Laptop Security: Mind The Gap

More big retailer cyber security lessons for small to midsize businesses: This time a security gap hit The Gap.

Keith Ferrell, Contributor

October 1, 2007

2 Min Read

More big retailer cyber security lessons for small to midsize businesses: This time a security gap hit The Gap.A laptop containing hundreds of thousands of job applicants' records, including Social Security numbers -- all unencrypted -- was stolen from The Gap's third-party applicant-screener.

Gap swung into positive-spin action pretty quickly -- a year of free credit monitoring for info-compromised job-seekers, etc. -- as well as making clear that their agreement with the third-party required that information be encrypted. Which it wasn't.

The lesson for the rest of us? Several, actually. Among them:

Third-party contractors have to be counted among your business's endpoints, too. Any of your information -- or your customers' or employees' -- that you assign to a third party is only as secure as the third party's security practices, policies and programs.

Contractual agreements covering security -- encryption in this case -- are only effectve if the third party actually adheres to the terms of the contract. The Gap may well have a case against the vendor for not following the terms of the contract -- but that doesn't help the compromised applicants.

And, more important, the bad-vibe headlines around the breach don't say Third-Party Vendor Lets Down Gap (or words to that effect.) They say Gap Applicant Info Stolen (or words to that Gap-slapping effect.)

Finally -- though far from the final time this lesson will be offered -- we once more see a massive amount of data compromsied when the laptop it's on is stolen. Doesn't matter whether you're on an intense business trip to the home office or a relaxing vacation at the beach -- the convenience that laptops and notebooks offer is more than matched by the convenience they offer thieves.

If you're gonna take it with you, make sure it's encrypted.

And if you're gonna let third-party vendors take it with them, you'd better make triple sure that they're encrypting.

Your third-party vendors who are also granted access to your data must be treated as one of your endpoints.

When it comes to your business security, don't allow a third-party laptop... gap.

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