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Risk

5/18/2009
06:11 PM
George V. Hulme
George V. Hulme
Commentary
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On Prison And Corporate Data Escapes

In its broadest sense, social engineering is deception to manipulate or exploit people. That's exactly how more than 50 Mexican inmates were freed this weekend. How much proprietary corporate data is "liberated" in much the same way?

In its broadest sense, social engineering is deception to manipulate or exploit people. That's exactly how more than 50 Mexican inmates were freed this weekend. How much proprietary corporate data is "liberated" in much the same way?The New York Times ran a story late Saturday afternoon about how armed men dressed as Mexican federal police, walked into a jail within the state of Zacatecas and freed 50 inmates -- who are believed to be drug traffickers:

The team of criminals who gained entry to the prison in Cieneguillas showed how vulnerable Mexican institutions remain.

The men arrived in a caravan of 15 vehicles with police markings as well as in a helicopter, according to news reports. To gain entry, the gunmen claimed that they were carrying out an authorized prisoner transfer.

After subduing the guards, they left with 53 of the prison's 1,500 inmates, in an operation that lasted only minutes, officials said.

Authorities believe some prison guards and supervisors may have been in on the action.

So what does a Mexican jailbreak from the northern part of the country, involving stolen uniforms, helicopters, and a boatload of gumption have to do with corporate data security?

Plenty.

Who in your organization would have the audacity to stop uniformed guards and ask for identification, and for them to provide the names, or a letter, substantiating the authority for them to be doing whatever they're doing? Such as wheeling boxes of data, hard drives, or whatever out the front door?

Consider this recount, on Dark Reading, of a social engineering, physical security test on this security firm's client conducted by Bob Clary:

The client also had moved into a new building and requested we test its physical security and social-engineer our way into the building to connect to the network. By leveraging the ability to be on the inside of the network, our vulnerability scanning and testing of its network security would be considerably more efficient.

So Bob entered the building as if he were just another employee. Unlike other social-engineering efforts that require disguises, following the company dress code of business casual seemed appropriate. Bob wore his favored attire of blue jeans and t-shirt, accompanied by white sneakers.

When he entered the building on day one, he walked by security and rode the elevator to the first available floor. Within minutes, he had located an empty cubicle, connected his laptop, and started scanning the network. On day two, he entered the building and successfully commandeered another floor and cubicle. Within the next few days, Bob was reserving conference rooms -- and in some cases, asking occupants to leave when they overstayed their reserved time.

I don't care how much you invest in IT security. If your physical security is as open as this, and your employees don't bother to question anyone: you are as good as pwned.

For my mobile security and tech observations, follow my Twitter account.

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