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.”

Cybersecurity, Product Recall and Drones Top List of Emerging Casualty Risks

The cybersecurity insurance industry is booming, with demand for this specialty coverage vastly outpacing any other emerging risk line, according to a new survey by London-based broker RKH Specialty. In fact, 70% of the insurance professionals surveyed listed cyber as the top casualty exposure.

The brokers, agents, insurers and risk managers RKH queried after April’s RIMS 2015 conference said their top casualty concerns after cyber are product recall and drones (11% each), with others including e-cigarettes, autonomous vehicles and telematics totaling only eight percent.

RKH Specialty Study Graph

“Losses stemming from cyber-related attacks and business interruption can be catastrophic for individual businesses,” said Barnaby Rugge-Price, RKH Specialty’s CEO. “Healthcare and retail have been the major buyers in the cyber space to date but we are seeing an increasing conversion rate across the whole of our portfolio. After a number of years of looking at the offering, clients are increasingly deciding to purchase the cover as the product has improved and the frequency of attacks has continued to increase. There has also been a heightened focus on the business interruption aspect, where cyber attacks can cause whole facilities to shut down. But whether cyber related or not, any interruption to the supply chain can cause a disproportionate loss. The survey highlights the importance of specialist insurance for a whole host of emerging risks.”

Turning specifically to property exposures, supply chain disruption was identified by 61% as the top risk, followed by flood (30%) and tornadoes (9%). The findings reflect a growing recognition of the potential exposures that longer and more complex supply chains introduce, the firm said.

The brokerage also asked insurance professionals what they think clients are and will be most concerned about when evaluating a broker’s service, and in turn, what brokers will need to focus on to stay competitive. They predict:

RKH Specialty broker service

Travelers Stages Live Hack to Examine Realities of Cyberrisk

NEW YORK—Yesterday, Travelers hosted “Hacked: The Implications of a Cyber Breach,” a panel of the insurer’s top experts and outside consultants drilling down into the realities of the cyber threat.

According to Travelers’ brand new 2015 Business Risk Index, cybersecurity rose from the #5 threat in 2014 to the #2 threat perceived by business leaders, with 55% most concerned about malicious and criminal attacks.

In an exercise to show just how valid that concern it is, panelists Kurt Oestreicher, a member of the cyber fraud investigative services team at Travelers, and Chris Hauser, former Silicon Valley FBI agent and current member of the cyber fraud investigative services team at Travelers, successfully carried out a live hack. Using a fake website created for this demonstration, the experts staged an SQL injection attack—the same kind of attack as Heartbleed, these are still responsible for 97% of breaches. Using an open-source penetration testing program that Hauser described as “point and click hacking,” they easily found a way to tunnel into the site’s SQL database. The process of scanning for vulnerabilities and acting on a known exploit—in other words, conducting the actual, successful “hack”—took about two minutes, including the time Hauser spent talking the audience through the process.

The program used to conduct this hack was free, and the number of resources readily available for free or very low cost means that more everyday businesses will become victims as malicious actors face very few obstacles to attempt a hack. “As tools and techniques like this become more common, it becomes far easier to target small- and medium-sized businesses and that exposure increases, especially because there are such low costs up front,” said Oestreicher.

Every day in the United States, 34,529 of these known computer security incidents take place. Yet many go undetected, and a lot are willfully unreported. While larger breaches impact more records, the preponderance of breaches strike Main Street businesses, not Wall Street corporations. In fact, of those that are identified and reported, 62% of breaches impact small and medium-sized businesses, Travelers found. Increased awareness among this group has yet to translate into increased coverage, however. According to a survey by Software Advice, insurance penetration among this group hovers at just over 2%, a trend Mullen has seen in the field as well. “Only about 10% of those who should have that coverage actually do,” he said.

According to data from NetDiligence, those incidents that are covered by insurance break down as follows:

NetDiligence Cyberinsurance Claims by Business Sector

NetDiligence Cyberinsurance Claims by Data Type

With hefty fines, costly investigation and notification requirements, and possible lawsuits and class actions, the true costs rapidly spiral. According to Mark Greisiger, president of data breach crisis services and security practices company NetDiligence, the average cost of a breach is $733,000 for SMBs—before any possible lawsuits or fines. Per record, the cost ranges from 1 cent to $1,000, based on the type of information contained. The average legal settlement after such breaches is currently about $550,000. Yet these numbers primarily reflect incidents where insurance was in place. Without the trusted vendor agreements, for example, the cost of retaining forensic investigation services in the midst of a crisis can be up to three times higher, he reported.

Recovering from these incidents varies wildly by the type of records exposed, and the resources available to aid in the effort. “It’s a wild pain in the butt with insurance,” said breach coach John Mullen, a managing partner of the Philadelphia Regional Office and chair of the U.S. Data Privacy and Network Security Group at Lewis Brisbois Brisgaad & Smith. “Without insurance, it’s a small- and medium-sized business killer. The Main Street story is a $2 million bill and no business.”

In the 2015 Business Risk Index, Travelers also shared a more detailed view of preparedness among specific industries:

Business Risk Index Cyber Preparedness