Perimeter
4/20/2012
09:35 AM
Connect Directly
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

You Need Help, Not An Accomplice

Compliance is about being better and not just proving you are right

I met recently with a potential client to discuss a proposed HIPAA and HITECH compliance assessment. Doing a quick run-through of their current status, I quickly realized there were some problems, the biggest one being the client's perspective on the current situation.

The first problem I uncovered is very common in every line of consulting work: this potential client was not really looking for better answers; they were looking for an accomplice. They wanted their solution to be validated and endorsed instead of evaluated and improved.

The second problem was the staff's compliance work, which was woefully incomplete and which they had no interest in acknowledging. They repeatedly cited the things they had done correctly, but had total disregard for the missing elements of the work. Sure they had an encrypted database, ran updates and patches regularly, and had strong password policies. It was not the completed tasks that were my concern -- it was that these alone did not bring them anywhere close to reasonable compliance.

The staff was quite insistent that their plan made them completely secure and that no extra work or cost would be necessary. I was asked only to approve their work so they could pass along our third-party review to their own clients as proof they were indeed compliant.

If only that were the situation. The staff asserted that because they used a software firewall, a hardware firewall was not necessary. They had never tested a full restore of their backup, had no documentation for configuring a secure server from scratch, and offsite backup was only once a month.

I pointed out that the issues that concerned me went far beyond compliance issues, they were business risk issues. The poor CEO didn't know who to believe. She clearly trusted her IT staff and had distanced herself so much from oversight of this department, she had left herself at their mercy. She had neither the expertise to overrule them nor the understanding to reach her own independent conclusions.

I got the impression she perceived the entire exercise as a discussion of expensive, never-ending technology magic, when she really wanted simply the quickest, cheapest conclusion so she could go back to pretending all was well.

The risks we uncovered were dismissed by her IT staff as either irrelative or not applicable to their company. "We know how to set up a server, and technology changes so often, we shouldn’t waste our time with a document no one will read anyway," sums up their attitude.

I could tell this IT staff also suffered the common unspoken fear, "If we document everything, we can more easily be replaced."

In the end, staff dysfunction won out, which is just as well, as my employees are not corporate social counselors, and I doubt our recommendations would have been followed anyway. It would have wasted the client's money and risked my company’s reputation. And realistically, they may be in great shape, at least as long as nothing ever goes wrong.

Glenn S. Phillips, the president of Forte' Incorporated, works with business leaders who want to leverage technology and understand risks within. He is the author of the book Nerd-to-English and you can find him on twitter at @NerdToEnglish. 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
White Papers
Flash Poll
Current Issue
Cartoon
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2013-6117
Published: 2014-07-11
Dahua DVR 2.608.0000.0 and 2.608.GV00.0 allows remote attackers to bypass authentication and obtain sensitive information including user credentials, change user passwords, clear log files, and perform other actions via a request to TCP port 37777.

CVE-2014-0174
Published: 2014-07-11
Cumin (aka MRG Management Console), as used in Red Hat Enterprise MRG 2.5, does not include the HTTPOnly flag in a Set-Cookie header for the session cookie, which makes it easier for remote attackers to obtain potentially sensitive information via script access to this cookie.

CVE-2014-3485
Published: 2014-07-11
The REST API in the ovirt-engine in oVirt, as used in Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization (rhevm) 3.4, allows remote authenticated users to read arbitrary files and have other unspecified impact via unknown vectors, related to an XML External Entity (XXE) issue.

CVE-2014-3499
Published: 2014-07-11
Docker 1.0.0 uses world-readable and world-writable permissions on the management socket, which allows local users to gain privileges via unspecified vectors.

CVE-2014-3503
Published: 2014-07-11
Apache Syncope 1.1.x before 1.1.8 uses weak random values to generate passwords, which makes it easier for remote attackers to guess the password via a brute force attack.

Best of the Web
Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
Marilyn Cohodas and her guests look at the evolving nature of the relationship between CIO and CSO.