Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Quick comments on the Verizon DBIR 2011 report

The Verizon Business guys have just delivered the 2011 DBIR report. Again, a very nice job and one of the key sources for the CISOs around the world to do their planning, decision making and prioritization.
The most commented point of this year's report is the huge drop in number of records affected, even with a bigger number of breaches included in the report. I think this is a case of over analyzing and some really stupid explanations are flying around. In my opinion it's just a number theory issue; if you look at the numbers of the report in its multiple editions, the number of breach cases (let's say instances) are more or less reasonable, within the same order of magnitude and reflecting the growing effort of the authors in getting more instances into their database.
The number of records number, on the other hand, will always wildly vary, and unless it's considered with a lot of additional categorization and normalization it's not really good to derive any useful conclusions. The number of records kept by different organizations varies from hundreds to hundreds of millions. A breach in a single organization with a huge number of records (government agencies, for example) would completely change the numbers in the entire report. The authors are aware of that, and whenever possible they try to make it clear in the report. Of course, a lot of people will just skip those lots of words and go just for the juicy charts :-)
Anyway, I really hope Verizon allows us to play with their database in the future. Being able to produce our own charts using filters based on different organization demographics would greatly increase the value of the data for security planning. Maybe a two-way agreement (something like expanding the VERIS program, which by the way is already bringing nice results), where organizations submitting breach information would get access to the database would help them making the report even better but also more useful for the consumers.   

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