IBM’s annual Cost of Data Breach Report for 2022 is packed with revelations, and as usual none of them are good news. Headlining the report is the record-setting cost of data breaches, with the global average now at $4.35 million. The report also reveals that much of that expense comes with the data breach version of “long Covid,” expenses that are realized more than a year after the attack.
Most organizations (60%) are passing these added costs on to consumers in the form of higher prices. And while 83% of organizations now report experiencing at least one data breach, only a small minority are adopting zero trust strategies.
Security AI and automation greatly reduces expected damage
The IBM report draws on input from 550 global organizations surveyed about the period between March 2021 and March 2022, in partnership with the Ponemon Institute.
Though the average cost of a data breach is up, it is only by about 2.6%; the average in 2021 was $4.24 million. This represents a total climb of 13% since 2020, however, reflecting the general spike in cyber crime seen during the pandemic years.
Organizations are also increasingly not opting to absorb the cost of data breaches, with the majority (60%) compensating by raising consumer prices separate from any other recent increases due to inflation or supply chain issues. The report indicates that this may be an underreported upward influence on prices of consumer goods, as 83% of organizations now say that they have been breached at least once.
Brad Hong, Customer Success Manager for Horizon3.ai, sees a potential consumer backlash on the horizon once public awareness of this practice grows: “It’s already a breach of confidence to lose the confidential data of customers, and sure there’s bound to be an organization across those surveyed who genuinely did put in the effort to protect against and curb attacks, but for those who did nothing, those who, instead of creating a disaster recovery plan, just bought cyber insurance to cover the org’s operational losses, and those who simply didn’t care enough to heed the warnings, it’s the coup de grâce to then pass the cost of breaches to the same customers who are now the victims of a data breach. I’d be curious to know what percent of the 60% of organizations who increased the price of their products and services are using the extra revenue for a war chest or to actually reinforce their security—realistically, it’s most likely just being used to fill a gap in lost revenue for shareholders’ sake post-breach. Without government regulations outlining restrictions on passing cost of breach to consumer, at the least, not without the honest & measurable efforts of a corporation as their custodian, what accountability do we all have against that one executive who didn’t want to change his/her password?”
Breach costs also have an increasingly long tail, as nearly half now come over a year after the date of the attack. The largest of these are generally fines that are levied after an investigation, and decisions or settlements in class action lawsuits. While the popular new “double extortion” approach of ransomware attacks can drive long-term costs in this way, the study finds that companies paying ransom demands to settle the problem quickly aren’t necessarily seeing a large amount of overall savings: their average breach cost drops by just $610,000.
Sanjay Raja, VP of Product with Gurucul, expands on how knock-on data breach damage can continue for years: “The follow-up attack effect, as described, is a significant problem as the playbooks and solutions provided to security operations teams are overly broad and lack the necessary context and response actions for proper remediation. For example, shutting down a user or application or adding a firewall block rule or quarantining a network segment to negate an attack is not a sustainable remediation step to protect an organization on an ongoing basis. It starts with a proper threat detection, investigation and response solution. Current SIEMs and XDR solutions lack the variety of data, telemetry and combined analytics to not only identify an attack campaign and even detect variants on previously successful attacks, but also provide the necessary context, accuracy and validation of the attack to build both a precise and complete response that can be trusted. This is an even greater challenge when current solutions cannot handle complex hybrid multi-cloud architectures leading to significant blind spots and false positives at the very start of the security analyst journey.”
Rising cost of data breach not necessarily prompting dramatic security action
In spite of over four out of five organizations now having experienced some sort of data breach, only slightly over 20% of critical infrastructure companies have moved to zero trust strategies to secure their networks. Cloud security is also lagging as well, with a little under half (43%) of all respondents saying that their security practices in this area are either “early stage” or do not yet exist.
Those that have onboarded security automation and AI elements are the only group seeing massive savings: their average cost of data breach is $3.05 million lower. This particular study does not track average ransom demands, but refers to Sophos research that puts the most recent number at $812,000 globally.
The study also notes serious problems with incident response plans, especially troubling in an environment in which the average ransomware attack is now carried out in four days or less and the “time to ransom” has dropped to a matter of hours in some cases. 37% of respondents say that they do not test their incident response plans regularly. 62% say that they are understaffed to meet their cybersecurity needs, and these organizations tend to suffer over half a million more dollars in damages when they are breached.
Of course, cost of data breaches is not distributed evenly by geography or by industry type. Some are taking much bigger hits than others, reflecting trends established in prior reports. The health care industry is now absorbing a little over $10 million in damage per breach, with the average cost of data breach rising by $1 million from 2021. And companies in the United States face greater data breach costs than their counterparts around the world, at over $8 million per incident.
Shawn Surber, VP of Solutions Architecture and Strategy with Tanium, provides some insight into the unique struggles that the health care industry faces in implementing effective cybersecurity: “Healthcare continues to suffer the greatest cost of breaches but has among the lowest spend on cybersecurity of any industry, despite being deemed ‘critical infrastructure.’ The increased vulnerability of healthcare organizations to cyber threats can be traced to outdated IT systems, the lack of robust security controls, and insufficient IT staff, while valuable medical and health data— and the need to pay ransoms quickly to maintain access to that data— make healthcare targets popular and relatively easy to breach. Unlike other industries that can migrate data and sunset old systems, limited IT and security budgets at healthcare orgs make migration difficult and potentially expensive, particularly when an older system provides a small but unique function or houses data necessary for compliance or research, but still doesn’t make the cut to transition to a newer system. Hackers know these weaknesses and exploit them. Additionally, healthcare orgs haven’t sufficiently updated their security strategies and the tools that manufacturers, IT software vendors, and the FDA have made haven’t been robust enough to thwart the more sophisticated techniques of threat actors.”
Familiar incident types also lead the list of the causes of data breaches: compromised credentials (19%), followed by phishing (16%). Breaches initiated by these methods also tended to be a little more costly, at an average of $4.91 million per incident.
Though the numbers are never as neat and clean as averages would indicate, it would appear that the cost of data breaches is cut dramatically for companies that implement solid automated “deep learning” cybersecurity tools, zero trust systems and regularly tested incident response plans. Mature cloud security programs are also a substantial cost saver.