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Why Data Breaches Occur and How You Can Lessen Their Impact | Part 2

Part 2 of 2: There are a few small things that can make a big difference in every organization

Last week, I covered some of the reasons data breaches happen. Let's shift gears now and look at what can be done to reduce their impact. To be perfectly clear, there’s no magic bullet for security. There are, however, a few small things that can make a big difference in every organization.

  • Encrypt everything
    This may sound difficult, inconvenient and expensive, but it’s really not. In fact, once implemented, most encryption solutions are so turn-key that you’re likely to forget they’re running in the background. Plus, can you really put a price on the protection of your corporate and customer data?

    At a minimum, you should encrypt anything you believe to be sensitive data, regardless of whether a federal mandate requires it. In the healthcare example I referenced earlier, if the data on those lost or stolen devices was encrypted, the organizations responsible for it wouldn’t have had to report the thefts, saving millions of dollars in fines, not to mention public embarrassment and brand damage.

    Encryption is not about preventing data breaches, but rather mitigating the damage a breach can cause. Encrypted data is essentially useless data if you heed the advice below.

  • Take good care of your keys
    You know those people who claim to be vegetarians but admit that they also “eat chicken and fish?” They're not really vegetarians. In much the same way, someone can claim they take data security seriously, but if they don’t have a sound key management strategy, then they’re only fooling themselves. If you take data security seriously, then you need to take key management seriously as well.

    Good key management starts with knowing what keys, tokens, certificates and other security-related objects are loosely floating around your environment. Once you’ve found them, you need to secure and manage them. Organizations should consider a centralized management system for these objects provides security and storage, and enforces a broad range of policies for object authorization, access, expiration, revocation, retrieval limits and more.

    Centralizing key management ensures that there’s always a single, trusted source of truth governing access to your important security objects. To prevent unauthorized access to your keys (and thus, your data), it’s important to ensure this centralized key store is accessed only through approved, automated processes, rather than specific individual users.

     

  • Require multifactor authentication, especially in the cloud
    Two-factor authentication can significantly reduce the likelihood of an account being compromised or access being granted to an unauthorized party. And it works really well on shared systems where multiple users might login at different points in the day.

    But the cloud is an entirely different animal, and traditional two-factor authentication that requires a user to have direct, physical access to a device in use, simply doesn't work. For example, you cannot use a smart card or fingerprint reader to access a device in Amazon's cloud.

    For cloud-friendly multifactor authentication, look for a solution that alerts third parties when access to a certain application, file or SSH session is being requested. This ensures someone, or something, other than the original requestor, signs off on the request before access is granted.

The suggestions above are fairly quick and easy to implement either on premises or in the cloud and can immediately boost your security posture. Protecting your data means protecting your intellectual property, your customers’ privacy, your competitive advantage and your reputation. That should be reason enough to act, shouldn’t it?

More Stories By David Tishgart

After spending years at large corporations including Dell, AMD and BMC, David Tishgart joined the startup ranks leading product marketing for Gazzang. Focused on security for big data, he helps communicate the benefits and challenges that big data can present, offering practical solutions. When not ranting about encryption and key management, you can find David clamoring for a big data application that can fine tune his fantasy football team.