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IT Security Breaches Soar In 2009 65

Posted by kdawson
from the inside-jobs dept.
slak11 quotes from a Globe and Mail article on the jump in corporate and government security breaches year-over-year. (The reporting is from Canada but the picture is probably much the same in the US.) "This does not seem to be all that newsworthy these days, since stories like this are appearing on a regular basis. The one detail I did like — that seems to break from the traditional 'hackers cause all the bad stuff' reporting — is the mention that everyday employees are a major cause of breaches. The recent Rocky Mountain Bank/Google story is a perfect example. As stated in the article: 'But lower security budgets aren't the only reason breaches tend to soar during tough economic times — employees themselves can often be the cause of such problems.' I figure this will be an ongoing problem until company management and employees accept their role in keeping company information safe. And IT people need to understand that regular employees are not propeller-heads like Slashdot readers, and to begin to implement technology and processes that average people can understand and use."
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IT Security Breaches Soar In 2009

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  • by Dyinobal (1427207) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @06:25PM (#29586863)
    Coincidence? That it's the same year Windows 7 was released? dun dun dun!
    • Was? I had no idea it was October 22nd already. [microsoft.com]
    • by frosty_tsm (933163) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @08:06PM (#29587737)

      Coincidence? That it's the same year Windows 7 was released? dun dun dun!

      It's also the year in which Windows Vista adoption peaked.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Korbeau (913903)

        It's also the year in which Windows Vista adoption peaked.

        I already adopted a Windows Vista and recommend everyone to do so - it's for such a good cause! For a couple hundreds of bucks they send you a round-framed picture of it. I have it on my fridge. Please, think of the poor Vistas struggling to live!

      • by selven (1556643)
        It's also the year in which Kirill I [wikipedia.org] became the patriarch in Russia. Clearly the Russian Orthodox Church is responsible for this.
    • by CAIMLAS (41445)

      More likely, it's a year where barely anyone has been hiring, and a lot of layoffs have been made. I was thinking it was bad last fall, but shit! This year I saw no more than 2 IT related postings locally from February until August. In 2008, I'd see 5-10 or so a month.

      When your IT staff is at "skeleton" levels because you don't know what you're doing, you're going to reap the whirlwind. The first thing to go out the door is security vigilance, because it's usually the last thing that's given conscious thoug

  • by religious freak (1005821) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @06:28PM (#29586897)
    The one thing I don't understand is, why don't we actually see MORE breaches in data security than we do now? I mean like real deal, big time, Italian Job / Oceans 11 type stuff. Yeah a little crime here and there, ok. But with IT pervading every major monetary transaction, people in the know could essentially steal an infinite amount of money.

    Really, even if you amalgamate enough talent to become 1/4 of a state actor in terms of budget / knowledge, you could make all kinds of money, XSS, SQL injection, social engineering, etc. I'm really surprised we haven't seen a major IT heist yet.
    • by wigaloo (897600) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @06:38PM (#29587001)

      The one thing I don't understand is, why don't we actually see MORE breaches in data security than we do now? I mean like real deal, big time, Italian Job / Oceans 11 type stuff. Yeah a little crime here and there, ok. But with IT pervading every major monetary transaction, people in the know could essentially steal an infinite amount of money.

      What we learned during the 2008 financial crisis is that there are plenty of ways for crooks to steal an infinite amount of money legally.

      • by NoYob (1630681)

        The one thing I don't understand is, why don't we actually see MORE breaches in data security than we do now? I mean like real deal, big time, Italian Job / Oceans 11 type stuff. Yeah a little crime here and there, ok. But with IT pervading every major monetary transaction, people in the know could essentially steal an infinite amount of money.

        What we learned during the 2008 financial crisis is that there are plenty of ways for crooks to steal an infinite amount of money legally.

        ...and be lauded for it.

    • Two possibilities come to mind:

      • People smart enough to pull that kind of thing off know that the cops really aren't stupid and that spending time in jail with really dumb people would be worse for them than for normal dumb crooks.
      • Victims of crimes of this nature don't want their investors/customers/competitors to know thay have been ripped off so they try not to advertise the fact that they have been ripped off.
      • Two possibilities come to mind:

        • People smart enough to pull that kind of thing off know that the cops really aren't stupid and that spending time in jail with really dumb people would be worse for them than for normal dumb crooks.
        • Victims of crimes of this nature don't want their investors/customers/competitors to know thay have been ripped off so they try not to advertise the fact that they have been ripped off.

        Also, people that smart tend to have other options with better risk to profit ratios.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by POTSandPANS (781918)

      The best thieves make sure you never realize they were there..

    • I'm really surprised we haven't seen a major IT heist yet.

      Probably because these events are rarely made public. The goodwill/brand/image damage of these things becoming publicly known often far outweighs the value of the actual theft.

