Reading the 2020 Cost of a Data Breach Report

2020 Cost of a Data Breach Report: the global total cost of a data breach averaged $3.86 million in 2020, down about 1.5% from the 2019 study.

Every year, I write about the annual report published by the Ponemon Institute on the cost of a data breach, it is a very interesting study that explores the economic impact of a “data breach.”

This year the researchers analyzed 524 breaches that occurred between August 2019 and April 2020, in organizations of all sizes, across 17 geographies and 17 industries.

According to the 2020 Cost of a Data Breach Report, the global total cost of a data breach averaged $3.86 million in 2020, down about 1.5% from the 2019 study. Victim organizations The average time to identify and contain a data breach was 280 days in the 2020 study, quite identical to 2019 (279).

Data Breach Cost Table

This year, the experts analyzed the impact of vulnerability testing and red team testing on the cost of a data breach and discovered that conducting red team testing could allow reducing average costs of about $243,000, while conducting vulnerability testing could allow reducing costs of about $173,000.

The report for the first time explores the cost impact of remote work and the security skills shortage.

“Organizations with remote work arrangements cited costs that were nearly $137,000 higher than the global average of $3.86 million, while organizations estimated that the security skill shortage increased costs by an average of $257,000 compared to the global average.” reads the post published by IBM that introduces the report.

For the first time, the report goes deep into analyzing the per-record cost of a data breach based on the type of records involved. The experts pointed out that the customer personally identifiable information (PII) was the most expensive type of record. The customer PII records have a cost of an average $150 per lost or stolen record, followed by intellectual property records ($147), anonymized customer records ($143) or employee PII ($141). Unfortunately, customer PII was present in 80% of the incident analyzed.

52% of data breaches observed in 2020 were caused by malicious attacks.

The analysis of the attack vectors revealed that most prominent ones were compromised credentials (19% of malicious breaches), cloud misconfiguration (19%) and vulnerabilities in third-party software (16%).

For the first time, the report analyzed the cost of breaches involving destructive malware, experts estimated that the average destructive malware breach cost $4.52 million and the average ransomware breach cost $4.44 million. The overall average cost of a malicious breach was $4.27 million.

Cost of a Data Breach Report 2020

You can explore the impacts of these cost factors and more – some that amplify costs and others that mitigate costs – using the interactive cost calculator that is a companion to this year’s report. You can register to access the full calculator to see the estimated impact of 25 cost factors on the average cost of a data breach in 17 geographies and 14 industries. See the 2020 Cost of a Data Breach report and calculator.

Another novelty for the 2020 Cost of a Data Breach Report is represented in the analysis of data breach based on the type of attacker.

Most of the malicious breach was caused by financially motivated threat actors (53%), followed by nation-state actors (13%) and hacktivist threat actors (13%). According to the experts, the average cost of a breach was higher for state-sponsored breaches ($4.43 million) and hacktivist breaches ($4.28 million) than financially motivated breaches ($4.23 million).

Let me suggest reading the full Cost of a Data Breach Report, which contains a lot of interesting data. IBM Security also implements an interactive calculator, a global map and other tools for exploring the data for insights and recommendations.

The complete report is available here.

Pierluigi Paganini

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