Data Breaches

Published on 02 May 2019

Updated on 08 Oct 2019

CyberSense is a monthly bulletin by CSA that spotlights salient cybersecurity topics, trends and technologies, based on curated articles and commentaries. CSA provides periodic updates to these bulletins when there are new developments.


Cyber breaches resulting in the loss of personal data has been increasing in scale and frequency. With more businesses moving towards digitalisation, and individuals transacting online or engaging digital communities, corporate and personal data may be exposed to such cyber threats. Globally, data brokers, social network sites, and lifestyle/entertainment companies were just some entities that suffered such data breaches.

In 2017, organisations in the Asia Pacific (APAC) region took the longest to detect breaches as compared to other regions. Being able to detect, contain, and remedy breaches more quickly will help to reduce the scope, impact, and associated costs. In addition, the longer it takes between discovery and public disclosure, the more time hackers may have to leverage the stolen data.

Cybersecurity protection – from ensuring timely patching of vulnerabilities to having an incident response team – can mitigate the extent and impact of a data breach. Making timely disclosures of breaches, especially to affected stakeholders, would also go some way towards managing the fallout from such incidents.



The list of companies that disclosed data breaches came from diverse industries. Yahoo, which confirmed in October 2017 that all 3 billion user accounts were impacted by a 2013 breach, is a tech company. Equifax is an American data-broker (145.5 million records), while MyHeritage (92 million records) is a genealogy search site headquartered in Israel.

Industries or organisations that collect large amounts of personal data are potential targets of hackers. But as data will continue to proliferate with digitalisation, organisations have to consider how to balance cybersecurity with their business needs.

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The longer an attacker spends in a network, the more access and data he can potentially gain. In this respect, Asia Pacific (APAC) organisations may be at higher risk compared to other regions.

The median time taken for APAC organisations to detect cyber breaches from suspected intrusion – the “dwell time” – is 498 days. This is about five times as long as the global median dwell time (101 days).

The study also noted that 57 per cent of APAC organisations observed detected a compromise themselves, as opposed to being notified by others. Organisations need to improve their detection measures to catch compromises sooner.

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An IBM Security study published in July 2018 found that data breaches in 2017 continued to be costlier and resulted in more consumer records being lost or stolen.

The estimated cost of mega breaches – between 1 million to 50 million compromised records – ranged between S$55 million to S$483 million. Direct costs include recovery and legal fees, compensation, and spending on technology and security upgrades. Hidden costs (e.g. lost business, negative impact on reputation, employee time spent on recovery) made up about one-third the total amount. For comparison, the Equifax breach is expected to cost a total of S$604 million in breach-related costs by the end of 2018.

A key finding was that detecting breaches faster and having an incident response team helped to reduce the average cost of a data breach. The report said that organisations that contained a breach within 30 days could save over S$1.4 million compared to those that took longer than 30 days to resolve. The savings could include lower notification and compensation costs.

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The Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA) worked with the Integrated Health Information Systems (IHiS), the technology agency for the public healthcare sector, to investigate the data breach at SingHealth.

But do you know what went on behind the scenes to investigate this cyber incident?

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SOURCES INCLUDE: Ars Technica, Bloomberg, FireEye, IBM Security, Reuters, Security Brief and The Straits Times.