An Incident Is a Terrible Thing to Waste (even those of others)

Hacks happen. The data captured by Verizon’s Data Breach Investigations Report, DataLossDB, and WASC’s Web Hacking Incident Database make this reality painfully obvious. The summary is most incidents, and the bulk of the data lost, is a direct result of vulnerable Web applications being exploited. As further evidence, Forrester’s 2009 research reported, “62% of organizations surveyed experienced breaches in critical applications in a 12 month period.” Dasient, a firm specializing in web-based malware, said “[In 2011] The probability that an average Internet user will hit an infected page after three months of Web browsing is 95 percent.”

These resources and the compromises of Apache.org, Comodo, Gawker, HBGary Federal, MySQL.com, NYSE, Sun.com, Zynga, and countless others are a good excuse to have a conversation with management about your organization’s potential risks.

Despite the facts, the idea of getting hacked is not often a conscious thought in the minds of executives, so of course it’s only a matter of time before the business becomes another statistic. When this happens and the business is suddenly awakened from a culture of security complacency, all eyes will become focused on understanding exactly what happened, why it happened, and how much worse it could have been. In the aftermath of a breach, employee dismissal and business collapses are rare, more often than not security budgets are expanded. Few things free up security dollars faster than a compromise, except for maybe an auditor.The security department will have the full attention of management, the board, and customers who all want to know what steps are being taken to ensure this never happens again. Post breach is an excellent time to put a truly effective security program in place, not just built around point products, but designed around outcomes and to have a lasting impact.

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About Jeremiah Grossman

Jeremiah Grossman is the Founder and interim CEO of WhiteHat Security, where he is responsible for Web security R&D and industry outreach. Over the last decade, Jeremiah has written dozens of articles, white papers, and is a published author. His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, NY Times and hundreds of other media outlets around the world. As a well-known security expert and industry veteran, Jeremiah has been a guest speaker on six continents at hundreds of events including TED, BlackHat Briefings, RSA, SANS, and others. He has been invited to guest lecture at top universities such as UC Berkeley, Stanford, Harvard, UoW Madison, and UCLA. Jeremiah is also a co-founder of the Web Application Security Consortium (WASC) and previously named one of InfoWorld's Top 25 CTOs. He serves on the advisory board of two hot start-ups, Risk I/O and SD Elements, and is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt. Before founding WhiteHat, he was an information security officer at Yahoo! Jeremiah can be found on Twitter @jeremiahg.