Perimeter
5/21/2012
10:08 AM
Amy DeCarlo
Amy DeCarlo
Commentary
Connect Directly
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Overlook The Obvious And Risk Everything

Failure to follow fundamental common-sense security policies can produce disastrous results, as the state of Utah discovered

Ideally, security should be a multilayered process replete with the appropriate checks and balances to close any gaps that could expose information to a potential breach. However, in practice, far too often organizations fail to execute on what are typically thorough and well-designed policies they lay out exactly what controls should be in place to protect precious organizational and client information.

A classic example of this kind of misfire is the recent breach of hundreds of thousands of patient records from the Medicaid server at the Utah Department of Health. A number of very preventable mistakes made it relatively easy for cyberthieves to access approximate 280,000 medical files, complete with Social Security numbers and other personally identifiable information (PII), as well as many as 500,000 additional records.

The Utah data breach made headlines again last week when Utah Governor Gary R. Herbert announced he had accepted the resignation of state chief information officer Stephen Fletcher and ordered an independent audit of the security covering all of the state's IT systems. The resignation was tendered at the governor's request after an investigation of the incident found that under Fletcher's direction, the state's IT department failed to follow a number of procedures and policies that potentially foiled the attack.

For one thing, the compromised server was installed by an outside contractor who may not have had full knowledge of policies -- an exception to normal procedure. The contractor reportedly did not change the default factory passwords on the system. No audit took place that caught that mistake -- or the fact that Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)-protected data was stored unencrypted on the server and apparently without adequate firewall protection -- essentially leaving cyberattackers thought to be from Eastern Europe with a wide open door to a wealth of information.

While the attack serves as an unfortunate cautionary tale to other organizations that carelessness can bring about some terrible results, at least anecdotally, it appears that enterprises are taking more care with respect to protecting their most confidential, sensitive, and high-value information. However, the reality is that far too many vulnerabilities are still going unaddressed.

All businesses and government organizations should look at the Utah breach as more than just a water-cooler conversation starter. Instead, use the incident as an opportunity to assess whether there is a gulf between their best-laid security policy and production mentality. And if there is an issue, the organization should prioritize where it needs to make corrections based on the value and sensitivity of the impacted resources.

In Utah's case, beyond the personnel changes and the system audit, the state is also stepping up its data protection plans for regulated and sensitive information. The state will now reportedly encrypt high-risk data both at rest and in motion.

Amy DeCarlo is principal analyst for security and data center services at Current Analysis Amy brings 17 years of IT industry experience to her position as Principal Analyst, Security and Data Center Services. Amy assesses the managed IT services sector, with an emphasis on security and data center solutions delivered through the cloud including on demand ... 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-2013-4594
Published: 2014-10-25
The Payment for Webform module 7.x-1.x before 7.x-1.5 for Drupal does not restrict access by anonymous users, which allows remote anonymous users to use the payment of other anonymous users when submitting a form that requires payment.

CVE-2014-0476
Published: 2014-10-25
The slapper function in chkrootkit before 0.50 does not properly quote file paths, which allows local users to execute arbitrary code via a Trojan horse executable. NOTE: this is only a vulnerability when /tmp is not mounted with the noexec option.

CVE-2014-1927
Published: 2014-10-25
The shell_quote function in python-gnupg 0.3.5 does not properly quote strings, which allows context-dependent attackers to execute arbitrary code via shell metacharacters in unspecified vectors, as demonstrated using "$(" command-substitution sequences, a different vulnerability than CVE-2014-1928....

CVE-2014-1928
Published: 2014-10-25
The shell_quote function in python-gnupg 0.3.5 does not properly escape characters, which allows context-dependent attackers to execute arbitrary code via shell metacharacters in unspecified vectors, as demonstrated using "\" (backslash) characters to form multi-command sequences, a different vulner...

CVE-2014-1929
Published: 2014-10-25
python-gnupg 0.3.5 and 0.3.6 allows context-dependent attackers to have an unspecified impact via vectors related to "option injection through positional arguments." NOTE: this vulnerability exists because of an incomplete fix for CVE-2013-7323.

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.