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Protecting A Business from Internal Threats

When considering IT threats to your business many articles focus on hackers, viruses, and attacks from external threats. These dangers are real, constant, and easily identifiable. In many cases, however, the largest threat to a firm comes from inside the business itself.

People inside the firm often pose the largest single threat to systems and security. These individuals often have trusted access and a detailed working knowledge of the organization from the inside. Employees therefore deserve the largest security consideration when designing a safe business system.

It is important to first distinguish the type of dangerous employee we want to defend against. We’re not talking about an otherwise model employee accidentally opening a malicious email or attachment. Rather, a disgruntled employee seeking to do damage to your business. An employee who may wish to destroy services or steal clients and files from your firm.

Security Policy

Some firms, particularly young businesses, grant employees system-wide permissions from day one. This can make administration appear simple, preventing further IT requests in future. Granting system-wide access is an inherently risky strategy.

Private information relating to the business should be restricted access information. Many types of files need to remain confidential, often as a legal requirement. Human resource files, salary information, and employee documents should be limited to only a select few employees. Yet, businesses often keep confidential information in public places on the network.

Granting system-wide read and write access can appear to save time short term. It is, however, a security policy which only serves to cause security, administration, and potentially legal troubles in the future.

The Principle of Least Privilege

The principle of least privilege is a vital tool, helping you to handle internal IT security. It defines a security policy which ensures staff can access only the resources, systems and data they require to carry out their job.

The policy protects the business from many different types of threat in day-to-day operations. Even where malicious attachments have been opened by accident, the damage is limited only to the work area of a single employee. This results in contained damage, less time needed to restore from backup, and drastically reduced downtime for the firm.

Along with limiting accidental damage, malicious employees looking to destroy or steal data are limited too. With restricted access, an employee with a grudge or profit motivation can only damage or steal from their own area of operation. This helps to ensure that no single employee can damage the entire firm’s operations.

Security Policy In Practice

A member of staff within Human Resources, for example, may have read and write access to the employee database. This will likely include payroll information and sensitive data. This same member of staff would have no need to access sensitive client data, such as sales information, in normal working conditions.

Likewise, a staff member from the sales department should have no need for accessing sensitive HR records.

Using the principle of least privilege, each employee may only have full access to systems that are directly related to their role. Similarly, some systems may be visible to a wider group of staff members even if they can only be edited or removed by one or two people.

In some cases, a security policy may be defined by even finer details than a person’s role within the organization. An HR employee should not be able to edit their own file to change salary information for example. An employee file might only be edited by their superiors in such a case.

Additional parameters can be used to assign privileges to enable the business hierarchy to work within the IT network. Seniority, physical location, and time are all examples of factors that can restrict access to critical systems and secure data.

We can tailor your network to your business, locking down your data to ensure data is only accessed on an “as needed” basis. Call us at 570-779-4018 now.

Getting tech new business

How to Securely Dispose of Old Computers

Getting new computers for your business is exciting, but what happens to the old ones? Depending on the age, some people sell them, others throw them out. That’s the easy part. The problem is the sensitive data on them. There are passwords, account numbers, license keys, customer details, medical information, tax returns, browser history…. the works! Each computer, whether laptop, tablet or desktop, contains a treasure trove of sensitive information that cybercriminals would love to get their hands on.

Unfortunately, hitting delete on your files doesn’t actually make them disappear, nor does waving a strong magnet over the drive. These mistakes have cost businesses millions of dollars over the years.

Most businesses are unaware that specialized data cleanup is necessary, others think calling someone to collect the computers will cover all the bases. A 2016 experiment proved just how dangerous the situation can be when they bought 200 used hard drives and found 67% held unwiped, unencrypted sensitive data, including sales projection spreadsheets, CRM records, and product inventories. Frighteningly, they didn’t need any special hacking skills to get this data, it was all right there and helpfully labeled. It’s also not surprising that with simple data recovery tools, people have also been able to access British NHS medical records and missile data, all waiting patiently on a discarded hard drive.

Why hitting delete doesn’t help

Data on a hard drive works like a book with an index page. Every time data is written, it pops a quick entry into the index so when you need it again, it knows where to look. The index is used for files you create as well as system files you can’t even see. Sensible, right? Except if you delete a file it’s more like changing the index to say nothing is on page 10 and you can write something else there when you’re ready. But if you manually flip to page 10, you’ll find the information is still there – the file still exists until it’s been written over – it’s the index reference that got deleted.

Wiping data before disposal

There are software tools you can get to do it yourself, as well as dedicated security firms, but your best option is to choose an IT business you know and trust. With that in mind, a methodical approach is required to ensure not a single drive is left untreated. You don’t want to leave data behind, or even clues that a motivated person could extrapolate any private information from. The approach might include using checklists to maintain security, or dedicated processes to guide each step in decommissioning. Careful records should also be kept, including who signs off on completion of the retirement, and where the computers are sent afterwards. A proper inventory and auditing process may slow the rollout of the new computers slightly, but it’s always better than having your old data come back to haunt you.

We can migrate any needed data, backup the information to your server or external drive, then wipe or destroy the hard drives for you. We can assess the age of your old computers and either dispose of them for you or point you in the right direction of computer recyclers. Plus, the quicker you dispose of your old computers, the easier the process will be. Recyclers will be able to send less of your equipment to landfill, and you’ll be less likely to forget how valuable the drive contents are.

Upgrading your business computers should be a happy time for you and your employees, so with a little forward planning, you’ll be able to keep everyone smiling and all your data secure.

Need help with your old hardware? Call us today at 570-779-4018