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Security in Context: The BeyondTrust Blog

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Bringing you news and commentary on solutions and strategies for protecting critical IT infrastructure in the context of your business.

Securing the Perimeter One Privileged User at a Time

Posted July 14, 2011    Peter McCalister

You’ve heard it said before: “To some degree, you just have to trust your employees.”

Ideally, yes. Trust between employee and employer is important, even necessary. But when this statement is made in the context of an employee’s access to a company’s most critical IT assets, the risk that accompanies it is simply too great for any employer to take.

This isn’t to say that employees inherently foster evil intentions when it comes to their company’s critical data. The fact is, good people do bad things – and often those bad things are completely unintentional. After all, one of the most widely quoted data points from the Verizon 2010 Data Breach Investigation Report is that 48% of all data breaches that year involved privilege misuse. Chances are, carelessness, not intent, accounted for a hefty portion of those occurrences.

But the question of whether the privilege misuse that resulted in so many breaches last year was intentional or not does not change the painful end result: critical data was lost or stolen, and companies – and their customers – paid the price. The people and organizations whose responsibility it is to secure the IT infrastructure cannot ignore this fact. This makes it all the more perplexing why so many companies still insist on directing a disproportionate amount of their security budgets to protecting against the external threat at the expense of the internal threat.

A 1000+ person survey was recently conducted by McAfee, with assistance from SAIC and international research firm Vanson Bourrne, that estimates that businesses lost more than $1 trillion in 2008 as a result of data leaks. According to the report, outward-facing security mechanisms primarily intended to prevent malicious hackers, viruses and worms are the most popular methods of protecting sensitive data: anti-virus, firewalls, and intrusion detection/prevention systems. Surveys from the CSI/FBI research team also show that most organizations believe the majority of their security risks are from external threats, yet actual analysis of real breaches shows that internal threats outweigh external ones. And that points directly to – you guessed it – the misuse of privilege.

The good news is, controlling what privileged users can and can’t do is neither an insurmountable task nor one that has to result in employee productivity loss. By providing the necessary guardrails to prevent employees from using their privileges in insecure or nefarious ways, you can confidently maintain a productive workforce while minimizing risk to your organization. And trusting in that will put any security professional’s mind at ease.

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Additional articles

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Looking back on information security in 2014

Posted December 16, 2014    Dave Shackleford

Dave Shackleford is a SANS Instructor and founder of Voodoo Security. Join Dave for a closer look at the year in security, and learn what you can do to prepare for 2015, with this upcoming webinar. 2014 has been one heck of an insane year for information security professionals. To start with, we’ve been forced…

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December 2014 Patch Tuesday

Posted December 9, 2014    BeyondTrust Research Team

This month marks the final Patch Tuesday of 2014. Most of what is being patched this month includes Internet Explorer, Exchange, Office, etc… and continues a trend of the greatest hits collection of commonly attacked Microsoft software. Probably the one thing that broke the mold this month is that for once there is not some…

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“I’d love to come, but I’m on-call”: Privilege management can relieve holiday help desk headaches

Posted December 3, 2014    Jason Silva

Part of working in IT means you put in your time “on-call.” Companies either don’t realize there is a better way to allow users to maintain administrative access to endpoints, or they remove admin rights from users but don’t account for the resulting operational inefficiencies.

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