Asking For Trouble: Most Companies Don't Have Plans To Handle Data Breach - InformationWeek

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Asking For Trouble: Most Companies Don't Have Plans To Handle Data Breach

Among companies that have suffered a data breach, 74% reported a loss of customers and 59% faced potential litigation, the Ponemon survey shows.

Around 85% of IT and security managers say they've suffered a data breach, but less than half have a plan in place for when it happens again.

A survey by the Ponemon Institute of more than 700 IT and security managers in midsize to large businesses shows that while companies increasingly are being hit with security and data breaches, most are lagging when it comes to implementing the proper policies and controls to prepare for and mitigate the legal, regulatory, and financial risks associated with a security failure.

"I think companies are fearful of lawsuits and regulations, but they don't see data loss as affecting their customers," said Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder of the Ponemon Institute, in an interview. "They say it doesn't translate into upset customers or customers who will really leave. A lot of companies are betting the farm that customers won't leave because of a data loss event."

Betting that customers will be forgiving is a big risk. In April, a report came out from Javelin Strategy & Research showing that 77% of 2,750 consumers polled said they would stop shopping at stores that suffer data breaches. In the same month, a report from McAfee showed that one-third of companies said a major security breach could put their company out of business.

Just last week, TJX reported in its first-quarter earnings statement that it took a $12 million hit, or 3 cents per share, because of the loss of more than 45 million credit and debit card numbers that were stolen from its IT systems over an 18-month period. It's considered to be the largest customer data breach on record. TJX had recorded a fourth-quarter charge of about $5 million for similar costs related to the security breach. That means at the end of the first quarter, the breach had already cost the company $17 million.

The new Ponemon survey also shows that of those who suffered a data breach, 74% reported a loss of customers; 59% faced potential litigation; 33% faced potential fines, and 32% experienced a decline in share value.

Almost half of the breach incidents were attributed to lost or stolen equipment such as laptops, PDAs, and memory sticks. The second largest threat came from negligent employees, temporary employees, and contractors.

"Ultimately, when customers vote with their feet, something will change," said Ponemon. "Only if a company sees a loss in revenue will they make changes. Until then, there will be a lot of talk but not a lot of action."

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