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Security Policies – The Importance of Getting It Right

 

Last month I was chatting with a journalist and he asked me what my top three security tips for an organisation would be. I started answering his question by saying that companies had to look beyond ‘good enough’ security, consider whether passwords in their current format were really secure, and just as I was about to deliver my third tip, I realised that these were all superseded by the need for a comprehensive security policy, which if approached correctly would address these points.

By comprehensive I don’t mean that companies need to create an enormous document with sub sections of sub sections. What I do mean is that any security policy needs to take into account new developments, disruptive technologies and the ongoing evolving, sophisticated nature of cyber attacks. A security policy cannot be a static document and yet all too often it is. Security is a constantly changing market and, as such, companies cannot afford to be complacent/fall behind.

Not sure? Well just think about the IT environment just five years ago. How we work, the devices we use and where we store content has all changed. Previously companies could be confident that sensitive data was stored only on PCs, but now that information sits on smartphones, laptops, tablets and cloud. The associated security risk is wide ranging. That’s why your security policy needs to be continually evolving – taking changes in working practices, not just the security landscape, into account.

Here are my top five tips for ensuring you create a robust security policy that, rather than gathering dust, provides tangible value to your business:

1. First of all, you need to ensure that you understand your business’s operating environment so that the policy effectively mitigates the threats and risks you face, as well as looking after the assets that you’re seeking to protect. Could lives be lost or just corporate data? Are you subject to the risk of corporate espionage and insider threats on top of cyber attacks? This might seem like an obvious point, but is often overlooked by companies. There is no one size fits all approach when it comes to formulating a security policy – it should be as unique as your business.

2. It’s unlikely that without the aid of metal detectors and full body searches you’ll be able to completely ban or prevent the use of portable storage devices within your organisation. Especially as more and more employees work from increasingly disparate and varying locations. Therefore, a key element of any security policy should seek to protect the data on those devices and state that only password protected USB devices should ever be used to store corporate data.

3. No computer or tablet that’s not ‘locked down’ by IT should ever be connected to the corporate network – either from inside (fixed line or wireless) or outside (VPN or VDI). Equally though, your security policy needs to actually enable your business. So, in order to ensure you can accomplish this without causing a lot of user frustration, consider allocating employees with a corporate computer for use inside the network and an IT secured USB device for outside.

4. Encrypt your data. Whether your data is in transit or at rest, encryption is absolutely critical to safeguarding confidential company information. Whether you use strong authentication or hardware encryption will very much depend on your organisation, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that encryption is a silver bullet. You need to be able to manage encrypted devices in order to ensure that if there are any concerns that data integrity has been compromised, it is possible to remotely wipe the device.

5. Human error is a huge potential vulnerability when it comes to security and your policy should seek to mitigate the risks associated with human nature. Passwords in their current format are inherently insecure, so don’t rely on them alone. Use multi-factor authentication such a voice, retina or biometrics – something unique to the individual. This might all sound a bit ‘Minority Report’ now, but in five years’ time, such implementations will be commonplace.

Does your organization have a comprehensive security policy in place?

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Encryption and Management are the Keys to Securing the Mobile Workforce: Secure Mobility Face-off, Part 2

 

I’m perplexed. Why don’t more companies encrypt their employees’ sensitive data? There is no technology barrier and the cost is insignificant compared to the cost of a data breach.

In a world where a data breach can cause tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines that are only magnified by negative publicity, why wouldn’t every organization simply enforce encryption on data at rest – in servers, on laptops, and on USB drives – as a basic standard for doing business?

The need for encryption everywhere is further magnified by BYOD. IT leaders are waking up to the opportunity to extend BYOD strategies to PCs using technology like Windows To Go to reduce costs and improve productivity.

With Windows To Go, users can now put their entire Windows 8.1 operating system with their applications on a certified Microsoft USB drive, e.g., your whole PC on a Stick. The drive should be encrypted and ideally hardware encrypted to protect your private files from both brute force and physical attacks.

