By: Ron Arden
When you think of insider threats, your first thought is a malicious attack by an unhappy employee or a staffer that’s about to quit or be fired. Unfortunately, if that were the case, there would be fewer instances of breaches and data leaks coming from inside your four walls. On the flip side, most organizations inherently trust that their employees understand how to handle sensitive information, following the company’s security best practices every day.
So much has been written about the rogue employee and how organizations must be vigilant in protecting customer and other sensitive data from theft and ultimately exposure. However, your model employee may be unknowingly exposing your organization’s most critical data at any given time. Regardless of the culprit, intentional or not, stopping insider threats is more difficult than hardening the perimeter, since insiders already have access to privileged information to do their jobs. While many organizations look at internal firewalls, intrusion detection and other system protections, the focus needs to move to the actual information that may be at risk – the data.
3 “my bad” moments by “good guys”
Unintentional data breaches come in many forms. Sometimes, the damage is limited, but there is always the chance that exposure will wreak financial and reputational havoc. It can also result in lawsuits and cost the company a lot of money. How many of these have you been guilty of?
The accidental email forward. The conversation starts innocently enough, multiple recipients discussing a staffing situation, all anonymous. At some point in the email chain, personal information needs to be provided to someone in the organization with permission to view. The keeper of the information, by mistake, “replies all.”
Pressing print from anywhere. Your team is working at a customer location and is completing a sensitive piece of work product. In a rush to save the document, your employee hits print by mistake. Since her device is connected to the corporate network, odds are the document has successfully printed back at the office for anyone to see.
When speed trumps security. With deadline sensitive projects, in the name of getting the job done, employees often create some of the most elaborate workarounds to access the document, get it finished and put it back before anyone notices. USBs, the phone or the worst offense – saving to the family desktop – can and often does result in an unintentional but potentially serious breach.
Security doesn’t need to be that complicated
The only way to protect sensitive data is to encrypt it the moment it is created and apply persistent security policies and controls to it. By applying encryption, access permissions and usage restrictions directly to the data, organizations can be confident they will always control it, no matter where or how it is transmitted. This is particularly important in health care, finance and government, where organizations must provide mandated data governance to all sensitive information. The organization can track and control (even recall) whether the information is on the server, the phone or in someone’s email. It is also critical in manufacturing and any business that creates intellectual property, since controlling this information can be the difference between a breakthrough product and bankruptcy.
The best way to protect critical data is to lock it down as a user creates it. When a user creates a document, a security policy should automatically encrypt it and assign dynamic permission controls that control what the user can do with the information inside the document when it is opened. This permission control should travel with the document, so if a trusted insider shares it with an unauthorized user, either inside or outside the company, the document becomes useless. The unauthorized user cannot read the content of the document. And since business relationships and responsibilities change, it’s important to be able to change access permissions on distributed documents when business requirements change.
Moving the focus from the perimeter to insiders is important to eliminate data breaches and mitigate the risk they can cause. Targeting critical value data for this type of protection ensures that a company can maintain its intellectual property and its competitive edge in the market.
Ron Arden is Vice President of Fasoo, Inc. and a regular contributor to the Fasoo blog. He has over 30 years of strategic planning, marketing, sales, business development, consulting and technical experience in the information technology and security industries. Prior to Fasoo, he was Vice President of Strategy and Marketing at eDocument Sciences, LLC, where he drove document security, cloud and collaboration strategies and solutions. Ron has held executive, management and technical positions at numerous organizations, including IKON Office Solutions, Digital Equipment Corporation and Wang Laboratories.
Throughout his career, Ron has participated in industry forums, speaking engagements and written articles for industry publications. He holds a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of New Hampshire.