About Hilary Tuttle

Hilary Tuttle is the editor of the Risk Management Monitor and Risk Management magazine.

Chipotle Provides Yet More Reminders of D&O and Food Safety Risks

chipotle food borne illness outbreaks

If the average food safety crisis or product recall forces companies to weather a storm, Chipotle has spent the past year trying to weather a category 4 hurricane. Now months into their recovery effort, it seems they are still seeing significant storm surges.
Last week, a group of Chipotle shareholders filed a federal lawsuit accusing executives of “failing to establish quality-control and emergency-response measures to prevent and then stop food-borne illnesses that sickened customers across the country and proved costly to the company,” the Denver Post reported. The suit accuses executives, the board of directors, and managers of unjust enrichment and seeks compensation from Chipotle’s co-CEOs, while also asking for corporate-governance reforms and changes to internal procedures to comply with laws and protect shareholders.

Sales remain significantly impacted by the series of six foodborne illness outbreaks last year. The company reported in July that same-store sales fell another 23.6% in Q2, marking the third straight quarter of declines for performance even lower than analysts had predicted. The company’s stock remains drastically impacted, currently trading at about $394 compared to a high of $749 before the outbreaks came to light a year ago.

In addition to the most recent shareholder lawsuit, the bad news for directors and officers specifically has also been further compounded recently. Shareholder lawsuits were filed earlier this year alleging the company had misled investors about its food safety measures, made “materially false and misleading statements,” and did not disclose that its “quality controls were not in compliance with applicable consumer and workplace safety regulations.” In June, a group of shareholders sued a number of top executives for allegedly violating their fiduciary responsibilities and engaging in insider trading. Relying on insider knowledge about insufficient food safety protocols, the suit alleges that the executives sold hundreds of thousands of shares in the first half of 2015 before the food poisoning scandal was made public.

Check out previous coverage of the Chipotle crisis in the Risk Management March cover story “Dia de la Crisis: The Chipotle Outbreaks Highlight Supply Chain Risks.”

A Risk-Based Approach to Rating and Correcting Individual Cyberrisk

LAS VEGAS—At this week’s Black Hat conference, some information security professionals turned to a key issue to control enterprise-wide cyberrisk: hacking humans. As phishing continues to be one of the top threats for businesses, hackers and security professionals here continue to try and make sense of why this threat vector is so successful and how to better defend against these attacks.

In a session called “Blunting the Phisher’s Spear: A risk-based approach for defining user training and awarding administrative privileges,” Professor Arun Vishwanath presented some of his research on the “people problem” of cybersecurity, proposing a new model for quantifying the cyberrisk posed by individuals within the enterprise and tailoring training to best mitigate the risk they pose. While many corporate training programs stage fake phishing emails and then lecture those who fail, he said, this model continues to be ineffective, as proven by the increase in these attacks and their efficacy across all industries. People are not the problem, Vishwanath asserted, rather it is in our understanding of people.

Vishwanath and his colleagues have come up with a model to explain how users think, the Suspicion, Cognition, Automaticity Model (SCAM). Faulty ideas about cybersecurity practices, popular myths and other irrational beliefs lead to illogical and unsafe practices. Automatic behaviors also play a significant role in risky behavior, particularly with mobile devices and the ritualistic checking of email – users open messages mindlessly and get so used to clicking links, downloading files or entering credentials that they do not really factor logic into these decisions.

Based on this model of why individuals act in risky ways, he recommends developing a Cyber Risk Index (CRI) based on a short, 40-question survey given to individual employees to evaluate the cyberrisk they specifically pose, which can also be aggregated across divisions, sectors and organizations. As the results highlight different areas of weakness that lead to the employee’s risky behaviors, the CRI can dictate the best ways to that individual and mitigate the risk.
phishing risk training What’s more, this quantitative score of individual cyber hygiene can be used to track changes in risk posture over time and to improve current decision processes regarding privileged access to the organization’s systems to better control data at risk.

Check out Dr. Vishwanath’s whitepaper for more on this approach.

Information Security Teams Drastically Underfunded, Understaffed

LAS VEGAS—As the information security industry’s hackers, IT professionals, technology developers and even Hillary Clinton’s campaign descend on Las Vegas for this year’s Black Hat conference, Black Hat has released the results of a survey from last year’s convention, offering an insider’s look at the state of cyberrisk. The report offers a failing report card for current investment on cyberrisk and some key feedback for the C-suite about current risk exposure.

The Rising Tide of Cybersecurity Concern is the second annual Black Hat attendee survey. Last year’s results included the alarming findings that 72% of respondents felt it likely that their organizations would have to deal with a major data breach in the year ahead, while approximately two-thirds of respondents said they did not have enough staff, budget, or training to meet those challenges.

Unfortunately, these top security experts have only grown more concerned. As cyberrisks proliferate – and attention from the C-suite increases – 15% “have no doubt” they will have to respond to a major security breach in the next year, with another 25% considering it highly likely and 32% calling it somewhat likely.

