Today's SANS NewsBites points to this eWeek article, which in turn summarizes this Computer Associates press release. It claims "more than 84% [of survey respondents] experienced a security incident over the past 12 months and that the number of breaches continues to rise."
The SANS editor piqued my interest with this comment: "(Honan): It is interesting to note that this survey highlights the external threat is becoming more prevalent than the internal one." (emphasis added)
"Becoming more prevalent?" This is Mr. Honan's answer to this part of the CA story: "Of the organizations which experienced a security breach, 38% suffered an internal breach of security." That means 62% experienced an external breach, or perhaps less if one could not determine the source of the breach.
I highlight "becoming more prevalent" because it indicates the speaker (like countless others) fell for the "80% myth," which is a statement claiming that 80% of all security incidents are caused by insiders. I document in Tao the history of this myth. I challenge anyone who believes the 80% myth to trace it back to some definitive source. If you do you will find it leads nowhere reputable.
If the 80% myth were true, security would be a fairly easy problem to solve. The biggest problem I see with modern digital security is the inability to remove threats from the risk equation. In other words, victims of secuirty incidents lack the personal power to eliminate threats; only the police or military can really remove threats from the picture. Since the police is ill-equipped and overwhelmed, and the military similarly not well-positioned to eliminate threats, attackers continue to assault with impunity.
However, if the majority (the vast majority, if you believe the 80% myth) of threats are internal, this completely changes the situation. To immediately and irrevocably alter the risk equation, all an employer or organization needs to do is identify and fire or remove the internal bad apples. Problem solved. "Oh, that's too hard," I'm going to hear. Maybe, but compare that option (which happens every day) to identifying, apprehending, prosecuting, and jailing a Romanian.
Since organizations have the tools to largely remove the insider threat, but security incidents continue to be a problem, insiders must be dwarfed by the size of the outsider threat community. However, as I've said elsewhere, insiders will always be better informed and positioned to cause the most damage to their victims. They know where to hurt, how to hurt, and may already have all the access they need to hurt, their victim.
The bottom line is that the number of external attackers far exceeds the number of internal attackers.