the deployment of tools to help with governance, regulation, and compliance trimmed $1.5 million.

The relationship between better awareness of a business' network and lower damages from cybercrime should not be surprising, says Derek Manky, director of threat research for network-security vendor Fortinet.

"If you look at actual cases, damages occur when the time window is longer," he says. "You want to try to reduce how long that infection stays resident, so you need to know about that infection, which is where the detection part of it comes in."

[ Security information and event management (SIEM) is gradually evolving into a real-time analysis and alarm technology. See RSA Report Offers A Blueprint For Next-Generation SIEM. ]

Not everyone agrees with the survey data, however. Companies with high-value data will likely benefit the most from encrypting their data to prevent attackers from using the information, says Mark Bower, vice president of data-protection firm Voltage Security.

"When organizations are breached that have encrypted data, the impact is far, far less," he says. "Monitoring and intelligence are important, but they are not the solution."

In the Ponemon study, deploying encryption tools only correlated with a $900,000 reduction in costs. However, the study focused more on the costs of general cyberattacks and not on attacks that specifically targeted financial data. An academic study published last year found that the use of encryption in healthcare companies correlated with an increase in breaches.

"The adoption of encryption software is positively associated with more instances of publicized data losses, because it encourages people to be careless, or makes internal data breaches in the form of fraud easier to conduct because of the false sense of security given by the encryption software," the paper stated.

Measuring the cost of cybercrime is a controversial endeavor. Security firm McAfee estimated that firms suffer $1 trillion a year in losses to cyberattackers, but the figure has been criticized as unscientific. Earlier this month, Symantec estimated the cost of cybercrime to consumers was $110 billion in the last year.

The Ponemon studay found that each company suffered an average of 1.8 attacks per week. While the cost suffered by a company generally increases with the size of the business, smaller companies paid more per employee, about $1,300 versus $300 for larger companies.

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