Recently two new data breaches were announced, one the result of an accidental misuse of privilege and the other the result of negligence by a third party vendor.
First, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced it accidentally handed over the data of living veterans when complying with a Freedom of Information request from Ancestry.com. The request was for data from a database of deceased veterans; however the VA said that data of 2,257 living veterans had also been identified in the database, and that the number could potentially grow to more than 4,000. The data included names, Social Security numbers, dates of birth and military assignments. I know accidents happen. And I’m sure the culprit is very sorry, but I guarantee the victims are even sorrier. Human nature dictates that we will make mistakes and this is just another example of an over-privileged employee making a costly mistake.
Let’s move on to the breach caused by third party vendor negligence. The New York State Electric & Gas and Rochester Gas and Electric have announced that a consulting firm hired by the utilities allowed unauthorized access to customer accounts. It has been reported that the breached information included Social Security numbers, dates of birth and the bank account numbers of some of the utilities’ customers. We have to remember to treat third party vendors with as much precaution as direct employees.
Thirty-nine percent of all data breaches involve third-party outsourcers – this according to data pulled from a recent Ponemon Institute study. While it is important to provide the information and access necessary for third-party resources to do their jobs, at the same time it’s irresponsible to allow vendors free reign over sensitive data or network assets. An all or nothing approach to granting users access doesn’t work here. Effective privilege identity management coupled with comprehensive knowledge of your partners’ and vendors’ security policies and practices is the best way to safeguard your company’s most valued assets.
Someday everyone will have a least privilege solution in place and we can stop reading about these types of insider threats.