Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Perimeter

2/23/2012
11:23 AM
50%
50%

Five Dangerous Compliance Assumptions

Many businesses fool themselves about their compliance problems

After 20 years of working with clients, I am still left shaking my head at the number of companies that declare with great confidence they are “fully compliant” when it is obvious they are not even close.

I think we all understand that compliance means conforming to applicable rules, typically specifications, policies, standards, or laws. Seems simple enough, right? Apparently not.

I find many organizations, especially those with fewer than 200 employees, that are claiming full compliance but have rarely even read the full requirements. This is particularly true in industries where compliance has no official compliance certification, such as HIPAA. They may have skimmed over a summary of the requirements, usually choosing to ignore certain parts by convincing themselves these rules don’t apply to them. These decisions are often made by a single employee, who then proclaims the company compliant and enables his or her fellow employees to blindly accept, and even promote, this convenient, but false, claim.

Companies that incorrectly claim compliance are usually making too many assumptions, some that benignly support their arguments, but others that dangerously fuel false beliefs concerning these companies’ capabilities or security.

Here are five dangerous compliance assumptions I see frequently:

1. “We’re secure -- that makes us compliant. We use passwords and firewalls.”
Whether I uncover it in an onsite assessment or in casual discussions with management, this belief is surprisingly common. Even if the IT team knows it not to be true, if management “feels safe,” they “feel secure.” It is an easy stretch to assume “feeling” secure means legitimate compliance with meaningful security standards.

2. “The IT manager said we are complaint.“
I think the old Russian proverb addresses this one best: Trust but verify. Every good organization has checks and balances throughout, even small organizations.

Bookkeepers are checked by accountants, who are checked by external CPAs. When I write, I have someone proofread my work and then an editor checks it. Having more than one point of confirmation is critical, as even the best of us can miss something important.

3. “Strong physical security is not really necessary here, we are all trustworthy.”
While that is admirable to think, it is usually just a lazy excuse to avoid restricting access to those who don’t actually need it. Or sometimes it can be a social problem: “Oh, Sally will think we don’t trust her if we restrict her access to the server room or that database.” Security is not about trust. It is about following a process designed to protect everyone, including Sally, and your other employees.

4. “Really complex, frequently changing passwords are the most secure.”
This assumption totally ignores the human component of security. Is a really complex password more secure from hacking tools? Sure. But far more security breaches come from access to passwords written down because they are too complex to remember. I don’t know many people who can remember “Er55%P22eRq12121z,” and to expect anyone to is foolish.

5. “The computer has a login, so it is secure.”
Unrestricted physical server and computer access is incredibly common in small organizations and retails stores. It is not uncommon in medical practices for the server room to be a closet, with the door left open so the equipment won’t overheat. If someone steals the server or a computer, they will then have as much time as they want to bypass your login. Your equipment might be more easily stolen than you realize.

Naturally, there are dozens of dangerous assumptions a company can make -- some more obvious than others. Because compliance requires a specific mindset, including changes to routines and embracing new habits, it can be like eating healthier or getting more regular exercise: We know it is very important, possibly even lifesaving, but often we don’t take action until it’s too late.

Glenn S. Phillips, the president of Forte' Incorporated, works with business leaders who want to leverage technology and understand risks within. 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
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
COVID-19: Latest Security News & Commentary
Dark Reading Staff 11/19/2020
New Proposed DNS Security Features Released
Kelly Jackson Higgins, Executive Editor at Dark Reading,  11/19/2020
How to Identify Cobalt Strike on Your Network
Zohar Buber, Security Analyst,  11/18/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win an Amazon Gift Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: A GONG is as good as a cyber attack.
Current Issue
2021 Top Enterprise IT Trends
We've identified the key trends that are poised to impact the IT landscape in 2021. Find out why they're important and how they will affect you today!
Flash Poll
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-25660
PUBLISHED: 2020-11-23
A flaw was found in the Cephx authentication protocol in versions before 15.2.6 and before 14.2.14, where it does not verify Ceph clients correctly and is then vulnerable to replay attacks in Nautilus. This flaw allows an attacker with access to the Ceph cluster network to authenticate with the Ceph...
CVE-2020-25688
PUBLISHED: 2020-11-23
A flaw was found in rhacm versions before 2.0.5 and before 2.1.0. Two internal service APIs were incorrectly provisioned using a test certificate from the source repository. This would result in all installations using the same certificates. If an attacker could observe network traffic internal to a...
CVE-2020-25696
PUBLISHED: 2020-11-23
A flaw was found in the psql interactive terminal of PostgreSQL in versions before 13.1, before 12.5, before 11.10, before 10.15, before 9.6.20 and before 9.5.24. If an interactive psql session uses \gset when querying a compromised server, the attacker can execute arbitrary code as the operating sy...
CVE-2020-26229
PUBLISHED: 2020-11-23
TYPO3 is an open source PHP based web content management system. In TYPO3 from version 10.4.0, and before version 10.4.10, RSS widgets are susceptible to XML external entity processing. This vulnerability is reasonable, but is theoretical - it was not possible to actually reproduce the vulnerability...
CVE-2020-28984
PUBLISHED: 2020-11-23
prive/formulaires/configurer_preferences.php in SPIP before 3.2.8 does not properly validate the couleur, display, display_navigation, display_outils, imessage, and spip_ecran parameters.