The dreaded data breach is a nightmare scenario for companies of all sizes. Not only does it compromise valuable data, but it also comes with a hefty price tag. In fact, according to IBM’s Cost of a Data Breach Report, the average cost of a data breach has reached an all-time high of $4.45 million in 2023.
While the media often focuses on the overall cost of data breaches, there’s less emphasis on the increasing costs of incident investigations. These investigations, which encompass technical, administrative, legal, and communication activities, are resource-intensive and drive up the overall cost of a breach. In fact, the 2023 report reveals that incident investigations now account for over 35 percent of the total average cost.
So, why are data breach investigation costs on the rise? There are several factors at play.
First, the complexity of IT environments plays a significant role. Many companies operate in hybrid environments with data scattered across on-premises servers, multiple cloud providers, and even edge devices. This complexity makes it harder to track sensitive data, monitor its use, and detect anomalies. It’s like trying to find a needle in a haystack.
Second, adversaries are becoming more sophisticated in their techniques. Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs) use evasive malware and tactics to remain undetected in IT environments for extended periods. The longer it takes to detect and respond to an attack, the higher the costs involved.
Third, the sheer volume of data generated and stored by companies is overwhelming. Sifting through this massive amount of data to detect anomalies or breaches requires both advanced tools and expertise. It’s like searching for a needle in a haystack that keeps getting bigger.
Lastly, there are often shortfalls in breach escalation within organizations. Incident response plans may exist, but they can be ineffective when it comes to escalating data breaches internally. Key personnel may be pulled from their regular duties for extended periods, disrupting normal business operations. Thorough documentation and communication with leadership, board members, and shareholders can also be labor-intensive. Organizational silos further hinder coordination across different departments during a breach.
To reduce the cost of investigating data breaches, companies need to take a proactive and reactive approach. Here are some suggestions:
1. Implement robust information governance: Information governance involves defining and enforcing policies, procedures, standards, and controls around data management. It ensures that data is handled efficiently, securely, and in compliance with legal and regulatory obligations. By maintaining an inventory of information assets, identifying gaps in protection, and reducing breach risks due to lax practices, companies can mitigate the costs of investigations.
2. Provide ongoing security training and awareness: Regularly educate employees about the importance of security and how to recognize phishing attempts and other threats. A security-conscious workforce significantly reduces the risks associated with human factors in data breaches. Treat security training as an ongoing effort throughout the year, rather than a box to tick annually or quarterly.
3. Implement continuous vulnerability management: Take a proactive approach to identifying, assessing, and addressing vulnerabilities in your IT environment. By routinely scanning for known vulnerabilities, you can patch or mitigate them before hackers exploit them. This approach helps avoid data breaches caused by outdated and vulnerable code.
4. Conduct simulated cyberattacks: Simulated cyberattacks involve security professionals attempting to breach your defenses in a controlled scenario. By discovering weaknesses in infrastructure, applications, and systems proactively, you can address them before real attacks occur. It’s like stress-testing your security measures to find and fix vulnerabilities.
In conclusion, the rising costs of data breach investigations are a concern for companies across industries. However, by implementing robust information governance, providing ongoing security training, adopting continuous vulnerability management practices, and conducting simulated cyberattacks, companies can reduce the costs associated with data breaches and safeguard their valuable data.
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