    • Probably because ie- like in entrapment with the Chinese bank heist, or oceans 11 or 12 or 13, the Casinos have their own security in place and are always up to date with all technologies, same with overseas banks of a certain level.
      Banks here like td, or scotia are small in comparison, and don't want to invest money in security.

      The TJX problems are the same, a big store like TJX seems to have shortfalls, where someone like Le Chateau have
      vmware in use, needing the best of the best to keep the networks goin

  • Propeller-heads (Score:5, Insightful)

    by causality (777677) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @06:46PM (#29587067)

    And IT people need to understand that regular employees are not propeller-heads like Slashdot readers, and to begin to implement technology and processes that average people can understand and use.

    You have to love the implication that IT staff purposefully choose the most arcane implementation for the hell of it, or that they enjoy the support calls they receive when users have a hard time with a system. Sometimes what you are doing is inherently complex, and some ability to deal with complexity is necessary. The way I see it, there are two broad approaches to the problem of "implement[ing] technology and processes that average people can understand and use." One is to simplify those technologies and processes. The other is to increase the understanding of the users, or for the users to increase their own understanding.

    For some reason, most discussions like this seem to have this unstated assumption that the former approach is the only possible one. I'd like to see more of a middle-ground solution. I like Einstein's saying about how things should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler. Once that is done, if the users still find the systems and processes to be too complex, and their job requires the ability to handle same, then I would conclude that this means they are not qualified for their job and need to be replaced by someone with more understanding. Is that really such a scary conclusion that we must perform all sorts of musings and mental gymnastics to avoid it? Because I certainly believe that people can improve if it is expected of them, if there are not infinite excuses for their shortcomings. For that reason, I don't believe that regarding users who can't handle good systems as unqualified would result in tremendous turnover within a company. I think it would result in more savvy users, even if only to avoid being fired. It would certainly help to disabuse people of this mentality that basic competency is only for nerds, hardcore geeks, and experts.

    • You have to love the implication that IT staff purposefully choose the most arcane implementation for the hell of it

      I know for a fact that many programmers and engineers do indeed *purposefully* make things more complex than they need to be.

      People like this enjoy a challenge. Writing code thats hard for others to understand (or themselves in a few weeks time) gives them a sense of accomplishment.

      People like this enjoy the careful crafting of complexities layered upon complexities.

      Myself, I recite 'keep it simple, stupid' to myself over and over. Its my mantra.

      Cleaning up after someone elses excessive overcomplification o

      • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Cleaning up after someone elses excessive overcomplification of something that could have been done simply and cleanly is the bane of my existance.

        hey, shut up asshoel! we keep you employed!!

      • Re:Propeller-heads (Score:4, Insightful)

        by plover (150551) * on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @08:06PM (#29587749) Homepage Journal

        But "simple" does not mean "secure". Yes, simple is easier to verify, but you can write simple, clean code and still get hit with a security incident.

        Code that is simple and secure today also doesn't mean that it will be secure tomorrow, once the next exploit is created and discovered. How long ago was it before javascript existed? Nobody cared if you put <script> tags in your comments, because browsers didn't even know the keyword "script". Suddenly browsers started appearing that supported this tag, and people got creative when posting comments, including cute scripts to animate their signatures. Then XSS attacks were discovered and became all the rage, and perfectly secure web sites around the globe suddenly had a new threat model that became their responsibility to clean up.

        You can review simple code all day long and assure yourself that it will do what it's supposed to do. But it's very, very hard to review code to ensure that it won't do something bad, especially when you don't have tomorrow's definition for "bad" to review against!

      • by causality (777677)

        You have to love the implication that IT staff purposefully choose the most arcane implementation for the hell of it

        I know for a fact that many programmers and engineers do indeed *purposefully* make things more complex than they need to be.

        People like this enjoy a challenge. Writing code thats hard for others to understand (or themselves in a few weeks time) gives them a sense of accomplishment.

        People like this enjoy the careful crafting of complexities layered upon complexities.

        Myself, I recite 'keep it simple, stupid' to myself over and over. Its my mantra.

        Cleaning up after someone elses excessive overcomplification of something that could have been done simply and cleanly is the bane of my existance.

        Then I would say that they are not being challenged enough. The ability to produce something that is simple, robust, elegant, and maybe even beautiful and especially the mentality that can appreciate these things is so significant of a challenge that most end up failing a test that they did not know they were taking, so to speak. That quality may never become common-as-dirt because what sort of person you are, which values you possess, and what attitude you have towards life in general has a lot to do wit

    • by endus (698588)
      Experience is the reason that the former is always assumed to be the only approach. Users don't give a fuck about understanding more or learning more or taking any responsibility at all for the security of the IT infrastructure. It often seems, in fact, that the more critical the position they hold in regards to access to sensitive information (doctors, lawyers, etc.) the more resistant they are to learning about IT or doing their part to keep the organization secure.

