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Vulnerabilities / Threats

4/17/2013
07:34 PM
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Safeguarding Your Data Against The Two-Bit Ne'er-Do-Well

A real-life data breach incident underscores the importance of employing even the most basic levels of security protection

A recent email quickly got my undivided attention. It went something like this: "Dear Jared, We want to let you know that there was a break-in at our offices, and a number of items were stolen, including hard drives ..."

The email went on to explain that those stolen hard drives just happened to contain quite a bit of my personal information, including my name, email and postal addresses, phone number, date of birth, the last four digits of my credit card number -- and my password. This notification left me shaking my head in mild disbelief. It's the same feeling endured more than a half dozen times after learning that a company did not adequately secure my personal information.

As I've done on past occasions, I read through what details I could readily find on this incident in order to perform a simple, five-minute post-mortem. What I found in this case was not much different than in most breaches of this sort: This data loss incident could have been prevented with a few very basic and low-cost tools.

I contemplated the particulars of this incident, trying to get my head around the thought process of the company's information security team and its defense strategy. While doing so, my mind skidded into daydream mode, as it is wont to do...

[Start dream sequence]

... I see one of thousands of small, white, concrete-walled office buildings in Silicon Valley, housing around 150 employees. The office environment is pleasant -- open, casual, and confident, with few walls, doors, or offices to inhibit collaboration and communication across a creative and dynamic team. Business rolls forward each day at the frenetic pace of the Internet startup stereotype -- an orderly chaos skillfully measured by executive management.

Poised, resolute, and shoulder-to-shoulder stand a small, tight-knit security team with superior technical experience and skill borne of their Silicon Valley roots. Each member is steadfastly engaged in bolstering assigned portions of a network perimeter separating an evil, outside world from access to a treasure trove of consumer personal information, names, and credit card numbers.

As they complete their safeguarding efforts for the week, they slowly and deliberately stand as one. With red capes unfurled behind them, they turn their faces to the wind, puff out their chests, and place fists on hips to survey the fruits of their immense labor. Self-assuredly, each slowly nods to one another in mutual approbation: A job well done! Two hours later, the flowing cape of the last team member fades from view and into a nearby watering hole for a well-deserved happy hour.

Then, a couple of two-bit ne'er-do-wells jimmy the office door and take everything of value, including the hard drives with consumer personal information.

[End dream sequence]

Given the nature of this organization's business and knowing of recent credit card data breaches against major online retailers, I completely understand the primary focus of securing the network perimeter against attack.

But, for all of the complex technologies, effort, and expense to fortify that perimeter, data is still only as safe as the weakest link to a malicious insider.

Or two-bit ne'er-do-well.

Jared Thorkelson is President of DLP Experts, a reseller of data protection technologies Jared is president of DLP Experts, a value-added reseller dedicated exclusively to data loss prevention (DLP) and other data protection technologies and services. For over twenty years Jared has held executive level positions with technology firms, with the last six years ... View Full Bio

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