What You Don’t Know Really Can Hurt You

Social engineers wait for naïve, untrained staff to fall into their traps.

September 12, 2011
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Two alarming findings

The 2011 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report [pdf] not only provides extensive details on data breaches, it offers compelling evidence that a comprehensive security awareness program is essential to protecting institutions from opportunistic social engineers.

The report claims that of all the breaches stemming from social engineering methods documented in the study, 83% were “opportunistic attacks” on institutions that exhibited a weakness or vulnerability the attacker could exploit.

The report indicates that most of these attacks originated in the form of classic social engineering tactics, including pretexting, counterfeiting/forgery, phishing, hoaxes, and “trusted authority” influence tactics.

Like the police officer in the anecdote, social engineers simply wait patiently for naïve, untrained employees to come along and fall into their traps.

The two most alarming conclusions that should influence an organization’s attitudes toward security awareness training:

  • Frontline employees/end users were the targets of 80% of these attacks; and
  • 78% of the attacks involved in-person contact.

In light of these results, it’s no wonder that many independent studies show that nearly two-thirds of the organizations that suffer breaches rank security awareness training as their top priority for post-breach remediation.

The same studies consistently indicate that more than 75% of these organizations claim employee education is the most effective way to prevent fraud.

These facts should be enough justification for most organizations to either implement an intensive security awareness training program or at least rethink their current approach.

For those still not convinced, consider that the costs related to data breaches involving social engineering are estimated to be around $315 per record. That’s $100 more than the estimated per-record costs for incidents resulting from other causes.

What your employees don’t know can hurt the entire organization. The good news is that security awareness training isn’t only a proven method of combating social engineering and fraud, it’s a relatively inexpensive endeavor.

It’s certainly less expensive than an actual security breach.

DAVID BLAZIER is marketing manager for TraceSecurity, a CUNA Strategic Services alliance provider Contact him at 225-612-2121, ext. 31062.

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