No matter which way you measure it, 2017 will be remembered as the Year of the Data Breach. Record highs were hit for almost every type of data breach statistic available:
1,579 total breaches (a 44.7% increase over 2016)
60% of data breaches involved hacking (twice as high as in 2014)
2.6 billion records exposed
Ransomware attacks increased by 90% against businesses
While it’s easy to chalk up this Breachpocalypse to the evolving sophistication of cyber criminals, the power of new hacking tools and the difficulty of fighting against an international menace, that doesn’t tell the full story. The real shock behind the numbers is exactly how many breaches could have been prevented with an effective software patching process.
According to the Online Trust Alliance’s Cyber Incident & Breach Trends Report , a stunning 93% of reported breaches were completely avoidable. Regular patching, along with paying close attention to vulnerability reports and training employees to avoid malicious emails, could have saved international businesses and their customers billions of dollars in damage.
Despite the fact that patches are freely available, businesses of all sizes continue to struggle to patch devices across their network not only in the days after a patch is release, but quite often years after. Looking back a few years, the Verizon Data Breach Report 2016 showed that most exploits in 2015 came from vulnerabilities discovered in 2007, while vulnerabilities from as far back as 1999 still accounted for a significant amount of exploits.
Looking at 2017, two of the most notable hacks could have been prevented with an effective patching process:
- The WannaCry ransomware campaign wreaked worldwide chaos, causing more than $8 billion in losses across more than 100 countries. The patch for the vulnerability exploited by WannaCry was available 59 days before the attack.
- Equifax exposed the data of 143 million people, resulting in an estimated $600 million loss of shareholder value, lost business, remediation costs, and fines, not to mention immeasurable brand value and customer trust. In mid-May Equifax confirmed that attackers gained access to its system through a Apache Struts web-application vulnerability that had a patch available in March.
What keeps a company from promptly patching? Often it’s a combination of prioritization coupled with the difficulty effectively distributing patches across the enterprise. But make no mistake; patching is often the only thing keeping your company secure. The more you can keep your patches up to date, the more likely you’ll be protected against the next WannaCry and less likely you’ll become the next Equifax.
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