Security Researchers Challenge Claims Data Breaches Increasing
While industry reports cite a rise in data breach incidents, academic researchers find few signs that the threat is getting significantly worse.
In April 2015, the U.S. Department of Energy responded to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request from USA Today by releasing information on more than 1,100 cyber-security incidents that occurred over four years. While the data was not detailed—only consisting of seven variables, two of which had been redacted—there was enough information for researchers from Stanford University to come to a surprising conclusion: The rate of security incidents decreased over time. In other words, while breaches have regularly made headlines, the DOE as a whole was seeing fewer attacks. "People have the perception that cyber-attacks have increased in frequency and magnitude dramatically," Marshall Kuypers, a Ph.D. candidate in the School of Management Science and Engineering at Stanford University, told eWEEK. "But when we run the numbers, we see this seems to be the result of media attention, not an actual trend." Kuypers revealed the analysis in a working paper focused on the Department of Energy data. The rate of incidents due to a various attack types neither increased nor decreased over time in the government agency's data set.
However, malware incidents dominated the data, accounting for much of the observed trend. Because malware incidents fell, so did the overall trend.