Yet another systems breach was reported last week, this time at the University of North Florida affecting 23,000+ students. This in and of itself is unfortunately nothing new, as we have been inundated weekly with reports of breeches occurring at organizations throughout the last 18 months. What struck a chord however with this incident at UNF is that it is not the first time that the college had experienced data loss from an external attacker. In October of 2010, the school was also attacked by an external hacker, and 107,000 students were affected in that incident. UNF has posted an FAQ on the latest attack here. One of the more interesting questions is what is the university doing to make sure this doesn’t happen again, with the school providing the following answer: “The method used by the intruder to gain access has been identified and steps have already been taken to prevent a reoccurrence. The University Police Department, in conjunction with Housing and ITS, is investigating this incident.”

Considering this is the second time the school has been attacked, one can imagine this response wasn’t too reassuring to the students. The incident also shows that the traditional reactive approach to security needs to be replaced by a proactive, risk-based approach. After the first incident in 2010, the school stated that “The university shut down the compromised server and has taken other precautions to prevent future incidents.” One can only assume that the specific exploit on the specific server that was compromised was patched against, or maybe a specific service blocked on the firewall. Reacting to that specific threat and assuming that the remediation actions taken protected the school moving forward clearly was not the most comprehensive approach to protect against future threats.

The most successful organizations that combat risk today “have a much better handle controlling what is deployed on their networks and whether these assets are vulnerable to imminent threats” as Jon Oltsik noted earlier this month on his blog. He also pointed out though that only 20% of organizations today have a risk management plan in place that includes some form of threat intelligence. FireMon has always believed it is important to proactively identify areas of Risk, whether they come from adding a rule to your firewall that inadvertently introduces risk by being overly permissive, or by identifying in real-time what assets on your network are most vulnerable to exploitation. With the release of Security Manager 6.0 with Risk Analyzer add-on, organizations now have a complete Security Posture Management tool that provides unparalleled visibility to understand the scope of business vulnerability and prioritize the proactive defense of critical assets, while maintaining a high confidence that their security infrastructure is free of human error or incompatibilities between policies and protection. Avoid having to post a breach FAQ; adopt a proactive risk based approach to security management today.