"On the flip side, some companies now bring too many people to the decision-making table while still trying to respond. We show up and we're immediately briefing 12 people -- and 10 don't need to be there," he said.
7. Handling breach details sloppily tips off the perp
Another common problem is that companies typically fail to establish a "need to know" approach to breaches, which makes it harder to carry out baseline investigations as workers find out about an incident and immediately try to protect their own interests.
If insiders are involved in the problem, they also gain the advantage of knowing that the gig is up and may stop telltale behavior useful to investigators — and often try to cover their tracks, Mandia said.
8. Trusting "silver bullet" technology hides real threats
As regulatory measures that involve IT and data security interests continue to multiply, businesses have invested a lot in technological solutions to plug the holes. But companies commonly believe that installing a specific technology or meeting some individual aspect of a regulation is a silver bullet or a quick fix. It's neither.
"The biggest problem I see is people thinking that simple things like deploying anti-virus [software], patching, and running vulnerability scans are actually what it means to be compliant. They're not approaching it from a risk management standpoint — they're just checking the boxes," said Mike Rothman, an analyst with Security Incite.
Companies often compound this fools' paradise by auditing their limited security fixes and taking a passing grade as confirmation that no more work is needed. "People often think that once they have a positive audit, they're done," Rothman said. "Then the bad guys prove to them that they're not."
9. Spending unthinkingly wastes resources you might need for important threats
Another compliance-related security trap that companies frequently fall into is spending the same effort or expense to protect IT systems with wildly different levels of importance to their organization's security and success, Rothman said.
"Some people make the mistake of treating all security issues equally, and spend the same amount of time and money defending an old application that only five people use that they spend on an online application used by all of their customers," he said.
That approach not only wastes money, but it also can leave more important problems to later consideration — or maybe none at all, once the budget has dried up. "Security people often don't know how to prioritize," Rothman said. "They should look at what happens if something specific breaks and look at how to drive spending from there."
10. Don't save the wrong data
In another common scenario that spells disaster for both security and compliance interests, many companies that process credit and debit cards inadvertently leave transaction logging systems on that store account information. This logging can lead to customer data breaches and PCI (Payment Card Industry) audit failures.
"Naturally, they don't realize they are storing the data a hacker or malicious employee would need to create fake plastic credit cards," said Symantec's Roop. "This is the cardinal sin of PCI compliance. We actually saw this example at a [recent] prospect. It is a big land mine that most likely will result in a failed PCI audit."
Even companies not collecting card data need to make sure that they only save the information they actively need to do business, Roop said. Keeping anything on hand that could be misused by attackers without a clear need to store that data is asking for trouble, he advised. And if it must be retained, then be sure to build a protection method for it as well.