Data breach incidents cost U.S. companies $204 per compromised customer record in 2009, compared to $202 in 2008, says a report on the subject by the Ponemon Institute and PGP Corp. The fifth annual survey shows a significant spike in legal defense spending while breaches involving third-party organizations remained the most costly.
Despite an overall drop in the number of reported breaches (498 in 2009 vs. 657 in 2008 according to the Identity Theft Resource Center), the average total per-incident costs in 2009 were $6.75 million, compared to an average per-incident cost of $6.65 million in 2008.
The annual U.S. Cost of Data Breach Study tracks a wide range of cost factors, including expensive outlays for detection, escalation, notification and response along with legal, investigative and administrative expenses, customer defections, opportunity loss, reputation management, and costs associated with customer support such as information hotlines and credit monitoring subscriptions.
Other key findings from the study include:
The cost of a data breach as the result of malicious attacks and botnets were more costly and severe.Negligent insider breaches have decreased in number and cost most likely resulting from training and awareness programs having a positive affect on employees' sensitivity and awareness about the protection of personal information. Additionally, 58 percent have expanded their use of encryption up from 44 percent last year.
Organizations are spending more on legal defense costs which can be attributed to increasing fears of successful class actions resulting from customer, consumer or employee data loss.Average abnormal churn rates across all incidents in the study were slightly higher than last year (from 3.6 percent in 2008 to 3.7 percent in 2009), which was measured by the loss of customers who were directly affected by the data breach event (i.e., typically those receiving notification).
The industries with the highest churn rate were pharmaceuticals, communications and healthcare (all at 6 percent), followed by financial services and services (both at 5 percent).
Third-party organizations accounted for 42 percent of all breach cases, dropping from 44 percent of all cases in 2008. These remain the most costly form of data breaches due to additional investigation and consulting fees.The most expensive data breach event included in this year's study cost a company nearly $31 million to resolve. The least expensive total cost of data breach for a company included in the study was $750,000.
"In the five years we have conducted this study, we have continued to see an increase in the cost to businesses for suffering a data breach," said Dr. Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder of The Ponemon Institute. "With a variety of threat vectors to contend with, companies must proactively implement policies and technologies that mitigate the risk of facing a costly breach." The study takes into account a wide range of business costs, including expense outlays for detection, escalation, notification, and after the fact (ex-post) response. The study also analyzes the economic impact of lost or diminished customer trust and confidence, measured by customer churn or turnover rates.