      The ONLY solution is the former. A
      • Re:Dude... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by rtb61 (674572) on Wednesday September 30, 2009 @01:13AM (#29589799) Homepage

        Easiest solution to your problem, parallel networks. An internal secure network, accounting, payroll, banking, data management, cad, cam, publishing etc. and an external network email and internet access. Lock down the internal network, tight, no internet access, no portable media, data is either input at the keyboard or uploaded at the IT office after it is reviewed and scanned.

        External network, let the children play and create a USB reboot and rebuild stick for each notebook. You will be a whole lot less frustrated and the children will be happy as they get to play without controls and, by children I do mean the executive pool. Keep it simple internal wired and external wireless, in office try to use infra-red for wireless, it is more restricted and safer.

        This way only one machine at a time gets infected on the external network and the infection is always from the net rather than internal. Internal a desktop/terminal, external cheap netbooks/smartbook basically a throw away and in affect an extension of a mobile phone.

        Best thing about this, passwords not a problem, unless they break into the specific office to gain access to the specific files than they are out of luck and the server room itself can be fully secured and alarmed, basically a vault.

  • by uslurper (459546) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @06:57PM (#29587173)

    " And IT people need to understand that regular employees are not propeller-heads like Slashdot readers, and to begin to implement technology and processes that average people can understand and use."

    This is exactly the attitude that causes insecure environments. Security IS complicated. Accounting IS complicated. Networking IS complicated. PC's ARE complicated. Fuck people realize that I.T. IS COMPLICATED. Give your IT Department the tools and authority to run their department the way it needs to be done.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by jklovanc (1603149)

      Yes, it is complicated. It is also understandable if enough information is given to the users. The standard IT responses of "it's company policy" and "just do it" do not cut it in an intelligent workplace. Sure you want users to follow the rules but giving real reasons why might just raise compliance.

      • by CAIMLAS (41445)

        The alternative to "it's company policy" is explaining Active Directory/UAC/ACLs to them, and they feel like you're talking over their heads/insulting them. Or trying, in some sort of perverted fashion which doesn't actually make all that much sense - and then they feel like you're condescending/insulting them.

        When your average IT worker has (say) an IQ of 120, which is 10-15 points higher than the average officer worker (best case scenario!), you're not working in an "intelligent workplace". Most workplace

        • by jklovanc (1603149)

          You do not have to explain the technology; you have to explain the consequences.

          For example; To explain the need for strong passwords and not writing them down on a piece of paper next to your computer. "If someone figured out or found your password they could log into our system and as far as the system is concerned they would be you. Do you really want to be blamed for something someone else did?"

          • by BVis (267028)

            For example; To explain the need for strong passwords and not writing them down on a piece of paper next to your computer. "If someone figured out or found your password they could log into our system and as far as the system is concerned they would be you. Do you really want to be blamed for something someone else did?"

            No.

            "Use a strong password and don't write it down, or else you'll get fired."
            "Don't plug your own USB key into a company computer, or else you'll get fired."
            "Don't surf porn sites on your co

            • by jklovanc (1603149)

              This is a perfect example of why IT rules do not get followed. Even firing a few people for infraction probably would not work. Most people would think "No one would get fired for such a minor issue. I bet that was just an excuse. There must be some other reason." Even if it did work, the only people who would be effected by it would be in the same office as the person fired. Possibly effective for a single office company; not so good for a large company (or are you suggesting firing someone from every offi

          • by CAIMLAS (41445)

            That's rarely something which needs to be described, and in most small environments, it's usually something of marginal consequence.

            The biggest concern for security breaches is malware and the associated data harvesting. When you've got users running as Administrator, it's a bit of a problem. The users will get into pissing fights when you've got to revoke their ability to install "screensavers" and the like.

    • by endus (698588)
      The comments here are clearly full of security pros. Awesome.

      I totally agree with you. I don't think it SHOULD be that way or that it NEEDS to be that way...but it is that way, especially today. We're so anxious to adopt IT and let it permeate every aspect of every organization but we're completely unwilling to deal with the consequences and mitigate the risks. Upper management is a bunch of balloon heads who don't know the first god damn thing about computers or security so when it comes down to "go
  • Security (Score:5, Insightful)

    by oldhack (1037484) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @07:01PM (#29587207)
    Security is a lot like IT, but much more so. It's waste of money until shit hits the fan. 5 minutes later, it becomes waste of money again. But it's difficult to judge how close you're to shit-blade collision point, though, because in the end it's an effort to mitigate breach, not a guarantee, and news stories that do pop up tend to be sensationalistic and doesn't help the assessment.
    • by PRMan (959735)

      Ah, but what most IT people do NOT realize, is that the more you increase security beyond a reasonable point, the MORE likely you are to have a breach, because the only way people can do their work is to go around your security by using USB flash drives and burning CDs.

