Marine corp data breach lesson: human error is often the cause and is preventable

There has been a data breach emanating from the U.S. Marine Corps Forces Reserve that impacted 21,426 individuals. The breach exposed their sensitive personal information such as truncated social security numbers, bank electronic funds transfer and bank routing numbers, truncated credit card information, mailing address, residential address and emergency contact information.

Calm down and press the pause button on the hysteria hype machine — it was not the Russians behind it! It was something far more treacherous when it comes to the real world of data breaches: it was human error.

In this case, it happened when an individual sent an email to the wrong email distribution list and the email was unencrypted and included an attachment that contained the personal information described above. You can read more about the breach here: Major data breach at Marine Forces Reserve impacts thousands

THE TAKEAWAY:  The important lesson to take away is that scenarios such as this are far more common than all of the super-sophisticated “hacking” type over-politicised stuff that we usually hear about through the media. This is the real world of data breach that most companies face far more often than they face state-sponsored espionage. In fact, research into actual data breaches reveals that 90% of all claims made on cyber insurance stemmed from some type of human error and, as reported by the highly reputable Online Trust Alliance, “in 2017, 93 percent of all breaches could have been avoided had simple steps been taken such as regularly updating software, blocking fake email messages using email authentication and training people to recognize phishing attacks.” The good news is this type of problem is preventable with some effort.

Below is a checklist of good cyber hygiene that, in reality, all companies should be doing these days. How do you make sure you’re doing it? You develop and implement a cyber risk management program that is tailor-made for your company and is continuously maturing to address the risks your company face — such as my CyberGard™ program.


Shawn Tuma (@shawnetuma) is an attorney with an internationally recognized reputation in cybersecurity, computer fraud, and data privacy law. He is a Cybersecurity & Data Privacy Attorney at Scheef & Stone, LLP, a full-service commercial law firm in Texas that represents businesses of all sizes throughout the United States and, through its Mackrell International network, around the world.

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