Perimeter
2/23/2012
11:23 AM
Connect Directly
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Five Dangerous Compliance Assumptions

Many businesses fool themselves about their compliance problems

After 20 years of working with clients, I am still left shaking my head at the number of companies that declare with great confidence they are “fully compliant” when it is obvious they are not even close.

I think we all understand that compliance means conforming to applicable rules, typically specifications, policies, standards, or laws. Seems simple enough, right? Apparently not.

I find many organizations, especially those with fewer than 200 employees, that are claiming full compliance but have rarely even read the full requirements. This is particularly true in industries where compliance has no official compliance certification, such as HIPAA. They may have skimmed over a summary of the requirements, usually choosing to ignore certain parts by convincing themselves these rules don’t apply to them. These decisions are often made by a single employee, who then proclaims the company compliant and enables his or her fellow employees to blindly accept, and even promote, this convenient, but false, claim.

Companies that incorrectly claim compliance are usually making too many assumptions, some that benignly support their arguments, but others that dangerously fuel false beliefs concerning these companies’ capabilities or security.

Here are five dangerous compliance assumptions I see frequently:

1. “We’re secure -- that makes us compliant. We use passwords and firewalls.”
Whether I uncover it in an onsite assessment or in casual discussions with management, this belief is surprisingly common. Even if the IT team knows it not to be true, if management “feels safe,” they “feel secure.” It is an easy stretch to assume “feeling” secure means legitimate compliance with meaningful security standards.

2. “The IT manager said we are complaint.“
I think the old Russian proverb addresses this one best: Trust but verify. Every good organization has checks and balances throughout, even small organizations.

Bookkeepers are checked by accountants, who are checked by external CPAs. When I write, I have someone proofread my work and then an editor checks it. Having more than one point of confirmation is critical, as even the best of us can miss something important.

3. “Strong physical security is not really necessary here, we are all trustworthy.”
While that is admirable to think, it is usually just a lazy excuse to avoid restricting access to those who don’t actually need it. Or sometimes it can be a social problem: “Oh, Sally will think we don’t trust her if we restrict her access to the server room or that database.” Security is not about trust. It is about following a process designed to protect everyone, including Sally, and your other employees.

4. “Really complex, frequently changing passwords are the most secure.”
This assumption totally ignores the human component of security. Is a really complex password more secure from hacking tools? Sure. But far more security breaches come from access to passwords written down because they are too complex to remember. I don’t know many people who can remember “Er55%P22eRq12121z,” and to expect anyone to is foolish.

5. “The computer has a login, so it is secure.”
Unrestricted physical server and computer access is incredibly common in small organizations and retails stores. It is not uncommon in medical practices for the server room to be a closet, with the door left open so the equipment won’t overheat. If someone steals the server or a computer, they will then have as much time as they want to bypass your login. Your equipment might be more easily stolen than you realize.

Naturally, there are dozens of dangerous assumptions a company can make -- some more obvious than others. Because compliance requires a specific mindset, including changes to routines and embracing new habits, it can be like eating healthier or getting more regular exercise: We know it is very important, possibly even lifesaving, but often we don’t take action until it’s too late.

Glenn S. Phillips, the president of Forte' Incorporated, works with business leaders who want to leverage technology and understand risks within. Glenn works with business leaders who want to leverage technology and understand the often hidden risks awaiting them. The Founder and Sr. Consultant of Forte' Incorporated, Glenn and his team work with business leaders to support growth, increase profits, and address ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
Partner Perspectives
What's This?
In a digital world inundated with advanced security threats, Intel Security seeks to transform how we live and work to keep our information secure. Through hardware and software development, Intel Security delivers robust solutions that integrate security into every layer of every digital device. In combining the security expertise of McAfee with the innovation, performance, and trust of Intel, this vision becomes a reality.

As we rely on technology to enhance our everyday and business life, we must too consider the security of the intellectual property and confidential data that is housed on these devices. As we increase the number of devices we use, we increase the number of gateways and opportunity for security threats. Intel Security takes the “security connected” approach to ensure that every device is secure, and that all security solutions are seamlessly integrated.
Featured Writers
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Dark Reading's October Tech Digest
Fast data analysis can stymie attacks and strengthen enterprise security. Does your team have the data smarts?
Flash Poll
Title Partner’s Role in Perimeter Security
Title Partner’s Role in Perimeter Security
Considering how prevalent third-party attacks are, we need to ask hard questions about how partners and suppliers are safeguarding systems and data.
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2012-5242
Published: 2014-10-21
Directory traversal vulnerability in functions/suggest.php in Banana Dance B.2.6 and earlier allows remote attackers to include and execute arbitrary local files via a .. (dot dot) in the name parameter in a get_template action.

CVE-2012-5243
Published: 2014-10-21
functions/suggest.php in Banana Dance B.2.6 and earlier allows remote attackers to read arbitrary database information via a crafted request.

CVE-2012-5702
Published: 2014-10-21
Multiple cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerabilities in dotProject before 2.1.7 allow remote attackers to inject arbitrary web script or HTML via the (1) callback parameter in a color_selector action, (2) field parameter in a date_format action, or (3) company_name parameter in an addedit action to i...

CVE-2013-7406
Published: 2014-10-21
SQL injection vulnerability in the MRBS module for Drupal allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary SQL commands via unspecified vectors.

CVE-2014-2531
Published: 2014-10-21
SQL injection vulnerability in xhr.php in InterWorx Web Control Panel (aka InterWorx Hosting Control Panel and InterWorx-CP) before 5.0.14 build 577 allows remote authenticated users to execute arbitrary SQL commands via the i parameter in a search action to the (1) NodeWorx , (2) SiteWorx, or (3) R...

Best of the Web
Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
Follow Dark Reading editors into the field as they talk with noted experts from the security world.