Tom Olzak

Archive for the ‘Piracy Legislation’ Category

Should you run away from Dropbox?

In Access Controls, Cloud Computing, Computers and Internet, Data Security, Piracy Legislation, Privacy, Risk Management, Security Management on June 21, 2011 at 15:26

For a long time, I’ve recommended Dropbox to colleagues, friends, and family.  However, recent revelations and events made me look for a more secure and less risky solution.

First we learn that any employee at Dropbox has access to our data. According to the Dropbox site,

Dropbox employees are prohibited from viewing the content of files you store in your Dropbox account, and are only permitted to view file metadata (e.g., file names and locations). Like most online services, we have a small number of employees who must be able to access user data for the reasons stated in our privacy policy (e.g., when legally required to do so). But that’s the rare exception, not the rule. We have strict policy and technical access controls that prohibit employee access except in these rare circumstances. In addition, we employ a number of physical and electronic security measures to protect user information from unauthorized access.

The problem I had with this was the lack of communication to customers that this was the case.  Many of us understood that NOBODY could access our data.  Well, no problem.  I simply used TrueCrypt to encrypt sensitive data.  This was inconvenient and caused some performance issues.

As regular listener of Security Now, I decided to try the highly recommended Carbonite.  Not only does it back up all my data, but all my Office files and PDFs are available via my iPad and iPhone.  In addition, nobody can access my files but me…  Finally, the cost is pretty low: $59 per year for unlimited storage.

After testing Carbonite, I wasn’t yet ready to drop Dropbox.  However, today I read that they left all files available to the public for four hours yesterday.  (sigh).  I guess it was too much to expect a great cloud file respository to actually be secure, too.

System physical security should include mobile device asset management

In Access Controls, HIPAA, Physical Security, Piracy Legislation on May 27, 2009 at 21:43

Some organizations spend a lot of time worrying about administrative (policies) and logical (application and system electronic) access controls without much concern for physical security.  I don’t mean the kind of physical security where you make sure your data center is locked.  I mean the kind of security which allows you to track who has your resources and ensures your organization takes the right steps to quickly mitigate impact.

For example, it doesn’t make much sense to lock the data center when unencrypted, unmanaged mobile devices travel across the country.  The sensitive information stored safely in the data center might as well be in the lobby.  This might seem a basic principle, but many organizations still don’t get it.  Take the US Department of the Interior, for example.  According to a report completed last month by the department’s inspector general, Western Region,

…13 computers were missing and… nearly 20 percent of more than 2,500 computers sampled could not be specifically located.  Compounded by the Department’s lack of computer accountability, its absence of encryption requirements leaves the Department vulnerable to sensitive and personally identifiable information being lost, stolen, or misused.

Source: Evaluation of the Department of the Interior’s Accountability of Desktop and Laptop Computers and their Sensitive Data, U.S. Department of the Interior, Office of the Inspector General, 24 April 2009.

So the IG could verify the loss of 13 unencrypted computers, but about 500 were simply unaccounted for.  The reason? Several of the agencies within the department had no process to track computer inventory.  The following is from a related InternetWorld article:

Despite policies mandated by the Federal Information Systems Management Act and other regulations, including rules that say computers should not be left unattended in plain view and that organizations should establish policies to protect their systems from unauthorized access, the Department of the Interior doesn’t require that any hardware that costs less than $5,000 — that would cover most PCs — be tracked in an asset management system, and the current tracking system doesn’t have proper backing, according to the report.

Source: Department Of The Interior Can’t Locate Many PCs, J. Nicholas Hoover, InformationWeek, 27 April 2009

Most of us agree that encryption is a necessary part of any mobile device security strategy.  But why worry about tracking laptops?  Isn’t encryption enough to render the data on a lost or stolen laptop inaccessible?  Well, it depends.

Many organizations do not use strong passwords.  The reasons vary, including:

  • Users tend to write complex passwords down, leaving then easily accessible
  • Password reset calls constitute a high percentage of help desk calls, rising exponentially as password complexity increases

In other words, strong passwords are often seen as weaker and more costly to the business than simple passwords.  And password complexity tends to remain the same when an organization implements full disk encryption, raising concern about the real effectiveness of scrambling sensitive information.  The complexity of the password and the configuration of the login policy (i.e., history, failed login attempt, etc.) are factors in the strength of any encryption solution.  In any case, encryption solutions should be supplemented to some degree—depending on the organization—by a mobile device physical management process, including,

  • Mobile device assignment process which includes recording employee name and date of assignation
  • Clearly documented mobile device usage and protection policy signed by each employee before he or she receives a mobile device
  • Periodic, random verification that the assigned user still has physical control of the device
  • Strict employee termination process which includes receipt of assigned devices
  • Documented device end-of-life process, including
    • recording receipt of device
    • recording of device disposition, in accordance with the organization’s media sanitation and reuse policy
  • Tested and documented device loss process, including
    • process for reporting a mobile device lost or stolen
    • assessment of the probability of sensitive data breach and notification of affected individuals

PCI DSS is a get out of jail free card

In Business Continuity, Cybercrime, Data Security, PCI DSS, Piracy Legislation, Risk Management on April 2, 2009 at 08:21

The problem with security standards is they often are a get out of jail free card for organizations which believe in doing only the bare minimum necessary to stay out of trouble.  Some standards, like the PCI DSS, add some value when protecting sensitive information, but they don’t go far enough.  They become something management can point to and say, “See.  We’re secure.”

Apparently it takes a congressional hearing to sort this out.

The PCI standard, long touted as one of the private sector’s best attempts to regulate itself on data security, is increasingly showing signs of coming apart at the seams.

At a hearing in the U.S. House of Representatives Wednesday, federal lawmakers and representatives of the retail industry challenged the effectiveness of the PCI rules, which are formally known as the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). They claimed that the standard, which was created by the major credit card companies for use by all organizations that accept credit and debit card transactions, is overly complex and has done little thus far to stop payment-card data thefts and fraud.

Source: PCI security standard gets flayed at House hearing, Jaikumar Vijayan, Computerworld, 1 April 2009

No, Congress is certainly not the right body to control cybersecurity.  However, in this case I think they got it right by simply stating the obvious.

The Internet Police Cometh

In Government, Piracy Legislation on March 15, 2009 at 16:04

The French government is trying to push through legislation–and it looks like it will pass–to punish those who participate in software piracy online.

happyfeetburn

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