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June 12, 2008

Verizon Business Has a New Report on Data Breaches

The Verizon Business data breach report is by far the most comprehensive and detailed report on data breaches I have seen. It is great to see the break down of what is the root cause of these expensive and significant computer security failures. While it is interesting to see counts of malware infected computers from Symantec and vulnerability counts from CVE, this report gets to the actual attacks that organizations need to prevent with their security programs.

Digging into the full report they say that 59% of the breaches involve hacking. Of those the breakdown is this:

  • Application/Service layer -39%
  • OS/Platform layer - 23%
  • Exploit known vulnerability -18%
  • Exploit unknown vulnerability - 5%
  • Use of back door -15%

“Attacks targeting applications, software, and services were by far the most common technique, representing 39 percent of all hacking activity leading to data compromise. This follows a trend in recent years of attacks moving up the stack. Far from passé, operating system, platform, and server-level attacks accounted for a sizable portion of breaches. Eighteen percent of hacks exploited a specific known vulnerability while 5 percent exploited unknown vulnerabilities for which a patch was not available at the time of the attack. Evidence of re-entry via backdoors, which enable prolonged access to and control of compromised systems, was found in 15 percent of hacking-related breaches. The attractiveness of this to criminals desiring large quantities of information is obvious.”

The largest single type of breach is hacking and within that the largest type is application/service layer attacks. So if we multiply 59% times 39% we get 23% of those 500, or 115, data breaches are due attackers hacking applications. That is a very significant number of the whole slice of the data breach pie. It is clear that securing applications is a significant part of protecting against data breaches.

Full Report

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Chris Wysopal, co-founder and CTO of Veracode, is recognized as an expert and a well-known speaker in the information security field. He has given keynotes at computer security events and has testified on Capitol Hill on the subjects of government computer security and how vulnerabilities are discovered in software. His opinions on Internet security are highly sought after and most major print and media outlets have featured stories on Mr. Wysopal and his work. At Veracode, Mr. Wysopal is responsible for the security analysis capabilities of Veracode technology.

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