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Data Breach Excuses and What They Really Mean: Excuse 5

Posted December 31, 2010    Peter McCalister

Excuse 5:  APPOLOGIZE AND REASSURE CUSTOMERS IT WAS AN ACCIDENT RATHER THAN INTENTIONAL HARM.  You guessed it, that’s what we hear next when data shows up stolen or vandalized.  So this fifth installment of the Top 5 Excuses for Data Breaches and What They Really Meanwill attempt to translate this into what really happened and use current news to exemplify our point.

The University of Hawaii used this ‘cover-our-butts’ excuse recently when they realized a former faculty member had inadvertently posted the social security numbers, grades, and other personal information of 40,000 former students to an unprotected server. This information has been accessible by a simple Google search for the past year.

“We are troubled (and) determined to notify everyone according to law and committed to do everything possible in the future to prevent this from happening.”  Their spokesman, Ryan Mielke, also stated that there didn’t appear to be misuse of the information.

That hardly makes it OK, especially when the information was available to all and sundry for 11 months, and that the former faculty member even had access to the data to conduct their admission research on behalf of the University.

Monitoring database access is part of the solution, but addressing the misuse of privilege requires going beyond that.  It is just as essential to continually audit privileges to ensure employees and partners only have access to the minimum amount of sensitive data necessary to perform their duties.  This requirement for separation of duties is also a cornerstone of virtually all compliance regulations.

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