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Why super-fast threat detection mitigates damage from breaches

After the news that the Marriott International hotel chain had 500 million customer records compromised by cyber attackers, you know that standard cyber defences are failing somewhere. This attack was merely the latest in a long list of incidents suffered by big-name companies.

That list includes high-profile names such as Ticketmaster, Under Armour, British Airways, Dixons Carphone and T-Mobile. All these companies have big IT budgets and must have invested substantially in advanced firewalls, sophisticated anti-virus technology (AV) and two-factor authentication. Yet still they were breached and frankly, humiliated.

Breaching is inevitable

Unfortunately, it is now not a question of if companies will be breached, but when, which makes the need to act fast utterly crucial.

Ponemon, in their 2018 Cost of a Data Breach Study, point out that a breach detected within 100 days, costs on average $1 million less than one that takes longer to find and remediate. The average cost of breaches also went up by more than six per cent over the year to $3.86 million. Given that the EU GDPR legislation is now in place, the potential cost of hacks and data breaches is huge, quite apart from the longer-term reputational damage.

Ponemon also used Mean Time to Identify (MTTI) and Mean Time to Contain (MTTC) metrics to assess the effectiveness of an organisation’s incident response and containment processes. It took an average of 197 days to identify a data breach and 69 days to contain it. The previous year’s MTTI and MTTC figures were 168 and 67 days respectively.

These are very long periods of time for malicious software or code to be working away inside a major organisation’s systems. In the Marriott breach, the hackers gained illegal entry to the chain’s Starwood reservation system in 2014. The company may somewhere along the line have lost its encryption keys – which, if true, demonstrates that encryption is only as good as the processes and people that implemented it.

Detect breaches in seconds, not days and months

If the MTTI were reduced to a few days, the costs of a cyber breach could be massively reduced. But imagine reducing it to mere seconds, as is now possible, if board-level decision-makers and their security professionals change their approach.

Rather than believing they can defend all data at the perimeter, they should be mindful of the reality that mistakes can – and will happen. The most astute businesses are adopting new technology that uses a combination of hardware-based cryptography and whitelisting technology which shifts the emphasis from defending against known external threats and instead focuses on identifying attacks rapidly, enabling swift action to defeat them before they inflict damage.

This slashes the time to detect any unauthorised software on a server to just seconds, whether data is held in the cloud or on-premises.

It is a technology that uses the power and integrity of the chips found on the motherboards of every server. Solutions built on this technology check the status of servers every few seconds. This protects servers from all illicit activity with a speed and accuracy that is impossible with conventional technology. Impervious to hacking, the combination of hardware-based cryptography and whitelisting ensures that no person or organisation can interfere with servers, falsify verification data or bypass server security. This technique even offers protection against insider attack by eliminating any single point of human weakness.

It may have a beguiling simplicity, but it works and is most effective way for businesses to protect themselves from the explosion in malware and the increased cunning and scale of cyber-attacks.

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