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Verizon RISK study: business partners h0se you the worst

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The Verizon Business RISK Team released a very interesting study early in June with detailed results and analysis from more than 500 forensic investigations it conducted over a four-year period (2004 to 2007). It claims that this study represents one-fourth of all publicly disclosed data breaches in that time frame. The report is chock full of statistics and percentages. The study examines the age-old question of IT risk-management: who is the largest threat source, insiders or outsiders?

The study weighs the impact of breaches (number of data records compromised) along with the frequency of threat source causing the breach. It also adds a third threat source to the mix: business partners, a sort of blended insider/outsider. One of the interesting results is that, using the classic risk equation (risk = likelihood * impact), business partners represent the greatest threat, followed closely by insiders.

The paper presents statistics but makes no blanket-conclusions on what to do about the problems, instead leaving that up to the individual organization (as it should). Everyone knows that monitoring the insider threat is difficult and time-consuming. It is somewhat easier to monitor business partners since they (should) have limited access via well-defined conduits. Given the results of this study, monitoring business partner interaction with the corporate network data sources may become the new fad in IT risk-management.