As the cybersecurity industry says goodbye to a decade of significant data breaches, we look back at some of the worst breaches of unencrypted data and ponder whether any lessons have been learned.

Towards the end of 2019, news outlets and content syndication platforms around the world were busy putting together digests of the decade – a look back over what the “tens” had done for us.

One in particular caught our eye. As many of us were winding down for the holiday season, CNBC published an article in their tech section that highlighted some of the most significant cyber security incidents of the past decade.

Authored by Kate Fazzini, the post was titled “In a decade of cybersecurity alarms, these are the breaches that actually mattered”. It considers six noteworthy cybersecurity incidents, not specifically because of the size of the breach involved, but for the implications of the type of incident.

Among the most notable breaches of the past decade, Fazzini profiles attacks on (among others) critical national infrastructure, retail, entertainment, financial services and travel. The breadth of industries impacted by cybersecurity issues tells a story in itself. Nobody is safe.

If we’re being honest, Fazzini was spoiled for choice when researching her article. The sheer volume of breach incidents over the past ten years is staggering. It’s a damming indictment of the situation we find ourselves in that many of these breaches slip by unnoticed. Is it the case that we have become desensitised to the data breach, or have we simply accepted that cybercrime is the cost of doing business in a digital age? Either way, we can do better.

The Target breach in 2013 was the result of malware introduced by a supply chain service provider. The loss of over 100million customers’ credit card and personal details was to have wide-ranging implications, for both Target as a business and for some of its senior executives. A 46% fall in year-on-year profits would see both the CEO and CIO resign within weeks of each other.

The Sony Pictures breach was one of the highest profile examples of state-sponsored cybercrime. While you could argue the “embarrassment” factor was the most acute, it disadvantaged Sony Pictures significantly and led, once again, to the resignation of a senior executive.

One of the notable outcomes from the Sony incident was the call from attorney Jonathan Handel for tech giants to start encrypting all their files. This echoes something we’ve been saying for years, but still only 30% of businesses have adopted it as a policy.

This is an example of what we mean when we say, “do better”. The breadth and scope of breach incidents and malware attacks, and the long-term impact of breaches, is beginning to change behaviour; but not quickly enough. We still hear the cries “if only the data was encrypted!”

Network infrastructure and file-sharing workflows should be secure by design. Best practice means combining the latest in prevention and protection technologies to secure our networks. When firewalls fail, and they will, breaches should be secured with end-to-end encryption, rendering the lost or stolen data useless in the hands of unauthorised users.

File-sharing and collaboration are the lifeblood of digital communications. Whether it’s an email attachment, a file on a flash drive or a document uploaded to your favourite cloud collaboration platform; organizations need a more effective approach to malware protection.

Traditional sandboxing and anti-virus technologies are not infallible. They are particularly susceptible to unknown/zero-day attacks. If IT departments are to avoid getting caught in a constant game of catch up, they need to look beyond reactive remedies and adopt a more proactive stance. Scanning all inbound and outbound files and disinfecting any malicious content could help prevent the recent wave of ransomware attacks.

Content Disarm and Reconstruction (CDR) technologies have come a long way from the legacy file-flattening approach. Next generation solutions like Votiro Disarmer are capable of stopping malware and zero-day attacks in their tracks; scanning, disinfecting and rebuilding content in milliseconds, without impacting on the integrity and functionality of the original file.

For more information on the Senetas range of high-performance, low latency solutions, check out the useful links below.


Useful links:

CN Series Hardware Encryption

CV Series Virtualised Encryption

Votiro File Disarmer (CDR)

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