Verizon – 2009 Data Breach Investigations Supplemental Report

This is no doubt one of many blog posts regarding the Verizon Business RISK Team “2009 Data Breach Investigations Supplemental Report” (DBISR). Below are a few of my thoughts.

1.    Quality of the Data. While it is neither the intent or spirit of the report to compare the usefulness of the information or the quality of the data to public data sources, I think it is important to recognize that the facts being collected by the Verizon team are generally more credible then the third-party sources that other public sources rely upon. In scenarios where I am trying to gather information about a breach or compiling a dataset for analysis – I am going to have a higher level of confidence in data / information from sources closer to the incident – then third parties just reporting on it. This does not mean that 3rd-party data is not legit – I am just suggesting the quality – from an accuracy and reliability perspective – is different and should be recognized.

2.    Data Overlap. On page 23 – is a table comparing the Verizon IR breaches and records lost to the equivalent DataLossDB values (keep in mind these are point in time values). The question I have is, how many of the 592 breaches in Verizon’s dataset are accounted for in the DataLossDB dataset? The reality is that in some US states (assuming all the breaches were in the US), data breach notification is not required, so an event can occur that does not result in breach notification to the consumer or the applicable State Attorneys General. If there were a difference between Verizon and DataLossDB – it only strengthens my confidence in their data because it contains credible data points not represented elsewhere (private consortium data aside).

3.    Threat Action “Profiles”. If you have not printed pages 5-21 and posted them on your cubicle / office wall – or recommended to your peers or other information security professionals – why not? Seriously. Threat actor / threat community profiles are such a valuable resource for security / risk practitioners to quickly reference, especially when we are dealing with dozens of threats and hundreds of controls. I can assure you that I will probably incorporate some of the DBSIR “threat action” profiles for some work I am doing in this same space with my employer – good job Verizon!

4.    Industry. My final observation is related to the industry and size of companies where breaches have occurred. I have blogged about this recently and I only mention this to remind folks that not every data point whether it is from Verizon, DataLossDB, PrivacyRights.Org, or other public / private data sources may be relevant to your industry or your company. The reality is that there are different expectations and regulatory requirements between industries and you have to keep that in mind while in the process of drawing conclusions from these types of reports.

Overall, two thumbs up to the Verizon Business RISK team. I commend them on their willingness to share this information and their desire to influence our industry as a whole.


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