Why do large data breaches seem to hit multiple, unrelated targets all at once? The truth is that they usually aren't unrelated at all. Many organizations share some form of system, whether it be a software-as-a-service third-party point-of-sale solution or a cloud-based data warehousing and resource provisioning platform. In 2014, when costly data breaches affected both Staples and Michael's, it was discovered that they both shared some of the same control networks.
The Increased Commonality Between Systems
It's easy to understand why many systems now share resources. One can simply look to Amazon Web Services, which now runs many of the major platforms on the Internet, including Netflix. AWS enables the requisitioning of resources on a large scale that simply aren't available through any other data infrastructure. Yet if AWS encountered a data breach, all of its clients would be vulnerable. With an increasing reliance on cost-effective a flexible third-party resources, companies now open themselves up to potential security issues that are at least partially out of their control.
The True Cost of System Intrusion
System intrusion occurs in a variety of ways: malware, adware, spyware, botnets, phishing scams, and employee negligence. When system intrusion does occur, the costs are significant: the average cost of a data breach is $3.8 million, or $154 per record. But that's just the direct cost. The true cost of system intrusion also includes a loss of faith within the customer base. A company may need to do significant reputation management to recover following a significant and highly-publicized data breach event.
Increasing Security When Dealing With Shared Systems
Modern companies must maintain their own security as much as possible even when relying upon shared systems and third-party solutions. This can range from working with an email security service to maintaining better firewalls and network security solutions. Organizations must track the complete picture of their IT framework, and must not simply assume that their third-party solutions are completely secured. Likewise, IT teams must react promptly when vulnerabilities and exploits have been discovered for any of the components of that system, as they may be the next target on the list.
To some extent, it's impossible for modern organizations to avoid shared and third-party systems -- they simply have to be conscientious about the use of them and their own personal security. Disaster preparedness, risk assessments, and fast action is essential to avoiding and limiting the damage caused by data breaches and malicious attacks.