The cost per customer record in a data breach increased $10 over the 2009 average to $214 per customer record compromised in a data breach, which is $12 more than the 2008 average of $202 per customer record. The Poneman Institute, which conducts independent research on privacy, data protection and information security policy, released its sixth Annual Study: U.S. Cost of Data Breach (Available Here – PDF link), declaring that the average cost per compromised customer record rose to $214.  The report is sponsored by Symantec Corporation.  Excellent materials such as an infographic, summaries, blog entries, a podcast and slide presentation can be found on Symantec’s web site here.

Before getting into the numbers, you should note that Symantec is offering a Data Breach Risk Calculator.  The foregoing calculator is NOT for the feint of heart, so consider yourself warned.  That being said, the calculator is a powerful tool that considers several factors when estimating data breach costs to businesses.

The report is based on 51 reported data breaches in the United States (other country reports are also published) in 2010, ranging from 4,200 to approximately 105,000 records in 15 different industries. Of the breaches studied, organizations paid a low of $780,000 ($750,000 in 2009), and a high of $35.3 Million ($31 Million in 2009) in connection with the breach response. The average cost to an organization from a data breach increased from $6.65 Million in 2008, and $6.75 Million in 2009, to $7.2 Million in 2010 (Summary).


The cost breakdown for breach response among lost business, ex-post response, notification and detection & escalation is eye-opening and, if nothing else, should be motivational to businesses to address problems before they arise.

Response Cost Chart

Source: Poneman Institute/Symantec Corporation

According to the report and infographic that was published, the source of the data breach was related to negligence in 41% of the cases. 31% of the data breaches were the cause of intentional and malicious attacks, up seven percent from 2009.  Breaches due to third party mistakes dropped three percent to 39%.  Encryption as a post-breach remedy remained the most popular, up three percent to 61%

As in prior years, those organizations that move quickly tend to experience a higher cost per record for the data response. Organizations that move quickly tend to do so in a disorganized manner with little efficiency (e.g., they do not have a breach response plan in place), and spend on average $268 per record, up significantly from the 2009 average of $219 per record. Those organizations that took longer to respond paid $174 per record on average.

The news regarding data breach costs and impacts continues to worsen and shows no sign of improving or slowing.