IBM Report: Compromised Employee Accounts Led to Most Expensive Data Breaches Over Past Year

IBM Report: Compromised Employee Accounts Led to Most Expensive Data Breaches Over Past Year

IBM Security announced the results of a global study examining the financial impact of data breaches, revealing that these incidents cost companies studied $3.86 million per breach on average, and that compromised employee accounts were the most expensive root cause. Based on in-depth analysis of data breaches experienced by over 500 organizations worldwide, 80% of these incidents resulted in the exposure of customers’ personally identifiable information (PII). Out of all types of data exposed in these breaches, customer PII was also the costliest to businesses studied.

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As companies are increasingly accessing sensitive data via new remote work and cloud-based business operations, the report sheds light on the financial losses that organizations can suffer if this data is compromised. A separate IBM study found that over half of surveyed employees new to working from home due to the pandemic have not been provided with new guidelines on how to handle customer PII, despite the changing risk models associated with this shift.

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Sponsored by IBM Security and conducted by the Ponemon Institute, the 2020 Cost of a Data Breach Report is based on in-depth interviews with more than 3,200 security professional in organizations that suffered a data breach over the past year.1 Some of the top findings from this year’s report include:

  • Smart Tech Slashes Breach Costs in Half: Companies studied who had fully deployed security automation technologies (which leverage AI, analytics and automated orchestration to identify and respond to security events) experienced less than half the data breach costs compared to those who didn’t have these tools deployed – $2.45 million vs. $6.03 million on average.
  • Paying a Premium for Compromised Credentials: In incidents where attackers accessed corporate networks through the use of stolen or compromised credentials, studied businesses saw nearly $1 million higher data breach costs compared to the global average – reaching $4.77 million per data breach. Exploiting third-party vulnerabilities was the second costliest root cause of malicious breaches ($4.5 million) for this group.
  • Mega Breach2 Costs Soar by the Millions: Breaches wherein over 50 million records were compromised saw costs jump to $392 million from $388 million the previous year. Breaches where 40 to 50 million records were exposed cost studied companies $364 million on average, a cost increase of $19 million compared to the 2019 report.
  • Nation State Attacks – The Most Damaging Breaches: Data breaches believed to originate from nation state attacks were the costliest, compared to other threat actors examined in the report. State-sponsored attacks averaged $4.43 million in data breach costs, surpassing both financially motivated cybercriminals and hacktivists.

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