Jeff Cutler's Keys to Security

Jan 2 2014   7:59PM GMT

New Year, Same Old Security Maxims Hold True

Jeff Cutler Jeff Cutler Profile: Jeff Cutler

It’s 2014. Your facility and your data are as secure as they ever were. That’s to say they’re not secure at all and you’d better come to terms with that reality. While there’s a lot you can do to maintain a little sanity in a world that’s seeing new systems breaches daily, sometimes the best plan of attack might be a plan for mitigation.

Does your security allow you to sleep at night?

Does your security allow you to sleep at night?

Now wait a moment. I didn’t plan on starting your new year with a ‘sky-is-falling’ missive. There’s no need to devolve into a luddite. I just want to share with you some common sense action items for keeping damage to a minimum when (not if) a data or facility breach occurs.

One caveat… if you think it can’t happen to you, you haven’t read Sharon Fisher’s latest post about crooks breaking into ATMs using thumb drives. Yeah, it can happen!

ATMs were breached recently by thieves using nothing but thumb drives with malware on them.

ATMs were breached recently by thieves using nothing but thumb drives with malware on them.

OK. Scared yet? Let’s list a few tasks to implement when (and even before) you discover you’ve been hacked…

1 – Have a plan in place BEFORE a breach occurs. Know which IT teams  will be called in to deal with physical and technical damage/remediation. Know which communication and administration teams will be leveraged to deal with image and community response.

2 – Understand fully how your backup strategy and processes affect your recovery efforts. Also have a cheat sheet on hand for CTO, COO and CEO so they can have clarity when making decisions about next steps.

3 – Contact your legal team and your compliance task force/committee (you do have people focused on compliance don’t you?). Find out from them where the company stands in a worst case scenario – one where all data is gone. Then work backward looking at situations where only certain levels of data have been compromised.

4 – Use the breach as a learning tool. On the consumer side, look at Target and SnapChat. Both breaches are still in the news and SnapChat looks like it might come out of this looking better than Target because they kept some data protected. *If you read all the information, though, the folks at SnapChat were warned about their poor security numerous times and didn’t do anything to change their protection.

5 – Request a complete situation report from your internal IT teams and from your data services providers. If this level of support isn’t part of your SLAs, then make sure it’s written into all your agreements moving forward. The only way to prevent issues in the future is to fully understand what left you vulnerable in the past.

6 – Finally, don’t be closed-lipped about the situation once you’ve got a handle on it and plugged the leak. Knowledge can be your greatest asset in-house. Let your entire organization know what happened, what was done to fix the problem and what’s being done to prevent future similar breaches and security issues. A well-informed workforce tends to speak up when they see something out of the ordinary.

What’s the worst breach/security lapse your firm has experienced? What did your management and IT staff do to fix it and to move forward?

7  Comments on this Post

 
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  • Ron Miller
    Agreed, it's not a matter if, it's a matter of when and it doesn't matter how secure you think you are, you are only as strong as the weakest link; that person who opens up an email with malware that captures their passwords and sends them to the bad guys. That's the problem, the bad guys don't need to hack their way in, they just need one careless employee and they can be inside your network, essentially from the inside out. As you write, that doesn't mean you throw up your hands, but it means you need to plan for that eventuality. And the points you outline here to help are a good place to start.
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  • FTClark
    Remember, we are all human and make mistakes. We are not computers. Oh, I forgot, computers do make mistakes because they are programmed by humans. No matter how careful you are, a mistake will eventually occur. Whether it is you or the guy next to you doesn't matter. It will eventually happen. Therefore, expect it, plan for it, and don't waste time blaming or pointing fingers.
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  • Jeff Cutler
    Frank, I'm a champ at making mistakes. Good points about not wasting time. Thanks for the comment! Jeff
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  • Sonatype
    "Use the breach as a learning tool."
    Obviously no one wants to suffer a security breach, but you have to learn from every security issue to make your security plan better than ever the next time around. Just hope your initial security breach isn't so bad you can't bounce back.
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  • Jeff Cutler
    Jessica, Couldn't have said it better myself. It might be shutting the barn door after the horses have escaped, but the next time you'll know better. Thanks for commenting. Jeff
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  • Jeff Cutler
    Thanks Ron! Great points. Jeff
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  • Jeff Cutler
    Jessica, Thanks for the thoughts. Nobody wants to be slammed with a breach - as you said - but if that helps you get better and avoid future incidents (as long as you're still in business), then I'm for it. Thanks for reading, too. Jeff
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