Forrester Research Discloses Limited Website Data Breach

Analyst firm discloses that it suffered a cyber-security incident, though no confidential information was apparently stolen.

Data breach punch

At 6:17 ET PM on Oct.6, Forrester Research publicly admitted that it was the victim of a cyber-attack. According to the firm, the attack had limited impact, with no evidence that confidential client data had been stolen.

According to Forrester Research's preliminary investigation, attackers were able to gain access to content that was intended to be limited exclusively to clients.

"We recognize that hackers will attack attractive targets—in this case, our research IP," George F. Colony, chairman and chief executive officer of Forrester, stated.

"We also understand there is a tradeoff between making it easy for our clients to access our research and security measures," Colony added. "We feel that we have taken a common-sense approach to those two priorities; however, we will continuously look at that balance to respond to changing cyber-security risk."

Steven Peltzman, Chief Business Technology Officer at Forrester Research commented in a blog post that his firm was able to detect the attackers and shut them out of the system. He noted that the attackers were able to make use of valid credentials for the site, that were somehow stolen. 

"The incident triggered our system protocols and processes, allowing us to respond across our firm," Peltzman stated. "Other than the incidence response team itself, there was no disruption to the work we do for our clients."

Though Forrester Research has downplayed the impact of the cyber-security incident, security experts contacted by eWEEK noted there are multiple security risks that the breach potentially exposes.

"The breach at Forrester, for example, could potentially lead to their private analysis of clients becoming public, which could be damaging to both Forrester and their clients,"  Ben Johnson, CTO and Co-Founder at Obsidian Security, told eWEEK. "Their unrefined opinions could have a serious impact on the market if they were to leak in advance."

Scott Petry, CEO and co-founder of Authentic8, commented that the Forrester hack is interesting in that it targets intelligence that is not directly monetizable.  

"Unlike financial account information, the data Forrester has is more useful from an intel perspective," Petry told eWEEK. "The motivation here might be more industrial espionage or other forms of leverage against Forrester clients."

Petry added that Forrester breach highlights the fact that attackers will find weak links in the supply chain to target companies. As such, Petry said that a firm might do all the right things from a security position, but their data could still leak through a weak provider. 

The fact that Forrester was breached, even in a limited way was seen as a surprise by Rajiv Dholakia, vice president of Products and Business Development at Nok Nok Labs. He noted that Forrester is a well known analyst firm and expert in in the field of security and authentication.  

"This breach should be a reminder that education is not enough," Dholakia told eWEEK. "The tools and technology exist that can prevent these sorts of breaches from happening and it is only the inertia of obsolete technology that prevents them from being implemented." 

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner is an Internet consultant, strategist, and contributor to several leading IT business web sites.