07 December 2018

Marriott data breach: wake-up call for companies storing customer data

Marriott data breach: wake-up call for companies storing customer data

How using the Gartner cyber security CARTA model can help secure customer data

The disclosure by hotel chain, Marriott, that the personal details of up to 500 million guests may have been compromised is a cyber security wake-up call for companies that store customer details—including in the cloud.

The potential theft of millions of passport details  ̶ reported on Friday, 30 November  ̶  could prove expensive. According to US magazine, Fortune, Marriott will offer to reimburse customers the cost, if fraud has been committed and customers need new passports.

For companies that store customers’ financial and personal details, the breach highlights two key issues that need to be addressed in corporate cyber security policies.

First, cyber prevention requires vigilance. The Marriott breach was detected more than two years after it first occurred. This is a sobering thought for chief information officers. Just because your systems and people have not detected a breach, that doesn’t guarantee that a breach hasn’t occurred.

The second issue is agility. Cyber security is a continuous arms race between cyber security professionals and attackers. The cloud is now extending that arms race into new dimensions. To stay secure, companies have to be fast-paced and stay pro-active. This involves a change in mindset.

Proactive mindset the key to cyber prevention

But what practical steps should your company take to avoid a similar breach? Most important is, don’t wait for a cyber security alert: look into new ways of detecting any breaches that may already have occurred.

And don’t rest easy. If you are a major corporate, it is safest to assume you are constantly being attacked—and that some attacks will succeed.

Four-step process to mitigate risk

To mitigate and manage similar cyber security risks, we recommend a cyber response process built around four key steps:

  1. Prevention. Review firewalls and update controls to comply with the latest threat assessments. This includes a rigorous assessment of cloud-systems security.
  2. Detection. Understand the control tools that identify attacks, and continually review them as you move more functions and data into the cloud.
  3. Remediation. Work out now how you will respond if you discover a breach. This includes a customer-communications strategy.
  4. Restoration. Figure out how you can restore a secure environment quickly if you discover that your data  ̶  or your customers’ data  ̶  has been compromised.

This four-step process is built on a methodology put together by Gartner, called the ‘Continuous Adaptive Risk and Trust Assessment’ (CARTA). Gartner provides a great 60-minute introduction to this approach, accessible with registration.

To stay secure, though, the key will always be vigilance. As companies move more functions and databases into the cloud, malware designers will refine their attacks. A continuous re-assessment of cyber prevention tactics will prove the most effective strategy in this ongoing cyber arms race. ​Talk to Roger and his team of experts today on +61 2 9409 7000 to find out more about protecting your business.