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Our special guest blogger is Tav Venia, an IronKey sales engineer, who is based in the Washington DC area and serves our Federal and Enterprise clients. 

Unfortunately, we’ve all heard about the hack on the personnel records and social security numbers for more than 4 Million+ Federal Employees at a U.S. Government Agency.  Data lost, stolen, or hacked:  it just represents another failure to protect our federal data.  For this, and many other reasons, now more than ever it’s imperative that all types of data is securely protected— federal, classified, FOUO (For Official Use Only), defense, employee, personal, etc.   Now is the time to get out in front of any and all possible threats and attacks to assure ourselves that our data is safe and secure from what can turn into “Tomorrow’s Headline”.   

Government employees are more mobile— working in the office, in the field and from home— which increases the potential for even more data exposure risks.  The ability to securely store and transport data while on the move is a necessity.  As the Federal Team Sales Engineer, I see how our U.S. Government and Agency customers are using the IronKey™ line of hardware encrypted hard drives to securely store and protect their sensitive information, among many, many other reasons.  But with the release of our newest hard drive, the IronKey H350, government agencies can enjoy the speed and performance advantages of USB 3.0 technology while realizing the benefits of the world’s most secure USB devices including FIPS 140-2 Level 3 certification, AES-XTS 256-bit hardware encryption and centralized management.    

Our customers can now save, backup and move data wherever they may be much more rapidly taking advantage of the USB 3.0 speeds.  As technology advances, data files are exponentially growing in size, the ability to securely store and move data quickly and efficiently from the field back to the government or agency office is of even greater importance.  Forgotten password?  No worries. On managed enterprise hard drives, IronKey provides the only secure password reset mechanism that allows users to recover data without erasing the contents on the drive or using a backdoor to reset the password.  Additionally, when data is not being access or used, the IronKey H350 can protect and secure Data At Rest (DAR), another use case of importance to our U.S. Government and Agency customers.  

Personally, with my job, I am constantly on the move traveling from place to place.  I use the IronKey H350 to back up all of my laptop data because we have all been there when Windows crashes and/or becomes corrupted giving us the Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) rendering our data lost and unrecoverable.  This can be a result of a Windows error or a simple drop of your laptop which damages the hard drive.  I don’t ever want to be caught in a situation where I don’t have a backup of my data.  Thanks to my IronKey H350 USB 3.0 hard drive, it now takes less than an hour to back up all of my data, a process that used to take many hours using a USB 2.0 Hard Drive.


Whistleblowers: Data Theft or Public Service?

A Perspective from the UK

Over the past few years there have been a number of high profile cases where whistleblowers have leaked information to the public, highlighting wrong-doing, corruption and malpractice amongst trusted institutions. Whilst some of these cases have clearly disclosed information that is in the public interest – for example the recent inquiry into the fatalities at Morecambe Bay Furness Hospital – other whistleblowers have disclosed sensitive corporate data leading some to question whether the information is truly in the public interest, or is in fact a data breach.  

What is clear, is that whistleblowing can have huge financial repercussions – in fact, The Pentagon has recently said that it may cost billions of dollars to overcome the damage to military security by Edward Snowden’s release of classified intelligence documents.

From a corporate perspective, unfounded whistleblowing is essentially another type of ‘insider threat’, and we know that this issue is climbing higher on the risk agenda for IT departments worldwide. Organisations must assess the threat that this form of data leakage can have on their business and put measures in place to protect their businesses.

Firstly, businesses can use an array of solutions to protect corporate data on computers, laptops, wireless networks and in the workplace. For organisations seeking extra security, an Enterprise Management System, with a command centre whereby device activity can be viewed from all over the world, provides a robust and highly secure solution. Data can be securely stored and if an employee fails to return to work, a device can be destroyed remotely.

There are however, many other complex regulations to consider when it comes to the issue of whistleblowing.

Under the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013, whistleblowers have to show that they “reasonably believe” that the disclosure they are making is in the “public interest”. Unfortunately, what amounts to “public interest” is not defined in the legislation and it will be left to the courts and tribunals to lead the way with their interpretation.

The law states that an individual is permitted to declare information/whistleblow if someone’s health and safety is in danger, if there is damage to the environment, if the employer is committing a criminal offence, if the company is failing to honour legal obligations or if the company is covering up a wrongdoing.

Many of these exceptions will pose no threat to the everyday corporation, therefore the key threat is the possibility of an ex-employee sharing sensitive information.

Although the Data Protection Act gives businesses additional protection when private data is at stake, there is still a concern that ex-employees will speak out about historic events such as previous data breaches experienced whilst employed.

A ‘Compromise Agreement’ is becoming a common solution to the problem around employee trust. Organisations are adding a clause in contracts to ensure that all confidential information remains confidential, and employees are then prevented from making defamatory comments or disclosing sensitive information, even after they have left a company.

