Average cost per data breach has increased by 23 percent: Symantec

Security vendor has seen the cost of a breach hit $2.72 million in Australia

The average cost per data breach for organisations has increased by 23 percent increase over the previous year, according to a recent study by Symantec.

The report, titled 2013 Cost of Data Breach Study: Global Analysis, discovered that the local cost of breaches went from $2.16 million in 2011 to $2.72 million in 2012.

This amount is not related to any “mega breaches” that may have taken place, but to average sized ones.

Another key finding was that malicious attacks were the major cause of data breaches in Australia, which Symantec APJ managed security services director, Peter Sparkes, said is a also a worldwide problem.

“We are moving away from the era of the mass cyber crime threat to the age of the targeted attack,” he said.

“That is why malicious attacks are becoming more sophisticated, as well as targeting intellectual property, which is raising the focus about malicious attacks on Australian businesses.”

As for why Australia is an attractive target, Sparkes said it is because we as a nation are economically quite strong.

“We’ve have not gone through as turbulent periods compared to Europe and the US, and a lot of businesses are doing well and are much more integrated with the global economy,” he said.

“That is why we have become much more of a target for these types of attacks.”

The report found that 42 per cent of the attacks were due to malicious attacks, though 57 per cent was related to the human factor.

Even though there is a lot of focus on malicious attacks, Sparkes admits that human and system errors still cause a lot of data issues.

“Typically someone losses a notebook in a flight lounge or a disgruntled employee steals data,” he said.

System glitches and mis-configurations were attributed to 24 per cent of breaches, making it another important area for businesses to focus on.

SMBs in the firing line

Sparkes is seeing Australian businesses becoming more vigilant overall, but said there are still gaps.

“There are certain industries which are moving more ahead of their peers,” he said.

For that reason, Sparkes is a big proponent of educating businesses about the threats that exist.

In particular with smaller businesses in Australia, that is where Sparkes sees partners coming in and educating clients about these issues.

“The important fact that came from a recent ISTR report was that 31 per cent of targeted attacks are against SMBs,” he said.

“The reason they are hitting those businesses is because a lot of the time they do not have the same security controls or visibility, and may struggle to keep up with the threat landscape. “

As for what businesses can do to reduce the cost of a potential breach, Sparkes recommends having a strong security posture, instant response plan, and being more proactive about security.

Patrick Budmar covers consumer and enterprise technology breaking news for IDG Communications. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @patrick_budmar.