At issue: The
wants enterprise search.
Action plan: Assess
all the risks that
search could expose, and
address them one by one.
The Perils of Enterprise Search
First and foremost, you have to make sure you don’t
compromise the rule of least privilege.
I’M A BIG FAN OF SEARCH. The ability to use the Internet to cull information on virtually any topic with just a few clicks has made me more efficient and better informed.
And “information” can come in the form
of pictures, documents, videos, news feeds
— whatever you need.
So you might think that when my
company’s application team told me they
wanted to initiate an enterprise search
project, I would have jumped on board.
Not quite. For security and legal reasons,
enterprise search can lead
to real problems if not
deployed with excruciating
care and strict governance.
If security concerns
aren’t addressed, this is
what you can expect: The IT team does
some research, makes a choice, deploys
the infrastructure and begins pointing
it to data repositories. Before you know
it, someone conducts a search with a
term like “M&A” and turns up a sensi-
tive document naming a company that’s
being considered for acquisition, or a
search for the word “salary” reveals an
employee salary list that was saved in an
inappropriate directory. In other words,
people will be able to find all manner
of documents that they shouldn’t have
access to. It’s a flagrant violation of what
is probably my most important security
philosophy: the rule of least privilege.
JOIN IN the discussions about
A search using a term like ‘M&A’ could reveal the name
of a company being considered for acquisition.
The fact that your enterprise search
results will be provided via a URL can
cause another problem. You need to
make sure that such URLs can’t be
manipulated to provide access to other
documents or data. For example, a URL
such as www.company-intranet.com/
go?viewdoc=210 might be open to manipulation by simply changing the “210”
to another number.
My next concern is about access to the
administrative and back-end infrastructure of the search technology, as well as
any third-party or bundled data analytics
tools and any back-end disk storage. Access
to those resources should be limited based
on the rule of least privilege. All of that
infrastructure must also comply with our
configuration management and baseline
I also want to make sure that the use
of enterprise search is restricted to authenticated domain members. We don’t
want vendors or guests doing searches
for data that they shouldn’t see.
Another potential problem is that
some search engines use caching to serve
up frequently accessed data. I’ll need to
be sure that any caching technology conforms to our data retention policies and
that there aren’t any e-discovery issues.
Finally, the search infrastructure will
need constant oversight to ensure that
no document libraries are added without
having accessibility rules assigned to them
and that employees don’t save documents
in existing libraries that allow wider
access than the document deserves.
Enterprise search is like much else
in the enterprise: very powerful and
extremely useful, but risky and in need
of constant attention. u
This week’s journal is written by a real
security manager, “Mathias Thurman,”
whose name and employer have been disguised
for obvious reasons. Contact him at mathias_