At issue: A confidential
product presentation is
available on the Web.
Action plan: Get it off
the Internet, and find
ways to prevent that sort of
thing from happening.
Sensitive Data, in the Wild
It isn’t easy to stop your employees from posting things they
shouldn’t on social media and file-sharing sites.
IF YOU don’t think it’s a big chal- lenge to protect sensitive company information and intellectual prop- erty, listen to this story. Last week, one of our sales
associates visited a customer to review
the road map for one of our flagship
products. This discussion was to be
confidential, so you can imagine the
sales associate’s consternation when the
customer said he had already viewed the
presentation on the Web.
He simply searched SlideShare.net, an
online community for sharing presentations, and found ours.
Access wasn’t restricted
(though restricting it is
an option), so he was able
to download it and have a
look — ignoring the “
Restricted Use Only” label slapped across it.
The uproar that this situation created
reached me quickly, and I was asked to
remove the file from SlideShare.
One difficulty with that request was
that only the user who uploaded the
file could remove it, and that user had
uploaded it anonymously, so I couldn’t
just send him an email and tell him to
take it down. I might have been able to
get his attention by blogging about the
problem, but then we would’ve been
advertising our misstep to the public.
JOIN IN the discussions about
Things like this are inevitable in an era of proliferating
social media and cloud-based data sharing and storage.
administratively and technologically.
Administratively, I suggested that the
vice president of sales tell his team that
whoever uploaded the file must remove
it, because it put the organization at risk.
I also suggested that our vice president
of marketing and public affairs or our
legal counsel send a stern message to the
entire workforce, stressing the importance of obtaining approval from marketing or public affairs before releasing any
nonpublic data to the Internet. Luckily,
I’ve already included these scenarios in a
mandatory security awareness training
module I recently released.
Technologically, I don’t have much to
work with, given our current budget and
resource constraints, but I will enable
URL content filtering rules on our new
Palo Alto Networks firewalls to block
access to any personal storage sites, with
appropriate exceptions. I know that
doing this will have a business impact,
since certain departments use these sites
to disseminate training materials and
marketing and sales information to the
public. It will take quite a bit of time to
minimize the business impact.
The other issue with URL filtering is
that it isn’t in effect when an employee
goes off our network. Of course, laptops
can be configured to force all network
traffic over a VPN, and software can
push URL content filtering rules to each
laptop, but those are the sorts of things
we can’t afford to do. I have data leak
prevention in my budget for 2012, and
that will help prevent nonpublic data
from leaving the company.
But without solid technical controls,
we will have to rely on stern words and
employees’ sense of responsibility. 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_