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Data Breach Excuses and What They Really Mean: Excuse 1

Posted December 27, 2010    Peter McCalister

Excuse 1: IT’S TOO SENSITIVE TO COMMENT FURTHER, FOR FEAR OF RISKING SECURITY FURTHER.

Yep, that’s what we hear the most when at first data shows up stolen or vandalized.  Upon hearing this for the umpteenth time, we realized it was time to document the Top 5 Excuses for Data Breaches and What They Really Mean. So, over the course of this week, we will share those excuses, attempt to translate them into what really happened and use current news to exemplify our point.

When Vodafone terminated several staff in Australia over a breach in it’s customer information database led to a leak of private data a couple of weeks ago, it appears they used this excuse to buy them some time, while they figured out what really happened.

‘Continues to investigate the matter….attempting to determine if an employee either misused the password, or sold it to criminals outside the company.. number of staff terminated…can’t say how many until investigation is complete… New South Wales police called in….’

All bold positive statements which expertly relay the concern of Vodafone of the errant behavior of one of their

employees. And yet, likely to be a smokescreen for a company which knows full well what happened, and fears saying more because it was so neglectful on their part, that to share the full details would risk incurring serious damage to their very trusted brand.

The bottom line is that it doesn’t matter if their errant employee misused the password or sold it to criminals, the employee in questions was over privileged, meaning they had access to a server beyond the remit of their work role, or, had legitimate but unmonitored access.

Further on, we learn that in fact the CEO has already brought in an independent security firm to review the systems, and to preempt any further leaks, and that the company is changing the database password every 24 hours.

Now if the independent security firm knows their onions from their shallots, they will know that by installing an automated privilege access management system, it would be possible to  change the password not just every 24 hours, but everytime someone needs to access the server?

A password automatically generated, based on the approval of the employees request to access the server, and against the role definition of their job.

Indeed, protecting the enterprise from those with the motive and expertise isn’t just a matter of mission-critical servers. The mindset that there will be those with access who have IT skills should be incorporated into security in everything we do.

To avoid having to use excuse 1 to your boss, try reading this white paper on Privilege Identity Management Demystified

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