Yet information security teams are not getting the funding, staffing or training they need to combat this top risk. Only 26% of those polled said they have enough staff to simply defend against current threats. Black Hat reports some 63% of security professionals say their departments do not have enough budget to defend their organizations against current threats, with 20% saying they are “severely hampered” by a lack of funding.

The training critical to effectively managing evolving cyberrisks also presents a considerable concern for many security professionals. Two-thirds of respondents said they feel they do not have enough training and skills they need to perform all of the tasks for which they are responsible — up from 64% last year. Ten percent of respondents said they feel “ill-prepared” for many of the threats and tasks they face each day.

Experts considered the top new cyberrisks:

blck hat enterprise security

The weakest links in enterprise security:

When asked why security initiatives fail, some 37% of respondents (a plurality) pointed toward this shortage of qualified people and skills, with a lack of commitment and support from top management the second-most frequently cited response at 22%.

blck hat enterprise security

“Organizational priorities such as compliance and risk measurement consistently reduce the time/budget available for security professionals to resolve issues they consider the most critical,” Black Hat noted. “These pressing issues include targeted attacks, social engineering, and internal application security troubleshooting. Although the 2015 report revealed this trend, rather than a reverse in expenditure behavior, the issue has continued to increase.”

Additional findings from the survey include:

  • 37% see the re-emergence of ransomware as the greatest new threat to appear in the last 12 months
  • The attacker that 36% of security professionals fear most is the one with internal knowledge of the organization
  • While the emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT) has garnered much attention in recent years, only 9% of those surveyed are currently concerned with IoT security. However, 28% believe this will be a concern two years from now. This ranking has not altered since 2015.

Businesses Ignore Significant Cybersecurity Risks to Proprietary Data

Knowledge assets are critical to any business remaining functional and competitive, yet this data is routinely exposed to the risk of theft and overlooked in cybersecurity risk management. According to a new report from the Ponemon Institute and law firm Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton, the organizations are increasingly ineffective at safeguarding data like trade secrets, product design, development or pricing, and other proprietary information.

As breach notification laws, regulatory requirements, and reputation considerations draw more focus to cybersecurity surrounding personal data of customers or personnel, businesses are leaving more risk on the table regarding their most valuable assets, and that risk has a notable price tag.

In the past year, the average cost of remediating these attacks was about $5.4 million, and half of respondents estimated the maximum cost would range over $250 million, with seven out of ten placing it over $100 million. What’s more, on average, respondents believe only 35% of the losses resulting from knowledge asset theft would be covered by their current insurance policies.

The primary drivers of these costs, respondents said, were (out of 100 points):

knowledge asset theft costs

Why are so many businesses failing to take action against the risks to knowledge assets?

knowledge asset data theft risk

Among the findings, the report noted:

  • Theft is rampant. Seventy-four percent of respondents say it is likely that their company failed to detect a data breach involving the loss or theft of knowledge assets, and 60% state it is likely one or more pieces of their company’s knowledge assets are now in the hands of a competitor.
  • Companies don’t know what they need to protect, or how to protect it. Only 31% of respondents say their company has a classification system that segments information assets based on value or priority to the organization. Merely 28% rate the ability of their companies to mitigate the loss or theft of knowledge assets by insiders and external attackers as effective. The great majority who rate their programs as not effective cite as the primary reasons a lack of in-house expertise (67%), lack of clear leadership (59%), and lack of collaboration between different job functions (56%).
  • Executives and boards aren’t focused on the issue and its resolution. A data breach involving knowledge assets would impact a company’s ability to continue as a going concern according to 59% of respondents, but 53% replied that senior management is more concerned about a data breach involving credit card information or Social Security numbers than the leakage of knowledge assets. Only 32% of respondents say their companies’ senior management understands the risk caused by unprotected knowledge assets, and 69% believe that senior management does not make the protection of knowledge assets a priority. The board of directors is often even more in the dark. Merely 23% of respondents say the board is made aware of all breaches involving the loss or theft of knowledge assets, and only 37% state that the board requires assurances that knowledge assets are managed and safeguarded appropriately.
  • Careless employees and unchecked cloud providers are key risk areas. The most likely root cause of a data breach involving knowledge assets is the careless employee, but employee access to knowledge assets is not often adequately controlled. Fifty percent of respondents replied that both privileged and ordinary users have access to the company’s knowledge assets. Likewise, 63% of respondents state that their company stores knowledge assets in the cloud, but only 33% say their companies carefully vet the cloud providers storing those assets.

Thanks in part to the lack of action currently, there is plenty businesses can easily do to improve.

“Companies face a serious challenge in the protection of their knowledge assets. The good news is there are steps to take to reduce the risk,” said Dr. Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder of the Ponemon Institute. “First of all, understand the knowledge assets critical to your company and ensure they are secured. Make sure the protection of knowledge assets, especially when sharing with third parties, is an integral part of your security strategy, including incident response plans. To address the employee negligence problem, ensure training programs specifically address employee negligence when handling sensitive and high value data.”