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Tackling the enemy within in IT security

Filed under: IT Security — Mark on April 20, 2012

In 1838 Abraham Lincoln lectured that the biggest threat to the US was not from international invasion but from within. This may also be said about the growing threat of cyber-crime which is sweeping the world. Businesses are often so focused on external threats such as cybercriminals and hackivists that they fail to see the threats circulating within their own infrastructure.

Gartner’s research director Andrew Walls commented recently on the threat within posed by staff. Traditionally people focus on protecting the business from external threats to information security which can be made when a person gains unauthorised access to a company, but internal threats are just as dangerous. When talking about the challenges posed for those in cyber security jobs, Walls said:

“It’s really difficult for IT security teams to anticipate, detect, prevent and contain “friendly fire” by employees that could damage the organisation. This problem exists because employees need access to corporate information, systems and facilities to do their jobs. But this level of access also means they could potentially harm the organisation as they go about their daily tasks.”

He went on to say:

“To make matters worse, business processes and computer systems are becoming more complex, so it is increasingly difficult to determine if an employee’s activity is good or bad. Put simply, complexity is the enemy of security.”

With the growing use of home PCs and smartphones with access into corporate networks, the problem is escalating. Moving business processes into cloud also encourages an anytime, anywhere approach to work which can make security breaches more commonplace and difficult to control.

There are no quick fix measures and those in IT security jobs need to be aware of human motivations as well as technology in order to manage this growing threat.

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