      Most IT professionals seem to have a hard time with REASONABLE security, either being too lax and having virtually no security (as with some of the stories we have heard) or being so restrictive that nobody can do their work and resorts to fl

      • by causality (777677)

        Ah, but what most IT people do NOT realize, is that the more you increase security beyond a reasonable point, the MORE likely you are to have a breach, because the only way people can do their work is to go around your security by using USB flash drives and burning CDs.

        Things which do not correctly balance opposing forces or opposing goals are much more likely to fail and this is a universal principle, applicable everywhere. Various sages and philosophers from many different cultures have noted this princ

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by shentino (1139071)

      So it's actually closer to insurance.

  • Motivation (Score:4, Insightful)

    by whoever57 (658626) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @07:38PM (#29587521) Journal

    ... employees themselves can often be the cause of such problems.' I figure this will be an ongoing problem until company management and employees accept their role in keeping company information safe

    I figure it will continue to be a problem until company management provides the appropriate motivation and training to employees to keep company data safe. This won't happen until management also has the appropriate motivation. Did anyone in management get fired over the Rocky Mountain bank/Google incident? How much has this cost the bank?

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      THIS is the absolute truth. The problem is the lack of accountability. I personally think that it is enough to fine companies who do this kind of thing to the point where they are unprofitable. Throw the fines into the general pool, and let the taxpayers keep some more of their money. You'll see the corporations go looking for more responsible CEOs &c in no time.

  • yes, except it will be pictures, with arrows, and small words arranged as digestible catch phrases. Perhaps a pie chart.

  • Everything that can be hacked, will be hacked. If not in your lifetime, then in mine.
  • by Penguinshit (591885) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @08:20PM (#29587831) Homepage Journal
    The best way is to remove the users' ability to do damage by enforcing tight GPOs, blocking access to certain types of websites, denying the ability to install software without your participation, blocking certain ports at the demarc (ingress and egress), enforcing automatic patching and virus data file updates, etc.

    It seems draconian but once they get used to not going to Facebook or eBay or playing Elf Bowling during work the whining settles down. Oddly enough most of the grumbling comes from the PhDs (who should fucking well know better) and not the administrative staff.

    User education helps but only to a narrow limit and degrades fast. You need to make internal security breaches an overt hostile act, which in normal commercial companies is extremely hard to prevent without also retarding the ability to get work done.
  • by endus (698588) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @10:28PM (#29588901)
    "I figure this will be an ongoing problem until company management and employees accept their role in keeping company information safe."

    Exactly. I suppose it's not that surprising that everyone wants all the benefits of IT without any of the responsibility given that a solid 90% of people are just too fucking stupid to understand that it even HAS consequences, but the willful disregard for protecting customers/patients info is just pathetic. You work in the medical industry and you see that doctors and nurses and sys admins just don't give a fuck about protecting their patients identities and privacy, regardless of how small an inconvenience they face.

    I understand that a lot of security solutions are not always convenient but the level of laziness and disregard for people is really inexcusable. You wanna know the truth? Really easy to use security solutions just aren't here yet in a lot of areas. That's a fact. Viruses, worms, system compromises, botnets, identity theft...those ARE here in ALL areas. That's also a fact. If people don't like it then they should go back to using paper records...uhoh...that sounds a little more inconvenient than remembering two passwords doesn't it?

    I realize this comment makes me sound like a security nazi but honestly I am pretty good at bridging the gap and have worked on both sides of the security fence. I am just really really tired of users whining. To a point, yes, usability is very important for a lot of reasons and anywhere possible you should strike a balance between usability and security. I don't discount that. However, in a lot of organizations security ALWAYS loses that battle...ALWAYS. Companies are jumping through incredible hoops to meet regs and appease auditors while willfully engaging in egregious breaches of security in areas not covered by laws.
    • If I ever wind up working in your workplace, kindly remind me to shoot myself; it will be much easier.
      • by endus (698588)
        I don't have a clue who the fuck you are but rest assured that I will remind you of this daily. It really doesn't require any special preparation or remembrance on my part..."god, I wish I could just blow my brains out" is pretty much my mantra.
  • There's a plug for cloud computing in here somewhere, I know it!
  • In the sense that while you have it and pay for it, it feels like a waste of time and money, but when you really need it it, its too late if you didn't get it already :P
    I am always amazed at the number of places that I have worked that put reasonable security measures in place but then let them be defeated by bad employee practices. The most common would be instances where multiple users share the same password on some machine or application on a machine because it was too difficult to remember the password

The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not "Eureka!" (I found it!) but "That's funny ..." -- Isaac Asimov

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