“The Ponemon study determined that more than half of security breaches are the result of a careless employee—and more than half of IT security practitioners were not confident they would be able to prevent data leakage by an employee.”
Today’s security landscape continues to evolve, as yesterday’s security protocols are simply not up to par with the advanced threats that organizations are facing on a regular basis. Even the most amateur cybercriminal can carry out an attack with the result being the acquisition of an organizations’ high valued information, leaving an expensive remediation path in its midst. So, just how prepared are you?
The recent Ponemon study, Risky Business: How Company Insiders Put High Value Information at Risk, found that almost three quarters of the IT security practitioners surveyed said their organization lost confidential information in the past year. This statistic is not only alarming for organizations, but for customers who entrust their information to those organizations. It is time to change the practice of securing data by taking a data-centric approach. This not only protects the actual information, it protects the information in all environments—whether internal or external to the organization. If a malicious attacker were to access the information and extract it from the organization’s systems, they would find it useless instead of being able to sell it for quick money on the dark web.
High value information—identified as trade secrets, IP mappings, product designs, financial data, confidential business information and similar files and documents—require an extra level of protection because of their value to cybercriminals and malicious insiders. The last thing an organization wants to do is make the theft of high value information easier by leaving vulnerability gaps in security practices. A malicious actor will exploit those each and every time.
Information such as IP mapping can be critical to the security of an organization’s database because of its link to client accounts and their location within that database. If a malicious attacker were scanning the system for specific information about a certain client—i.e. financial data or trade secrets—it would take time and effort to locate. If that attacker were to gain access to the IP mappings of the database, they could easily navigate to the targeted data and extract it from the system before the organization was even aware they were vulnerable to a cyberattack. Encryption can prevent this. Encryption technology should be used on all sensitive documents and files because it protects the data wherever it is being accessed and especially in the case where files are being shared via filed sharing services.
To minimize the impact of human error, employees must be educated and trained on how to handle sensitive data, the protocols on sharing the data, and what they should and should not access. It may be surprising to learn that employees pose the greatest risk to an organization’s security, particularly those in finance and human resources. The Ponemon study determined that more than half of security breaches are the result of a careless employee—and more than half of IT security practitioners were not confident they would be able to prevent data leakage by an employee. Once employee data access protocols are established, it is the sole responsibility of the organization to regularly enforce and follow through on protecting high value information.
A data-centric approach also engages the use of a data security framework, able to identify where all sensitive information is located within an organization’s system and control the permissions of those employees who are able to access it. Leaders of the organization can monitor data usage by authorized users instead of blindly assuming that guidelines are being followed. This quickly answers “who,” “when,” “why” and “where” for security professionals who are looking to protect the organization’s crown jewels.
All aspects of a data-centric approach to security enforce the need for a bigger and better response to today’s cybersecurity landscape: encryption, employee education, data security frameworks, accountability. Organizations must think proactively when protecting their high value information. The skills of cybercriminals are constantly evolving, always one step ahead of security software. Security software, regardless of how advanced, will not compensate for human error, the careless employee or the security professional who cannot confidently locate sensitive data in their system, never mind manage the employees with access to it. Some people protect their homes with a lock on the door. Others use a lock, a fence, a dog, and an alarm system—better to over than under protect what is valued most.