Getting the Most Out of Your Information Security and Cybersecurity Programs in 2019

by Sarah Harvey / January 8th, 2019

As organizations plan their information security and cybersecurity efforts for 2019, we often hear a lot of confusion and frustration about things like frameworks modifying their requirements, the cost of audits and assessments rising, scopes getting bigger, and testing seeming to get more difficult.

The threats will do nothing but persist in 2019. You need to do more to protect your organization. When prices or scope or frequency increases, here’s what we’re going to ask you: don’t you want more in 2019 than you got in 2018?

Root Causes of Data Breaches and Security Incidents

Some things stay the same. The root causes of data breaches and security incidents center around three areas: malicious attackers, human error, and flaws in technology. Let’s dive into how these areas impact your organization’s information security and cybersecurity efforts.

  • Organized criminal groups aren’t stopping; they’re only getting more sophisticated. They’re using tried and true techniques that continue to work on victims. There’s obviously financial motivation, but a malicious attacker could also be motivated by a political agenda, social cause, convenience, or just for fun.  
  • Employees will continue to be your weakest link. Verizon’s 2018 Data Breach Investigations Report states that one in five breaches occurs because of human error.
  • As if human error wasn’t bad enough, malicious insiders are even worse. 28% of cyberattacks in 2018 involved insiders.
  • Technology is a blessing and curse. Systems glitch and cause major data breaches and security incidents.
  • It’s almost impossible to run a business without involving third parties. Inevitably, third parties cause data breaches and security incidents, and your organization must deal with the consequences.  
  • Timing is everything when it comes to data breaches and security incidents, and hackers are usually quicker than your team. Ponemon’s 2018 Cost of a Data Breach Study reports that the average time to identify a data breach was 197 days in 2018. To actually contain the breach? 69 days.

These root causes, all connected to malicious attackers, human error, and flaws in technology, impact your organization’s information security and cybersecurity efforts in a significant way. Did you experience a negative impact from these areas in 2018? How are you going to mitigate the risks in these areas for 2019?

Cost of a Data Breach

There’s no denying that information security and cybersecurity efforts require a financial investment, but so do data breaches and security incidents. According to Ponemon, the average total cost of a data breach was $3.86 million in 2018 – a 6.4% increase from 2017. You can bet that in 2019, that number will grow again.

Organizations are usually surprised that the following elements drive up the cost of a data breach:

  • Loss of customers
  • Size of the breach
  • Time it takes to identify and contain a data breach
  • Effective incident response team
  • Legal fees and fines
  • Public relation fees
  • Information security and cybersecurity program updates

Take the City of Atlanta, for instance. When the SamSam ransomware attack hit in March of 2018, it was initially estimated to cost $2.6 million in emergency response efforts. Incident response consulting, digital forensics, crisis communication, Microsoft expertise, remediation planning, new equipment, and the actual ransom cost added up quickly. It’s now speculated that this ransomware attack cost $17 million.

As the cost a of data breach rises, so does the cost of information security auditing and testing. The threats are pervasive – how can you make a smart investment to avoid the cost of a data breach?

Your Plan for 2019

Now that you’ve learned about the persistent root causes of data breaches and security incidents, plus the cost of a data breach, what are you going to do about it in 2019? How are you going to modify your information security and cybersecurity efforts? Here are a few areas to consider as we head into a new year:

  • When was the last time you performed a formal risk assessment? Risk assessments can provide you with what we call the three C’s: confidence, clear direction, and cost savings.
  • If your weakest link is employees, how will you hold them accountable to their security awareness training?
  • Ponemon reports that when an organization has an incident response team, they save $14 per compromised record. Has your incident response plan been tested recently?
  • What security automation tools would be a valuable investment for your organization? According to Ponemon, security automation is a way to decrease the cost of a data breach because you’re able to identify and contain the attack faster.
  • Ask your auditing firm to educate you on what new cybersecurity testing exists and which relevant requirements will be changing in 2019.

No defense is 100% effective. There are no guarantees that a data breach or security incident won’t occur. Organizations must be vigilant in doing what they can to prepare, detect, contain, and recover from persistent and sophisticated threats. Auditing firms must also commit to providing quality, thorough services that will empower organizations to meet their challenging compliance objectives. At KirkpatrickPrice, that’s our mission and our responsibility. Contact us today to discuss how we can prepare your organization for the threats of 2019.

More Data Breach and Incident Response Resources

What Is an Incident Response Plan? The Collection and Evaluation of Evidence

[24] Cyber Incident: How Your Vendors Can Impact Your Security

Rebuilding Trust After a Data Breach

Horror Stories: Million Dollar Malware Losses