The early part of 2018 has brought a spot of good news, as reports from first quarter show that the number of publicly reported breaches dropped dramatically compared to the same period of time last year.
"We haven't seen a Q1 this quiet since 2012," says Inga Goddijn, executive vice president for Risk Based Security, which today released the statistics from its Q1 2018 Data Breach Trends report.
The study shows that organizations experienced 686 breaches that exposed approximately 1.4 billion records. That's nothing to sneeze at, but the good news is that compared to Q1 2017 both numbers have gone down more than half. In the first three months of 2017, the number of exposed records had already added up to 3.4 billion.
Goddijn and the Risk Based Security team are not sure exactly why the numbers have shifted lower, though they have a few theories. First of all, the number of attacks phishing for employee W-2 wage and salary data has plummeted. Last year's report saw 200 of these incidents in Q1 and this year it's dropped down to 35. Additionally, the change could also be attributable to the momentum growing in cryptomining activity.
"We also think the shift toward cryptomining is possibly easing some of the attention on data theft," says Goddijn. This would reduce the number of publicly disclosed breaches but could represent a jump in malicious activity that's off the books, so to speak. "It's still too early to say for sure but it does go to show, malicious activity will follow the best opportunities for making a profit."
Regardless of shifts in attack trends, Goddijn says that all of the same old security fundamentals still apply to new threats.
"Take cryptomining for example," she says. "Many of the same processes that are used to protect against ransomware - like good vulnerability management, restricting code execution, strong email filtering and helping users stay safe on line - are helpful for stopping mining malware too."
Organizations should also probably keep things in perspective. While the number of incidents is at a six-year low for early year activity, the only reason year-over-year number of breached records dropped is because there was such a huge spike in 2017. The 1.4 billion records exposed early this year is still more than double than the number of records exposed during Q1 of 2014, 2015 and 2016 combined.
Interestingly, aside from the drop in W-2 phishing incidents, the mix of incident types and victim organization still remains largely static.
"The other metrics we track, such as breach types, who is being impacted, (and) size of breaches, are very similar to recent quarters," says Goddijn. "We have not observed sizable changes in the type of organizations being breached, the type of data that is being exposed, the number of large events, insider vs outsider activity, breach severity scores or where breaches are taking place. We would have expected other sizable shifts to be evident along with the drop in the number of breaches but that is not the case."
Ericka Chickowski specializes in coverage of information technology and business innovation. She has focused on information security for the better part of a decade and regularly writes about the security industry as a contributor to Dark Reading. View Full Bio