This month, Sir Robert Francis QC announced a ban on the ‘Compromise Agreement’ for hospital staff. In the health sector, where lives are at stake, it is clear that the act of whistleblowing must be protected.  Some incredibly shocking stories have been revealed highlighting horrendously poor care and unacceptably high mortality rates. This has of course had a positive outcome and forced trusts to introduce new regulations to improve patient care.

For the corporate world, however, whistleblowing poses quite a different risk and can cost organisations hundreds of thousands, or even millions of pounds to repair. Businesses must reduce this risk by protecting their data, which lives both inside the building and outside on employee mobile devices and in the cloud.  This way, they can put themselves one step ahead of the game.

Organisations need to ensure that they have permissions and privileged access in place to protect sensitive information to avoid the potential for these to be breached.

Businesses need to keep account of and collect any devices that may have been issued such as mobile phones; tablet, laptops, proprietary software or data, failing to do so could have detrimental repercussions.

Ensuring intellectual property and sensitive data remain secure is an on going challenge, and if businesses are failing to protect this information, the threat from whistleblowers will endure.


Majority of Healthcare Breaches Are Due to Loss or Theft, Not Hackers

I just recently read an article about how a healthcare organization lost backup hard drives containing personal information on nearly 40,000 of its clients. To make matters worse, the article stated that there was “no mention of strong encryption being applied to the records, implying that they were stored relatively insecurely.” WHAT?  I shake my head in frustration because there is a simple solution. Why don’t more healthcare companies deploy secure USB?

You might be surprised to know that the majority of breaches come from lost or stolen devices, not hackers. In fact, sixty-eight percent of all healthcare breaches are from loss and theft. This leads me to conclude that most healthcare companies insecurely store, and therefore risk losing their clients protected health information (PHI) such as birth dates, medical records, and Social Security numbers.

Sadly, it looks like this trend won’t be ending anytime soon.  A recent healthcare data breach forecast predicted that employees (not hackers) will continue to be the greatest threat to securing healthcare data including PHI.  The forecast goes on to say that despite all signs pointing to employees as the largest threat to a company’s security, business leaders will continue to neglect the issue in favor of buying more “appealing” security technologies aimed at preventing intrusions from outsiders in 2015. (sigh)

So here’s the good news – there is a workable solution that’s easy for healthcare organizations to implement. One simple, affordable option is to store PHI and other confidential data on a portable, encrypted external hard drive or USB instead of storing data directly on the laptop.  There’s a class of readily available hardware encrypted devices that are virtually unhackable and can be remotely wiped should they be lost or stolen.  And, these drives deploy the highest standards of protection with AES-256 encryption.   These highly secure drives even protect data and applications from malware like BadUSB. And their rugged design makes them nearly indestructible.  They’ve even been known to survive an autoclave! 

IronKey™ offers the most secure storage solutions and mobile workspaces available.  So, don’t be tomorrow’s headline.  Check out our healthcare security solutions today.


Could You Pass a Privacy Audit? Healthcare and Australia’s Privacy Regulations


Our special guest blogger, Elizabeth Parsons, is based in Melbourne and is responsible for growing the Imation Mobile Security business in Australia and New Zealand.  

Last year the Australian Federal Government ushered in a new set of Australian Privacy Principles (APPs) and in the process, dramatically overhauled the obligations of organisations regarding the collection, use, storage and security of personal data.  The changes were expected to have a big impact on data handling within the healthcare industry, as the regulations particularly targeted all Australian Government agencies, businesses with a turnover of more than $3 million or trade in personal information, and private health service providers.

Twelve months on, it’s timely to consider how well your organisation has responded to the new requirements, and to ask yourself:  Would your organisation pass a privacy audit if one was held tomorrow?

The Basics

One of the first changes that should have been introduced by every facility or institution is an updated, accessible privacy policy. This should advise individuals of your obligations, the kind of personal information collected, how it is collected, the purpose for collection, how an individual can access that information, and how they can make a complaint about any breaches of the APPs.

Following on from this, every organisation should also now have an internal guide to privacy compliance.  The aim of this is to ensure that the staff will understand the legal requirements when dealing with personal data. It should also articulate the organisation’s own rules and processes relating to collection and storage of data.

The Problem of Security

One of the most critical obligations under the APPs is security.  The eleventh privacy principle states:

“If an APP entity holds personal information, the entity must take such steps as are reasonable in the circumstances to protect the information:

(a) from misuse, interference and loss; and

(b) from unauthorised access, modification or disclosure.”

And it’s here that, even today, many healthcare organisations find their privacy efforts falling short, because keeping data safe from accidental loss or malicious activity such as viruses, worms and hackers isn’t always straightforward or easy.

