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3/20/2015
10:30 AM
Ojas Rege
Ojas Rege
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The Clinton Email Kerfuffle & Shadow IT

For security pros the issue is not government transparency. It's the fact that users, regardless of seniority, will always pick convenience over security.

A Google News search for “Hillary Clinton email” returns more than 100 million articles in less than a minute about how the former Secretary of State used her personal email account while at the State Department. There is quite a bit of legitimate discussion about whether or not a government employee should do that. But for security pros, this is the wrong discussion because it misses the core point: convenience will always trump policy.

Hillary’s behavior -- like the rest of us -- is inevitable and information security policy needs to change to respond effectively to it.

By Mass Communication Specialist Chad J. McNeeley (100617-N-0696M-241) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
By Mass Communication Specialist Chad J. McNeeley (100617-N-0696M-241) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

When it comes to security, most employees in organizations have the best intentions. But those intentions take a back seat when the technologies they use do not support getting the job done. Individuals will always prioritize user experience no matter how senior they are in an organization. This is the reality of human behavior. We should expect it instead of be surprised by it.

The true lesson of the Clinton email controversy is that effective IT and security policy needs to work hand-in-hand, not in conflict, with an employee’s preferred user experience.

"I thought it would be easier to carry just one device for my work and for my personal emails instead of two,” Clinton said at a press conference last week.

This is the most public pronouncement we have seen of why the bring-your-own trend is so prevalent in business. Clinton wanted to use one email account (of her choice) on one device instead of two email accounts on two devices. The reality of the situation is that she didn’t have to make that tradeoff, because modern enterprise mobility management solutions would have allowed her to securely use both her personal and work email accounts on the same device. But my initial conclusion still holds: “easier” won and “difficult” lost.

Clinton’s assumptions are an accurate representation of every employee in every organization. In order to put together a sustainable IT program, enterprises must understand both the behaviors of the individual and the tools those individuals feel they need to effectively to do their jobs. This starts with an analysis of the tasks employees are trying to complete, and what devices or apps they feel make them most productive and effective in completing them. It then becomes the job of IT to provide services that accomplish these goals. If IT can deliver compelling services with a great user experience, employees will not have to go and find their own in the so-called Shadow IT.

Clinton is a perfect example of this: an individual using the technology of her choice to do her work. Ironically, even today, IT could have easily met her needs but what was likely missing was an awareness that this is what users actually wanted.

Ojas Rege is VP Strategy at MobileIron. His perspective on enterprise mobility has been covered by Bloomberg, CIO Magazine, Financial Times, and Forbes. He coined the term "Mobile First" on TechCrunch in 2007, one week after the launch of the first iPhone, to represent a new ... View Full Bio
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Mcschweety
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Mcschweety,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/5/2016 | 3:14:58 PM
Re: Clinton Email server
Powell didn't use a private server, he had a personal account, like most people do, and he only used it for on-boarding to the State Department, and then for innocuous incidentals when he was out of the office.  (smart phones were not in play - so being on the road was different). What Hillary did is expose the entirety of her server - including emails sent, received, drafts, notes, deleted emails, calendars, contact lists for 4 solid years.

 

The box was a rickety, vulnerable, poorly configured port-scanner honey pot, ripe for the picking.  The PST and OST files were not encrypted.  The SysAdmins outside of Pagliano didn't have government security clearence.

 

It would have been safer if Hillary had shouted her emails over a bullhorn in a crowded Starbucks for 4 years, at least that way only people in earshot could get the classified info.

What Hillary did was the equivalent of an in-house CPA at a Fortune 500 company choosing to use a personal offshore bank account to conduct company transactions, then deleting half the ledger when the auditors showed up.  The only difference is the CPA didn't put lives at risk.

 
Marilyn Cohodas
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Marilyn Cohodas,
User Rank: Strategist
3/24/2015 | 10:27:33 AM
Re: Clinton Email server
From your perspective, Ojas,  it certainly does seems like the State Department has had a fair amount of ShadowIT in its security policy (pun intended, with reference to Edward Snowded) for some time.  But to your point about the educational value of the controvery -- the practice of letting the Secretary of State use his or her private email goes back goes back to Colin Powell. So it's a bipartison lesson that can be applied  in both the private and public sector..
vleg147
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vleg147,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/23/2015 | 8:40:01 PM
Undisciplined ... How does she know her email server hasn't been hacked?
Clinton either got lousy advice about security/policy, or didn't care.  I'm sorry security is inconvenient.  Yes, it shouldn't be,, but I'd like to know what her risk assessment really was.  I've jokingly been telling folks that, if need be, we could always ask the Chinese or Russians for copies of all of her email - they've probably got everything!  Can you say "Manchurian Candidate", or susceptible to blackmail by a foreign government?  I'm not fan of conspiracy theories, but if I were her and if there were ANY question about the content of any of her email - personal or otherwise - I'd recommend she publicize everything she's got and deal with it up front.
orege940
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orege940,
User Rank: Author
3/23/2015 | 1:15:33 PM
Re: Clinton Email server
I was looking at it not from the governmental viewpoint (which, of course, has many more implications than what I covered and people with far more expertise than I to comment), but rather as a catalyzing event for day-to-day IT operations and security professionals to shine a light on their own organizations. Sometimes these public events end up being incredibly educational and help us design the policies we set in IT every day.
orege940
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orege940,
User Rank: Author
3/23/2015 | 1:09:38 PM
Re: It is about more than convenience
I agree that we can't expect junior employees to do the "right thing" if senior employees won't. My point was that the InfoSec function has to understand behavior in a way that we have never had to before because traditional restrictions are very easy for end users to bypass in mobile.
blang@endgame.com
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[email protected],
User Rank: Apprentice
3/23/2015 | 12:04:41 PM
It is about more than convenience
From a practictioner standpoint this is about more than convenience.  If the senior level executives won't even follow the security policies that are developed specifically to reduce the risk of a security event how can we expect the regular workers to follow the policies?  Security, especially policy adherence, needs to be emphasized from the top down and that means that starting from the highest level executive the policies should be followed.  If you are expecting Joe the sale guy to encrypt his emails, you have to make sure that the CEO is encrypting his/hers, etc. otherwise you are exposing your organziation.  
Jeff Stebelton
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Jeff Stebelton,
User Rank: Strategist
3/23/2015 | 9:28:17 AM
Clinton Email server
No, this is ALL about government transparency, and the lack of it. Our top diplomat conducted sensitive business on her own server, in violation of the law and keeping discussions vital to our national security and interests in secrecy. Whether she knew she could have multiple email accounts on one device or not is irrelevant (and I don't think you'll find very many that would actually believe that anyway). She violated protocol and the law and hid her correspondence as a top government employee and is now placing herself as her own arbitrator as to what email is relevant and needs turned over.  
KevinB748
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KevinB748,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/21/2015 | 8:09:19 PM
Not just one device, many...
The issue with Secretary Clinton's email access is not just about one device but an issue of national security. And her access was not just limited to one device, but many and for a time without SSL/TLS based on research. https://www.venafi.com/blog/post/what-venafi-trustnet-tells-us-about-the-clinton-email-server/ Outlook Web Access was and is enabled on the server for access from any web browser on any computer. 
anon2212088750
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anon2212088750,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/20/2015 | 2:20:31 PM
This is not a matter of convenience
With all due respect to the author. IMHO this is not a matter of convenience but a deliberate attempt to evade the rules and regulations of the US goverment.
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