Are Employee Errors Elevating Your Data Breach Risk?

August 15, 2013 by bkrenek

People make mistakes and the results can be catastrophic. A new study by the Ponemon Institute and Symantec now tells us employee error is more often to blame for the catastrophe of a data breach than hackers, malware or other malicious acts.

The 2013 Ponemon Cost of a Data Breach Report found that two-thirds of all data breaches are the result of human error. Conversely, malicious attacks account for just slightly more than a third (37 percent) of all data breaches, the report reveals.

Your own employees, despite their good intentions, can open the door to a data breach in a number of ways, including:

  • Mishandling sensitive information
  • Failing to protect devices that contain or can access sensitive information (for example, leaving a laptop unsecure in an employee’s car)
  • Failing to properly dispose of sensitive documents by cross-cut shredding
  • Failing to use existing safety measures such as virus software, firewalls and encryption
  • Neglecting to follow a company’s existing cyber security plan

The report underscores the emerging reality of business in the digital age: it’s almost impossible to avoid a data breach. We can’t understate the potentially catastrophic impact a data breach can have on a company, from tarnishing a brand identity and loss of reputation to customer disillusionment and even regulatory fines.

Preventive measures are vital, but so is having a response plan to deal with the aftermath of a data breach. A breach response plan can limit the costs of a data breach, and ensure any breaches are smaller in scope and more easily detected. The Ponemon/Symantec report bears this out.

According to the report, preventive measures can slash data breach costs by a total of $36 per record, including $13 per record for having an incident response plan in place prior to a breach.

A data breach response plan goes a long way towards mitigating breach costs. A response plan gives businesses the opportunity to bolster customer confidence and satisfaction with a speedy, effective response. By offering breach victims identity protection as part of your response plan, you not only protect customers, you protect your business reputation and your bottom line.

A Carnegie Mellon study found that providing credit monitoring to victims after a data breach makes a company’s risk of being sued six times lower than if they do nothing – even in cases when a victim has suffered financial harm as a result of the breach.

Resource links:

Ponemon/Symantec report: http://www.symantec.com/about/news/resources/press_kits/detail.jsp?pkid=ponemon-2013

Carnegie Melon Study: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1986461&download=yes

[dropshadowbox align=”none” effect=”lifted-both” width=”500px” height=”” background_color=”#ffffff” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#dddddd” ]Download the Ponemon Institute Study: Is Your Company Ready For A Big Data Breach? to learn more about data beach preparedness. [/dropshadowbox]

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