Strong Mobile Device Security – Encryption + Management

But encryption only gets you so far. What if a formerly trusted employee walks off with their drive, or what if their password is compromised? As an IT customer at a university recently told us:

“An unmanaged USB is like a time bomb.”

Encryption and management go hand in hand. Management improves the user experience by automating authentication for lost passwords. Systems like IronKey Enterprise Management allow devices to be tracked whenever they are plugged into an Internet-connected PC, and even enable remote kill commands, so that a lost device can be completely disabled from afar.

This capability means that in a BYOD scenario, a hardware encrypted, IT managed Windows To Go PC on a Stick actually offers greater security than the typical PC deployment!

If you want to learn more, see our latest whitepaper for an in-depth look at how organizations can use Windows To Go to empower and secure their mobile workforce.

 

 

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Sochi Games and Windows To Go – BYOB — Bring Your Own Burner

With reporters just starting to show up at the Sochi Games, their horror stories are emerging on everything from yellow drinking water, poisoned dogs and roofless hotel rooms to a hacker heaven. Digital connectivity and security are going to be hot topics and major issues during the Games. The IronKey Workspace for Windows to Go, a PC on a Stick, is a great solution for anyone traveling to Russia. Here’s why:

Russia has LAWFUL interception of ALL communications. There is ONE network, completely government controlled. What this means is, if you want to be online — unless you are working on a highly classified government network from your country of origin — you WILL be monitored and almost certainly hacked.

Even if you have a VPN, the Russian network will own your PC, your credentials, your certificates, etc. So you’re toast.

But you have to be connected and get work done. What do you do?

Take three things on your trip:

  • IronKey Workspace W500 for Windows To Go, with your needed applications and public files. You can plug the Windows To Go drive into almost any computer, work solely from the USB stick and not leave a trace behind.
  • Laptop, with the hard drive either disabled or removed (just to be safe)
  • Burner cell phone – buy with cash.

The good news is you can be connected this way without digital harm. The bad news is that, while you’re in Russia, you’ll have to assume all of your communications are public and not secure.  But you can stay completely connected, be productive, and still be safe when you return home.

While in Russia, you can use Windows To Go in your laptop, do all your work with your regular applications and stay connected to home base. The Windows 8.1 operating system you load on Windows To Go must contain applications and files that are not sensitive, because once you log on to the network, you need to assume anyone can see them and know it’s you. Same thing with when you use your cell. Even burner cells can be traced and triangulated. Just ask the DEA.

Once you get home, have IT re-provision your Windows To Go device. Or do it yourself. Load up all your applications and files, including all the sensitive ones. Windows To Go can be used again, completely securely in other countries. You can use it with your regular laptop or the drive-less one you got for the trip. Destroy the cell just like in cop shows.

Bon voyage!

 

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California Cracks Down: Companies Must Encrypt Personal Data

The California Attorney General has issued a major data breach report, finding that more than 2.5 million people were affected by 131 reported data breaches within the state, with 56% of the breaches including disclosure of Social Security numbers.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris is calling for wider use of encryption and increased training for employees and contractors on handling personal information. InfoWorld reports that, “her office “will make it an enforcement priority to investigate breaches involving unencrypted personal information” and will “encourage … law-enforcement agencies to similarly prioritize these investigations.”  She also recommends employee and contractor training on how to handle personal information.

Imation did its own review of U.S. data breach laws in 2012, and created the “heat map” graphic below, based on the strictness of those laws. California was a forerunner in data breach laws; while most state laws are similar, requirements and penalties vary widely.

As we’ve noted before, encryption is the foundation for protecting personal data. 

Having data encrypted at the time of the breach means, under most (but not all) of these laws, (because the data is unreadable) that loss or theft of a USB device or laptop doesn’t require reporting. Also, as the California report notes, keep security awareness campaigns active so workers stay alert to the risks.

By taking a few pragmatic precautions, the majority of risks can be greatly mitigated. So the next time an employee loses a notebook or an encrypted flash drive that held protected data, if it’s been properly encrypted and managed you’ll have may well have endured a non-event.

Compliance Heat Map

Imation Compliance Heat Map. Click to view full-sized image.