On Wednesday, American footwear company Skechers agreed to pay the US Federal Trade Commission $40 million. This settlement resulted from a series of commercials that deceived consumers claiming that the Shape-Ups shoe line would “help people lose weight, and strengthen and tone their buttocks, legs and abdominal muscles.” Professional celebrity Kim Kardashian appeared in a 2011 Super Bowl commercial personally endorsing the health benefits of these shoes.
This settlement was part of an ongoing FTC campaign to “stop overhyped advertising claims.” A similar effort would serve the information security community well. For example, one particular claim that causes me frequent grief is: “solution X detects and prevents advanced persistent threats.” It is hard, dare I say impossible, to work in information security and not have heard similar assertions. I have heard it twice this week already, and these claims make my brain hurt.
A few months ago I shared a flight with a very pleasant lady from a European regulatory body. After shoulder surfing her papers and seeing we were both interested in information security (ironic paradox acknowledged!) we had a long chat about how enterprises could stand a chance against the hacktivist and criminal hordes so intent on stealing their data.
My flight-buddy felt that the future lay in open and honest sharing between organisations – i.e. when one is hacked they would immediately share details of both the breach and the method with their peers and wider industry; this would allow the group to look for similar exploits and prepare to deflect similar attacks. Being somewhat cynical, and having worked in industry, I felt that such a concept was idealised and that organisations would refuse to share such information for fear of reputational or brand damage – she acknowledged that it was proving tougher than she had expected to get her organisations to join in with this voluntary disclosure!
Across the US and Europe we are seeing a move toward ‘mandatory’breach disclosure; however they have seemingly disparate intentions. US requirements focus on breaches that may impact an organisations financial condition or integrity, whilst EU breach notification is very focussed on cases where there may have been an exposure of personal data. Neither of these seem to be pushing us toward this nirvana of ‘collaborative protection’.
In the UK, I’m aware that the certain organizations, within specific sectors, will share information within their small closed communities, unfortunately this is not widespread and certainly does not reflect the concept of ‘open and honest’ as my flight-buddy would have envisaged.
This week I did a webcast, Planning for Failure, which makes the assumption that if you haven't been breached, it is inevitable, and you must be able to quickly detect and respond to incidents. An effective response can be the difference between your organization's recovery and future success or irreparable damage. While I was working on the slides for the webcast, I started to reflect back on the 2011 security breaches that personally impacted me. Three breaches immediately came to mind: