Security Experts:

Education Sector Struggles With Botnets: BitSight

The education sector may have some tough lessons to learn when it comes to IT security.

The education industry – which includes education companies, schools and colleges - brought up the rear in a new study from BitSight examining the connection between botnets and data breaches. According to BitSight, fewer than 23 percent earned an 'A' grade, while more than 33 percent earned an 'F'.

The report examined the ratings and risk vectors for 6,273 companies between March 2014 and March 2015. The grades are based on the organization's effectiveness across a variety of risk vectors, and are not based on other performers in the same industry or of the same size. The risk vectors include observed compromises on a company's network as well as the steps a company has taken to prevent attacks.

"Recent analysis suggests a strong statistical relationship between publicly disclosed data breaches and the factors that go into an organization’s security rating," according to the report. "More specifically, companies with poor grades are more likely to have experienced a publicly disclosed data breach in the past."

In fact, organizations with a grade 'B' or below were 2.2 times as likely to have a publicly-disclosed breach compared to those who achieved an A, according to the report. 

In the education sector, BitSight found that Jadtre and Flashback were the most prevalent botnets.

"Flashback is malware that targets Apple computers by taking advantage of a Java vulnerability," the report notes. "Mac computers are popular among younger generations and educational institutions, intensifying the proliferation of this malware in education. Although the Flashback botnet itself has largely been shut down, the large number of infections that still exist indicates that people are running machines that have not been updated; thus, they are still vulnerable to other forms of infection."

The second-worst industry in the study was the utilities industry, which had more than 50 percent of the companies receiving a grade of B or lower. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the best scoring vertical was the financial industry, where 74 percent of organizations scored an A.

"The implications for organizations across industries are that botnet infections cannot be ignored. Companies with lower botnet grades are clearly at greater risk for a publicly disclosed breach than those with the highest grade," said Stephen Boyer, co-founder and CTO of BitSight, in a statement. "BitSight botnet grades, which are a component of the top-level BitSight Security Rating, can serve as a key metric for executives, board members, insurers, and security and risk teams that are actively looking to understand the risk for a public data breach for themselves, their insureds, or their vendors."

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