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Data Leakage Without a Cause

By Dan Hadaway | Tuesday, February 24, 2015 - Leave a Comment

or, at least, without a malicious cause . . .


. . . and the risk introduced by “crapware” . . . the continued climb of cloud-offers that accompany new assets!  (That’s consonance, kids!)

Another one of those Dan’s New Leaf Posts, meant to inspire thought about IT Governance . . . .

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DATA LEAKAGE WITHOUT A MALICIOUS CAUSE

Our office is about an hour and a half from Fairmount Indiana, the town that boasts the childhood of Jimmy Dean, the so-called “Rebel Without a Cause.”  And as I have the occasion to drive through this town from time to time, I’m realize that there could be Data Leakage Without a Cause, when our employees get shiny new computers and portable devices!

I’m coming to this realization after two weeks of setting up my new laptop.  I was liking my new laptop . . . even overcoming the normal anti-change-frustration at being forced to adopt the new operating system.  Yes, this has happened enough times, to where I now understand that whenever I get a new laptop, I’m going to have to learn a new operating system.  This time it’s Windows 8.1 Pro; and though at first I was irritated by the advertising and “cuteness” of Windows 8, I’m starting to like many of the features.

There is definitely risk in deploying a new laptop, exacerbated by the new operating system but also by all the bells and whistles.  And this is exacerbated  by the risk exposure from the increasing use of what some call “crapware.”  Fortunately we do not deploy our laptops immediately (in other words, I have to use it parallel with my old laptop until we know it is hardened.  I’m not allowed to use it for “customer purposes” until after the hardening has stabilized.  We of course have a checklist that we run through, but the point of this article is that the checklists don’t always work!)

I liked some of the new features, and so elected not to just wipe the drive and install a new operating system.  This election is normal now, due to BYOD and other portable device issues, where in the past we’d always just wipe the drive.

We are second-guessing this decision, of course, because we just learned that Lenovo shipped my brand of laptop with the SuperFish spyware application that, unfortunately, breaks the SSL functionality.  For an interesting take on this manner, check out this article!

But we’ve completely removed SuperFish, and we’ve decided to accept the risk that there could be other indiscretions on the part of Lenovo.  We’re monitoring Lenovo with a Google Alert and wondering if we should update our vendor due diligence process to address hardware vendors.

And though we have decided we do not HAVE to wipe the hard drive, I feel like the threat is always there.  It’s making me be more deliberate about the ongoing setup process.  “I better remember this if I have to do this again.”  It’s like Deja Vu in advance of the actual Deja Vu experience.

But what I am reflecting upon now is that, had I not known better, in just this one installaton/setup, I could have chosen to unwittingly share data with Microsoft, Carbonite, some music video company that I immediately deleted, Google, and a company that would always upload anything I print-screen to the Cloud without my even having to think about it.

Okay I admit, I actually DID share information with Microsoft because I didn’t realize that my “documents folder” was defaulting to “OneDrive” which is Microsoft’s cloud storage solution.  Fortunately, the information uploaded was my to-do list for setting up the laptop, and not confidential information.  (Like I said, we don’t allow use of new laptops until after hardening is complete.)

I almost said yes on the print-screen cloud offer; I’m always taking print screens for my talks and writing.  But then I realized I also take print screens, from time to time, that have sensitive information on them.  A great example of that is when I print-screen a graph in excel and then paste that graph into an audit report.

Which caused me to write this article.  Most of our Cloud Security Awareness messaging to our users has been centered around not sending customer data to cloud providers like Drop Box.  But what about when our users set up new systems?  When they get that shiny new iPhone that you BYOD’d, will they remember not to send your organization’s data to the iCloud?

Perhaps your next awareness conversation could include suggestions about being cautious with these deals.  Yes, many of the companies offering them are reputable companies, and yes it’s okay to put your OWN information there.  Just remember you put it there, that reputable companies are also breached, and that we don’t want ORGANIZATIONAL data going anywhere out of the organization’s control, without proper due diligence and asset identification.

The bottom line:  If we are going to allow users to “harden” their endpoints, we had better be providing more robust “awareness training” about the risks that come with new assets.

We’re trying to work on some good “awareness messaging” on the subject.  (for more on that, see posters.infotex.com!)  Meanwhile, let’s all remember this entire phenomenon is just one more example of the number one trend in my “M7-2015” trend list:  Awareness Training In All Directions!


Original article by Dan Hadaway CRISC CISA CISM. Founder and Managing Partner, infotex

“Dan’s New Leaf” is a “fun blog to inspire thought in the area of IT Governance.”

 


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