Data Breach Excuses and What They Really Mean: Excuse 4

BeyondTrust, December 30th, 2010

Excuse 4: DON’T MAKE AN EXCUSE, BLAME IT ON A THIRD PARTY.  Yep, that’s what we hear next when data shows up stolen or vandalized.  So this fourth installment of the Top 5 Excuses for Data Breaches and What They Really Mean will attempt to translate this into what really happened and use current news to exemplify our point.

McDonald’s adopted the ‘we’ve been hurt too and are in this together’ tone when they warned customers to be on guard against identity theft, phishing and other scams thanks to a data breach following the theft of customer data held by a third-party contracted by McDonald’s.

As PC World rightly points out, the smaller third-party organizations frequently lack the security policies and controls of the larger companies, and provide an Achilles heel that hackers can exploit to gain access to the more valuable network–often flying undetected under the radar.

Our view is similar.  With so many potential points of entry to sensitive data and so many different attack surfaces from which infection can happen, a shift in perspective is required. Companies need to think less about building walls and more about establishing clear boundaries.

An employee at their desk or on the move, subcontractor or partner: access to the network should be the same.  When we talk about privileged access, it’s not who is more privileged than who in terms of their relationship to the company, it simply refers to who gets access to what as defined by their role definition.

As the straight lines of traditional security practice get increasingly blurred and permeable, privilege access becomes the cornerstone of not just good network security, but also good people management.

Using open source software to solve this problem can be just as bad.  Check out this white paper for more information