Pizza Hut Australia got hacked – what they did right!

Last week Pizza Hut Australia admitted that its cyber-defences had been breached. Unfortunately the attackers did get hold of customers’ names and addresses. Technically it seems that Pizza Hut didn’t get breached, but the website providers who host their site did.

From a privacy perspective, its time to use the ‘pub’ test, That is – what would your level of unhappiness be if the world knew that you liked the meatlover’s supreme with extra cheese and lived at 32 Rosegardens Road, Morphett Vale? I think not very high. The important thing is that the company claims credit card details didn’t get stolen.

Pizza – not Pizza Hut

My sources tell me that the hackers didn’t get credit card details because this information is held in a separate and better-protected database by a specialised payment gateway. I hope they’re right!

There are a couple of important lessons for organisations to learn from this breach. Firstly by developing granular controls that separate data by its value and what it was used for, organisations like Pizza Hut can develop protocols for their security that give the best mix of data availability and confidentiality. As an example, there are far more parts of the business that benefit from knowing where customers live and who they are than need the credit details. If the data isn’t separated, the organisation can’t make the best use of the data and ensure security at the same time – they have to do one or other. But with granular controls, the marketing department can use addresses and telephone numbers to plan promotions and the planning department can work out where to open the next store, but they don’t need to know credit card details.

The other point is about risk transfer. Although transferring risk to a third-party is an acceptable mitigation according to the risk management standard ISO31000, organisational reputation can’t be transferred. If your company wants to keep its good name when it gets hacked, it needs to have thought about recovery and restoration. Blaming the web provider won’t cut it with customers if your organisation is anything bigger than the local fish and chippery. Generally, the larger the company, the bigger the reputation; more so for .gov

There has been a gradual, but definite change in the way that cybersecurity professionals talk about breaches. Until around 2001, people talked about the possibility of being breached online. Now this has changed from ‘if you get breached’ to ‘when you get breached’.

Essentially, if information is available on Internet facing systems, then it is more a matter of time and luck as to when your system gets done over. This is something security professionals need to communicate with the senior management of the organisation.

For Pizza Hut, this recent event will probably contribute to its longevity and improve its resilience. Research is showing that organisations that undergo small shocks are more ready for the black swans of the future.

However, they should not rest on their laurels, in the aftermath of any breach, an organisation needs to examine how to reduce the risk of further breaches. Some of the questions I ask in such situations are (in no particular order):

  • Does the organisation need to think further about the balance between confidentiality of personal information and the availability to internet facing systems.
  • From a marketing and public relations perspective is the organisation talking to its customers to show that the organisation is taking their personal information seriously;
  • What changes does the organisation need to make in terms of digital evidence gathering – was this adequate enough to deter future attacks – in the long term the rule of law is the only way to reduce the power of the attackers;
  • Did the organisation understand how to respond to the breach, does this need regular exercising;
  • Was there an ageed direction from senior management in the event of a breach, so that the technical staff could ‘get on with the job’ as quickly as possible;
  • Are the relationships with service providers adequate, were the levels of service and measures taken to recover sufficient.

It is important to recognise that the best value gains for the organisation come not from IT changes like forensics, but business process rearrangement.