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Risk

3/24/2008
10:34 AM
Keith Ferrell
Keith Ferrell
Commentary
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More Passport Problems, More Business Security Lessons

Or maybe just more of the same. As the Obama passport-filepeek story expanded to become the Obama/Clinton/McCain passport pry-in story, the business lessons the snafu offered only grew more important.

Or maybe just more of the same. As the Obama passport-filepeek story expanded to become the Obama/Clinton/McCain passport pry-in story, the business lessons the snafu offered only grew more important.Here's a thumbnail of what we can all learn from the passport file-breach and the controversies it raised.

First, as KC Jones pointed out in Informationweek, the problem was with humans, not technology.

Which means that the breach was like a lot of breaches -- whether dealing with bonehead snooping or malicious thievery, your security policy needs to be as human-focused as it is tech-focused. No amount of security investment and deployment is going to stop someone determined to make a mistake (or commit a crime) -- if that person has access.

The challenge is to deploy the technology that displays warnings, rings bells, sounds sirens and fires off alerts when that mistake is made or crime committed. We've already heard that the passport file system had such safeguards in place.

So far so good.

But because the alerts and notifications don't always stop the determinedly boneheaded, your system -- which means your company -- has to have in place rules, procedures and processes that feed the bad news upstream as fast as possible and as high as possible.

That is, there's little excuse for employees (or contractors) snooping where they shouldn't be. But -- humans again -- it happens.

There's no excuse for putting your management team in the position -- as the Secretary of State found herself in -- of saying words to the effect of "I just now found out about this."

Those sorts of reactive damage-control statements -- and we hear them all the time from businesses as well as organizations and institutions -- send a message that can be as damaging to your company and its leadership and the breach that they didn't get informed of in the first place.

Finally, while the call for investigations into the breaches and their causes are to be expected (inevitably so in an election year) it would be nice to see some of our representatives use this high-profile story to call for wider official discussion of digital security issues and policies across the board, not just when problems with those policies affect presidential candidates.

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