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Innovation in Information Security

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A Data Breach In The Tea Leaves, Or Tilting At Windmills?

Intelligence analysts and operatives are expert at the collection and analysis of seemingly irrelevant snippets of data as they build and form a picture of what is going on.

This sort of skill is beginning to find a home amongst some Information Security researchers and it has led an increasing number of researchers to claim that there is a major data loss incident (or set of incidents) that has yet to be made public. Increased frequency of reports of small to medium numbers of credit and debit cards being reissued at seemingly-unrelated institutions are just some of the clues that have led people to consider that a major breach disclosure is set to take place in the near future.

A risk of this sort of approach, and it is one that the Intelligence community faces, is that it is possible to read too much into the information that has been collected and analysts end up jumping at shadows. While signs are growing stronger that there is a major breach disclosure coming up in the near future (weeks or months), it may just be that the breach is an independent occurrence as far as the data collected to-date is concerned. The uptick in breach reports may just be a sign of improved coverage of breaches, especially following the major Heartland Payment Systems breach, or it could just represent organic growth and merely mark the new baseline for data loss reporting.

Anyone who has spent time observing how news is reported, how information spreads from source to source and how it varies in relevancy and reliability with time and source, would suggest that this reporting may just be echoes of the Heartland data breach being mixed with increasing reporting of a potential breach.

It's too early to say at this stage which side of the argument is right, but whatever happens, more and more consumers are going to find themselves the victims of a data breach and eventual financial fraud.

Just as knowing how to write a cheque used to be an essential skill for financial existence, the ability to manage and track finances with a forensic accountant's level of skill seems like what it is going to take in order to minimise the risk of financial fraud to the everyday individual.

25 February 2009

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