Wednesday, December 12, 2007

How Does Safe Happen?


“Holy Sh…Safe Happens” Many of you may recognize that as the last words in a memorable Volkswagen commercial campaign where viewers are treated to lighthearted banter, interrupted by a violent side impact crash. Beyond that campaign from last year, it’s actually a plot device that seems to be used more and more frequently on TV in shows this year from Law and Order: SVU to Chuck. And it works. Whether suspenseful or lighthearted, it rips you out of your comfort zone and refocuses your attention…

Why do I bring this observation up? Because 100M records stolen from the TJX companies, or personal information on half the UK population being lost should be one mother of a side impact crash…and unfortunately, unlike Chuck, not everybody walks away to the happy ending. Even more disturbingly, not all of those watching refocus.

Since 2005 (widely considered to be a watershed year for data theft) we have lost more than 250M records globally (85% of which are in the US) – and that’s just what has been disclosed. From the US government to the corner store down the street, we have an insatiable appetite for data. And the fact that we are hemorrhaging it wholesale makes interesting headlines, but doesn’t seem to result in much headway in data security.

We’ve actually had a ringside seat to both the evolution of cyber crime and the innovation that promises to make a difference for the last decade. Through our clients, we have watched the cat and mouse game play out with better and better mousetraps – from eSecurity consulting/managed services with Guardent (acquired by Verisign), to behavioral network analysis with Arbor Networks, to database-focused security with Application Security, Inc., to the retooling and rebirth of security foundations with next-gen firewall provider Palo Alto Networks. It’s both incredibly exciting to be associated with market pioneers and scary at the same time to know the reasons why they exist and why companies need to know about them.

There’s also another side impact crash about to hit the market, although not a breach. Its authors have described to me that they hope it will be an Inconvenient Truth for identity theft and privacy – and based on the advance prologue I’ve read, I’d agree it has that potential. Written by two of the pre-eminent journalists covering data security today – Byron Acohido and Jon Swartz of USA Today – Zero Day Threat: How Banks and Credit Bureaus Help Cyber Crooks Steal Your Money and Identity, promises to be a must read for anyone in the business of data security – which at this point, is anyone who comes in contact with customer data.

The book can be preordered via Amazon. Might make a good present to help with New Year’s Resolutions, since Mr. Acohido himself reported this week that the amount of records lost in 2007 tripled over 2006.

Happy Holidays all.

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