Nobody likes someone looking over his or her shoulder, but when it comes to critical and sensitive tasks such as handling the organization's bank account, oversight simply can't be skipped. In smaller organizations "wearing several hats" is commonplace and the concept of governance may seem like a luxury. SMBs, be warned: not checking up on your security program can cost you dearly.
This is the third and final part of the blog series on the SMB insider threat and what to do about it. The first part of the series covered employment screening issues for SMBs; the second part of the series covered policies that set boundaries for employees; and this part addresses governance strategies for SMBs to implement governance and oversight functions given limited budgets and staff size.
In most cases, small and midsized businesses do not have enough personnel for true separation of duties. Oversight of functions and activities seems redundant and a waste of resources, but a study of the vulnerabilities that lead to SMB breaches shows that oversight is needed. The Center of Strategic and International Studies 2013 article stated that 90% of breaches could have been avoided with the most basic techniques such as patching and restricting administrative privileges.
SMBs do not need to hire additional staff or even buy additional software to drastically improve their security posture. The implementation of a low-budget oversight program is helps to ensure that the basic techniques are implemented and maintained.
Topic 1. System Patching -- Operating systems, network devices, and applications require diligence in keeping up to date on critical and security patches. Do not rely solely on the administrators to diligently apply updates.
Oversight: Run weekly or monthly scans on your system to alert you of any vulnerabilities cause by lack of patching.
Topic 2. Account Rights -- SMB employees typically have an elevated set of account privileges to perform their multiple duties. However, these rights should not go unchecked.
Oversight: Perform a quarterly accounts rights review to reconfirm rights are appropriate given their current role.
Topic 3. Compliance -- PCI, HIPAA, GLBA, FERPA, Privacy Act -- These regulations do not have a different set of requirements for smaller businesses. SMBs must comply just the same as larger companies. It is a mistake to ignore the security requirements imposed by these regulations or to simply assume that the IT is handling it.
Oversight: Perform an annual self-assessment of applicable regulations to ensure you are well informed of your current compliance stance and can take the appropriate measures to address the gaps.
Topic 4. Third Party Compliance -- Relying on outside service to provide functions (e.g., payroll and marketing) or services (e.g., website hosting, email hosting) is a great way to leverage SMB resources but outside services extend the boundaries of what you need to protect.
Oversight: Review your contracts with third parties to ensure that you have properly allocated security requirements to them. If not, re-negotiate when the contract is up.
By employing a low cost oversight program SMBs establish oversight for key functions little changes to the line up or external services and address 90% of the security vulnerabilities.
Doug Landoll is the CEO of Assero Security, a firm specializing in SMB Security. You can follow him on Twitter as @douglandoll Doug Landoll is an expert in information security for the SMB market with over 20 years experience securing businesses and government agencies. He has written several information security books and dozens of articles for national publications. He has founded and ran four ... View Full Bio