Research suggests data breach resolution strategies need improvement
With the wide variety of online security threats targeting customer data, companies should be aware that a potential data breach could be just around the corner. But instead of being discouraged by this news, Ponemon Institute researchers suggest that it is time to develop concrete data breach resolution strategies.
In a recent survey of 500 IT professionals from organizations that had suffered a breach, Ponemon analysts discovered that just 50 percent of respondents believe their companies had made the "best possible effort" to protect sensitive customer information. Instead, many observed systemic problems that not only led to security incidents, but led to ineffective resolution strategies.
End user education, for example, received a considerable amount of attention within the study. Respondents suggested that errors made by full-time employees, temporary staffers and third-party contractors were the root cause of data breach vulnerability. This could be anything from faulty password manager strategies to accidental publication of records.
As a recent, Ponemon analysts advised IT administrators to be more vigilant in their enforcement of online security policies and consider limiting the amount of information accessible to users. While these tactics can help, it is clear that successful data breach resolution requires efforts beyond the technology team as well.
"The responsibility of keeping customers' information secure cannot lie solely on the shoulders of IT; rather every executive in the organization should be aware since the reverberation of a breach will be felt by everyone," noted research coordinator Ozzie Fonseca. "Survey results show us that a data breach is often the result of human error or a crime- neither of which can be 100 percent prevented. As such, companies must put measures in place - training, preparedness plans, guidelines, etc. - to help protect their customers' information."
Perhaps the most telling example of misguided response strategies, however, was the finding that seeking legal counsel was often the first action made by companies - even before investigating the scope of the breach. Also, two out of three organizations did not provide customers with access to credit monitoring services that could analyze the breach's effect on their accounts.
To respond more effectively following online security breakdowns, InformationWeek contributor Matthew Schwartz advises being as transparent as possible with customers. After collaborating with forensic analysts to determine the scope of the breach, the company must immediately notify both authorities and potentially affected customers. Providing clear-cut advice, such as revised password organizer strategies, are also much appreciated by confused and concerned customers.