Comments on Security Breach StatisticsBy Adrian Lane
I still have not quite reached complete apathy regarding breach statistics, but I am really close. The Identity Theft Resource Center statistics made their way into the Washington Post last week, and were reposted on the front page of The Arizona Republic business section this morning. In a nutshell they are saying the number of breaches was up 69% for the first half of 2008 over the first half of 2007.
I am certain no one is surprised. As a security blogging community we have been talking about how the custodians of the information fail to address security, how security products are not all that effective, how the ‘bad guys’ are creative, opportunistic, and committed to finding new exploits, and my personal favorite, how the people who set up the (financial, banking, heath care, government, insert your favorite here) systems have a serious financial stake in things being quick and easy rather than secure. Ultimately, I would have been surprised if the number had gone down.
I used to do a presentation called “Dr. Strangelog or; How I stopped worrying and loved the breach”. No, I was not advocating building subterranean caverns to wait this out; rather a mental adjustment in how to approach security. For the corporate IT audience, the premise is that you are never going to be 100% secure, so plan to do the best you can, and be prepared to react when a breach happens. And I try to point out some of the idiocy in certain policies that invite unnecessary risk … like storing credit card numbers when it is unnecessary, not encrypting backup tapes, and allowing all your customer records to ever be on a laptop outside the company. While we have gone well beyond these basics, I still think that contrarian thinking is in order to find new solutions, or to redefine the problem itself as it seems impossible to stop the breaches at this point.
As an individual, as opposed to as a security practitioner, Is there anything meaningful in these numbers? Is there any value what so ever? Is it going to be easier to quantify the records that have not been breached? Are we getting close to having every personal record compromised at least once? The numbers are so large that they start to lose their meaning. Breaches are so common that they have spawned several secondary markets in areas such as tools and techniques for fraudulently gaining additional personal information, partial personal information useful for the same purpose, and of course various anti-fraud tools and services. I start to wonder if the corporations and public entities of the world have already effectively wiped out personal privacy.