WikiLeaks - Could You Be Next?

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Javvad Malik

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They say that a fool learns from his own mistakes while a wise man learns from the mistakes of others.

Over the last couple of days, many columns have been dedicated to covering the WikiLeaks issue and how embarrassing, not to mention politically damaging it’s been for the U.S. Government.

But how can this effect a business? Let’s scratch beneath the political issues and scandalous accusations to see what led to the leak and how it could happen in any company.

1. The Disgruntled Employee

Ultimately, in these types of scenario’s someone on the inside with access to information passed it on to an unauthorized 3rd party. In this case it was WikiLeaks, but for a private company, it may as well be your fiercest competitor. Unless you have a small organization where everybody knows each other very well, this can be extremely difficult to detect.

When was the last time you conducted an employee satisfaction survey?

2. Excessive levels of access

In a response to criticism about the lack of intelligence sharing, so they ended up creating a repository of data which where information was accessible by nearly everyone regardless of their rank and authorization.

Businesses are also guilty of such practices, for example where marketing departments collate all their data in crude repositories such as spreadsheets to which there is no control over who has access. Or where a user moves departments and over time accrues access far beyond what they are entitled to.

How many users in your organization have access to information they don’t need?

3. Removable media

Portable removable media such as USB memory sticks, writeable CDs and DVDs make it extremely easy to extract large quantities of information out of organizations. Had the U.S. military prevented the use of removable media, the WikiLeaks incident could have probably been avoided altogether.

But it’s not just the conventional media that are culprits. Backup tapes, mobile phones and even laptops are tools which can be used to extract information from right under your nose.

What data can be removed from your organization on a USB stick?

4. Monitoring controls

Independent monitoring controls are your fail-safe. Adequate monitoring controls should raise alerts when a user accesses data types and volumes they shouldn’t.

Or where sensitive information is being transferred to outside its protected environment such as portable media or across the internet.

Much like a burglar alarm, it may not stop the actual deed in realtime. But it gives you a heads up as to what’s happening so the appropriate steps can be taken.

If 100,000 customer records were emailed out of your organization, would you know?

Most organization suffer lost information. Sometimes they are highly visible like WikiLeaks and other times no-one hardly notices. But by having a layered approach and adopting good security practices, you can greatly reduce the chances of a major loss.

Cross posted from www.quantainia.com

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J J Hate to be a grammar-Nazi, but "no one hardly notices", which is a double-negative, should simply be "no one notices".
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