Will We Ever Get Close to 100% Security? – On Location at RSA Conference 2011

Taher Elgamal, CSO, Axway

“We kind of know where the vaccines are going to come from. The mistake that people in information security get into is the perfect solution, a hundred percent ‘something.’ And a hundred percent does not work.”

An Ounce of Data Loss Prevention, A Pound of Whitelisting Cure

by Paul Keane
Senior Product Manager
Axway

Jordan Wiens writes in a recent InformationWeek article, “Objectionable-content filtering is closely aligned with data loss prevention.”

When Wiens says “objectionable,” I’m assuming he means material that has legal ramifications that may be slanderous or libelous. Items like that may not have intellectual property value, but they can negatively impact an organization’s reputation among their customer base or among their partner base. So, while there is no inherent IP value in it, there is a name-brand value, and items like that can get impacted. It is different from traditional DLP of intellectual property and risk management, but it still has a value of its own that would be aligned with DLP. It may not have the same type of value as DLP, but it has value from a company’s perspective, and it can be protected in the same manner as sensitive corporate data, such as intellectual property.

Wiens continues: “Outbound controls typically include at least some form of basic DLP, such as blocking credit card patterns or Social Security numbers. If you expect to implement full DLP functionality within your e-mail security budget, however, be prepared to open your wallet a bit wider.”

That’s true. Items such as credit cards, social security numbers—they’re all the minimum expectation nowadays. It may be the case that some vendors are not as adept at blocking more sophisticated items as others. It may be that the product just doesn’t do it rather than they have to pay more for it. Having said that, those that can do it are probably charging more for the overall solution anyway.

“Tread carefully,” writes Wiens, “if a vendor tries to sell you on e-mail whitelisting techniques. While positive security models do provide stronger defenses and are a much more promising long-term solution to malware than desktop antivirus, they simply don’t apply to e-mail.”

This is probably a good point in that prevention is better than cure. Whitelisting is a bandage; it’s saying “definitely allow these guys through” but, depending on how good your solution is, it may also allow other bad messages through. So it’s kind of a bandage. The better solution will be prevention, where an intelligent decision can be made at the edge so there is no need for whitelisting in the first place. Having 100 percent accuracy is never going to happen, but having a highly accurate solution at the edge, which is prevention, makes it so we don’t have to worry about whitelisting because the solution at the edge would be intelligent enough to let through those who you would whitelist anyway, while preventing all others from coming through. It’s a fair statement to make.

Securing Information without Compromising Productivity

Kathryn Hughes, Product Marketing Director, Axway, comments on Paul Meadowcroft’s article on eWeek.com, “How to Secure Data with End-to-End Encryption”

Embedding DLP Tools in Applications Will Bring Better Results

Taher Elgamal, CSO, Axway

Security, Pt 2: Axway Connections ’09 Predictions Panel

Axway CTO Dave Bennett, Taher Elgamal, Bernard Debauche and Joe Fisher continue to discuss security and make predictions.

Security, Pt 1: Axway Connections ’09 Predictions Panel

Axway CTO Dave Bennett, Taher Elgamal, Bernard Debauche and Joe Fisher discuss security and make predictions.

The Day the Legislation Got Its Teeth

by J. Kirk
Sr. Product Solutions Manager
Axway

For those companies responsible for data loss, a spate of punishments is coming down the pike. But as Dan Raywood of scmagazineuk.com notes in his article this week, “Proposals to unveil harsher punishments for data loss will lessen the problem but not be a silver bullet.”

He may be right. But is that a temporary or permanent condition?

Let’s take a look at some legislation already out there (or, at least, soon to be out there).

On July 1, 2003, the personal privacy law known as California Senate Bill 1386 was enacted, and to this day, it affects anyone who has personal information within the state of California. It states that if there’s any personal information that’s breached—whether it’s somehow lost in transit or in storage (e.g., stolen laptops, misplaced thumb drives, etc.)—the company responsible for the breach must notify all individuals involved and make a public announcement.

This certainly bruises the company’s reputation, but it’s not really a punishment. To be certain, it’s a bad thing for the company, but it’s an intangibly bad thing for the company, and teaches the company about as much as a five-minute detention teaches a misbehaved child.

Whenever you get a letter from a company apologizing for losing your data and offering you a free credit report, you experience the consequences of toothless, unintimidating legislation like this.

But things are changing. In October 2008, in Nevada, a statute called NRS-597.970 went into effect. It states:

A business in this State shall not transfer any personal information of a customer through an electronic transmission other than a facsimile to a person outside of the secure system of the business unless the business uses encryption to ensure the security of electronic transmission.

While no penalties are identified in NRS-597.970, the statute’s specificity exposes companies to virtually unlimited liability should they not abide.

Finally, in January 2010, just weeks from now, in Massachusetts, a law known as 201 CMR 17.00 goes into effect.

Under this law, if there is a data breach at a non-compliant business—e.g., lost driver’s license information, social security numbers, credit card information, or any combination associated with personal contact information—the Attorney General of Massachusetts can assess a maximum of $5,000 per violation. Plus, anyone affected by the breach can also recover legal and investigation costs, and that’s to say nothing about what kind of lawsuit the Attorney General may file, or what degree of punitive damages the courts will order.

Now that regulation’s got teeth.

So Dan Raywood is right: harsher punishments will not be a silver bullet in the short term. But in the long term, you can count on this: once a few firms are impacted—and in the matter of data breaches, any company who ignores the law will be impacted—society will recognize just how devastating this legislation can be. On that day, the bullet of harsher punishments will take on a decidedly more silver sheen.

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