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Shweta Sharma
Senior Writer

Supply chain security breaches jumped in US in 2021

Jul 19, 20223 mins
Data BreachSecurity

The latest Consumer Identity and Breach Report from ForgeRock found that supply chain security breaches rose last year, with unauthorized access the leading infection vector.

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Credit: Jarlyawat Thinsandee / Getty Images

Security breaches from issues associated with supply chain and third-party suppliers made an unprecedented jump in the US in 2021, rising 297% year over year and representing about a fourth of all security breaches, according to a study by IAM (identity and access management) company ForgeRock.

The company’s 2022 Consumer Identity and Breach Report found unauthorized access to be the leading infection vector for the breaches, accounting for 50% of all records compromised in 2021, up 5 percentage points from 2020.

The average cost of a breach in the US, according to the report, was $9.5 million, which is the highest in the world and up 16% from $8.2 million in 2020.

For the study, ForgeRock gathered data from several sources including the Identity Theft Resource Centre, Forrester Research, and the Ponemon Institute, between January 1, 2021 and December 1, 2021.

Unauthorized access, supply chain attacks led the offensive

The report underlined that unauthorized access remained the greatest concern, as it continued to account for the bulk of infections. Unauthorized access includes access to data, networks, applications, or devices due to weak passwords, shared credentials, or compromised accounts.

The report recommends implementing AI and machine learning techniques into IAM to quickly identify and contain unauthorized access and prevent data exfiltration. It further emphasizes the layering of multifactor authentication (MFA) with passwordless authentication, machine learning, and advanced pattern recognition to protect against “MFA prompt bombing” which refers to attackers exploiting consumers’ MFA fatigue to gain access.

“Unauthorized access will always be a vector for infection, and using machine learning to augment defending that avenue of attack should be a benefit,” said Chris Steffen, research director at consulting firm Enterprise Management Associates. “The gold standard for authentication continues to be some kind of multifactor authentication, and adding heuristics to determine authenticity and integrity will be of interest to many security professionals.”

Third-party and supply chain attacks, which often involve the compromise of outdated supplier systems, accounted for 25% of all the records breached.

According to Steffen, vendor due diligence and regulatory compliance controls were mostly relaxed during the height of the pandemic and that led to attackers taking advantage of the open supply chain environments.

Healthcare, data-rich records are the most targeted

The report added that healthcare was the most affected industry, contributing to 24% of breaches. It also noted that the segment continues to be the biggest target for the fourth year in a row, recording 467 breaches in 2021.

Steffen considers healthcare to be a data goldmine and reasons that the segment’s critical nature makes it an attractive target for the attackers hoping to recieve a ransom.

Another key finding included a seeming shift of focus from critical passwords and banking details, to more data-rich records like name, address, social security number (SSN), and date of birth (DOB). The report revealed that of the total number of records compromised in 2021, 99% contained name and address, 59% had SSN, and 53% had date of birth information in them.

“A financial institution has safeguards in place to update a stolen credit card number or bank account number if they suspect a breach has occurred, or if an individual has had some sort of lost card,” said Steffen. “But a person cannot change their date of birth and changing an address or social security number is a herculean task, and those pieces of information are used for authentication and confirmation for every type of financial account there might be.”

Despite a hefty contribution, healthcare only accounted for 1% of all the records breached in 2021. However, these breaches contained valuable information including name, address, SSN, date of birth, and, in two-thirds of the breaches, actual medical history information.