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A discussion with Mel Greer, Senior Fellow and Chief Strategist at Lockheed Martin

In the last two years, IT security breaches have hit the White House, the State Department, the top federal intelligence agency, the largest American bank, the top hospital operator, energy companies, retailers and even the Postal Service. With the New Year upon us it seems fitting to take a moment and assess the state of the cyber challenges ahead and potential strategies to surmount them.

For this post I turned to Lockheed Martin’s Senior Fellow and Chief Strategist, Melvin Greer (M) to discuss the high level statistics every CISO should be considering:

C: Describe the overall state of cyber security in the US.

M: This year has brought big news, significant changes and increased awareness of the evolving cyber-threat landscape. From a threat landscape perspective, we have seen some important developments.

Let’s start with the stark realities:

  • Credit and debit cards are among the most commonly breached credentials, together representing 62% of all information breaches
  • In healthcare industry, there were almost 2 million people affected by medical identity theft in 2012. They incurred about $12B in out of pocket cost due to these thefts.
  • In higher education, 50% of colleges and universities allow for the unencrypted transmission of sensitive information over email. 25% of these institutions actually advise applicants to send personal information via unencrypted email to admissions and financial offices
  • In the communications industry, less than half of all mobile device owners use security software on their devices. There are over 1M malicious and high risk apps on the market today that target the Android platform
  • Retail websites are the #1 target for hackers

C: What are the biggest threats?

M: Multiple new digital battlefields have emerged including critical infrastructures, Cloud Computing, Social Networks, Big Data and the Internet of Things.

9 out of 10 intrusions involve the following patterns:

  • POS Intrusions
  • Web App Attacks
  • Insider misuse
  • Physical Theft/Loss
  • Miscellaneous Errors
  • Crimeware
  • Card Skimmers
  • DoS Attacks
  • Cyber-espionage
(Also see Verizon 2014 Data Breach Investigations Report)

C: How can the enterprise protect themselves?

M: The evolution of cyber threats requires a new leadership approach, given that no matter what the security solution is to an existing problem, the problem itself will evolve and the leadership strategy driving the security solution must evolve with it.

Key first steps include:

C: What should individuals do to protect themselves?

M: Individuals actions and their subsequent education is directly tied to the strategy of the enterprise they are aligned with.  We know that threat sophistication has significantly changed; attack vectors, propagation methods, and even the ultimate objectives of the attacker have evolved.

It’s imperative that individuals become actively engaged in protecting their data.

  • Use personal anti-virus and firewall security on all personal devices
  • Always use strong passwords (greater than 8 characters, upper & lower case, number & symbol)
  • Do not click on links embedded in emails regarding financial transactions from banks, merchants or other sensitive parties.
  • Always go to the respective party's site by directly entering the URL in the browser in order to avoid phishing scams.
  • Employee awareness and training programs

In our experience most organizations find themselves woefully behind in implementing what they arguably know to be best practices. Perhaps the first step to take is collaboration. Talk with your peers and leading vendors in the space to get a more accurate picture of the threat facing your industry.

For more cyber security insights from Mel Greer register for his upcoming webinar on cloud security:

Understanding the Cloud Computing Threat Landscape

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