While most organisations have measures in place to secure data on the network, the main area of vulnerability is mobile data.  When a clinician carries patient data on their laptop from their consulting rooms to the hospital, what happens if the laptop is stolen?  Or when a USB stick is used to send information from one facility to another, what is the outcome if the USB is dropped and lost?

No matter whether confidential information is breached due to theft, malware, spyware, or just a simple accidental loss, there are serious consequences. Since 2014, failure to comply with Australia’s new privacy laws can leave an organisation liable for a fine of up to $1.7 million.

Doing away with mobility is not the answer.  The efficiencies and improvements to health outcomes arising from a more mobile health force are too great to ignore. Therefore, it’s clear healthcare facilities have to find a way to keep mobile data safe.

A Two-pronged Response

The solution is to adopt a two-pronged approach to mobile data security by only using drives that offer encryption supported by data management.

Encryption involves coding data on the drive so it remains unreadable to anyone who doesn’t have the right “key”.  If the USB or hard drive is lost or stolen, the contents remain obscured and inaccessible. One of the most appealing aspects of encryption is there are no technology barriers to its adoption, and compared to the cost of a data breach, the investment required is relatively insignificant.

The second part of the approach is a management capability that brings control to the data on the device.  For example, at some stage an employee will forget their password, rendering them unable to access the corporate network. With the right management capabilities, IT can not only reset the password but when the user logs on, they can cross-reference the IP address of their machine against a map in order to ascertain if the person is indeed who they say they are. If IT has any suspicions, they can remotely wipe the hardware device that the employee is working from and kill all encrypted data.  Management functions also enable IT to force a device to be in read-only mode, remotely make password changes and re-commission devices that are no longer in use.

Together, encryption and management ensure confidential and private information on USB and external drives to remain protected, even if the drive is lost or stolen and lands in someone else’s hands.

The 2014 changes to Australia’s privacy regulations have put the data management practices of Australia’s government agencies and private sector organisations under the spotlight. For the healthcare industry, securing confidential patient data has never been more important with the increasing amount of records being transferred to electronic records. Achieving the necessary degree of security requires more than good intentions. It demands a comprehensive mobile security solution built around strong encryption, robust identity management, and policy-based data management.



The Cost of Cybercrime


Hackers are holding the world to ransom with cyber-attacks costing the global economy more than £238 billion a year¹. These attacks damage the global economy almost as much as illegal drugs and piracy, with financial losses from cyber theft resulting in a potential 150,000 European job losses.¹ Cybercrime is a growing menace which is proving to be an ever growing challenge for individuals and businesses. US retailing giant Target saw its earnings drop 46% after an attack that leaked more than 40 million customer credit card details², whilst eBay and Office have also been ‘hit’ this year, with customer data compromised.

Despite these devastating implications, the public, corporates and their employees continue to be careless with their valuable and highly confidential data –residing on laptops, tablets and mobile devices. Cyber espionage and theft of individuals’ personal information is believed to have affected more than 800 million people during 2013¹, and our mobile working culture has made data security an even greater challenge.

With IDC estimating that over one million smartphones were shipped last year³, someone somewhere in your company is using a personal, mobile device to connect to a corporate network and download sensitive data – making your organization a sitting target for cybercriminals. Companies must equip their employees with the means to protect corporate data from threats such as identity theft and cyber espionage, whilst mitigating the dangers associated with unsecured devices and free Wi-Fi hotspots.

Mobile devices need to maintain the same high levels of security as office-based desktops and servers, with only IT provisioned laptops or tablets connected to corporate networks. But, the best way of ensuring hackers can’t gain access to your company data, is by storing all your data on a secure fully encrypted Windows To Go USB flash drive. It provides employees with an IT managed and provisioned Windows workspace that replicates their secure office desktop environment, on any device that the USB is plugged into. This also means IT departments do not need to deploy individual computers but rather can deploy the Windows To Go workspace on USB drives which saves time, resources and introduces vast cost savings.

Staff awareness plays a crucial role in protecting the company network against cybercrime. Often under-estimating the inherent security risks of using personal devices in the office, employees must be educated to handle these responsibly – on a proactive, ongoing basis rather than waiting until a security breach occurs, when it’s too late.

With so many high profile security breaches making the headlines, organizations want to know that corporate data is secure at all times, regardless of where it resides, whilst employees need the flexibility to work remotely. Cybercrime can have a devastating impact on your business in terms of cost and reputation. Your organization can’t afford to be tomorrow’s headline…



¹McAfee report, June 2014 – Net Losses: Estimating the Global Cost of Cybercrime


³ International Data Corporation (IDC)Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, Jan 2014








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.