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Security In Context

Bringing you news and commentary on solutions and strategies for protecting your critical IT infrastructure.

News Year’s Resolution For 2012: Practice Safe Security

Post by Peter McCalister January 20, 2012

Admit it. You follow certain practices within your IT environment you know to be risky from a security perspective.

You’re not alone. In fact, the number of IT professionals who routinely and knowingly take such risks is surprisingly high. Often the rationale is reasonable: you have limited resources and more IT projects than your staff can realistically manage. Your choices are : 1) miss a key deadline, 2) refuse a critical project, or 3) accept the workload you’re given and figure out a way to improve efficiency enough to complete all the projects on time. Not a tough decision to make, considering the most likely outcome to the first two choices is a not-so-subtle reminder that management teams are not interested in hearing from employees offering to do less, more slowly.

So you set out to improve efficiency instead. The problem is, “improve efficiency” typically translates to “cut corners.” Bypass a security process or two. Take a not-so-calculated risk. Grant a privilege that might be suspect; maybe even give out a root password so someone can wrap up a maintenance job that’s been on hold while the admin assigned to the task has been out sick. And these help desk calls that keep coming in for this new software the marketing team needs on their desktops – maybe just give them local admin rights for the time being so they can download the software themselves. You can always go back next week and restrict them back to standard users (if you remember to).

“Improving efficiency” may also mean signing off on a compliance control without proper examination. Who has time to inspect sudoer files on 250 servers every single quarter to validate access privileges? Let’s spot-check, say, 25 instead. Just this quarter, until you can get caught up.

The interesting thing is that for a small upfront time investment, you can obtain tools to improve efficiency in these areas permanently. You don’t have to go to 250 servers to inspect sudoer files if you centralize privileged user policies in one place and have one entitlement report to examine. And elevating a privilege on the desktop so people have what they need to do their jobs can be done almost instantly, without granting local admin rights. All you need are the right tools – ones that allow you to keep your IT environment secure without impacting productivity. Now that’s a New Year’s resolution you can keep: practicing safe security, efficiently.

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