Pratum Blog

DLP - Data Loss Prevention - Remember to review your DLP policies. Don't rely solely on the technology.

Data loss prevention (DLP), sometimes referred to as data leakage prevention, is a security strategy used to prevent end users from sending confidential information outside the organization. This is not a new problem, in fact it may be one the oldest problems in civilization. The only difference is our mediums for storing and distributing sensitive information. Instead of sealing our hand written scrolls with a stamp and wax and relying on our most trusted couriers to make delivery, we are purchasing DLP solutions and encrypting emails.

DLP Beyond the Technology

DLP software can be incredibly valuable in protecting confidential data. It affords us the ability to classify data and create business rules that restrict unauthorized users from accidentally or maliciously sharing our most confidential information. However, the real issue may not be with the technology but rather with our data loss prevention policies and with whom we are entrusting our most sensitive information.

Businesses are always striving to become more “efficient”, so they toss all of their data into shared folders and give global access to those folders. There are internal employees, contractors and vendors who often have unrestricted access to data they have no business controlling. The reality is that you can’t lose (or leak) data you don’t have. So, instead of relying solely on technology to help solve the problem, we challenge our clients to reconsider their data access policies and role definitions.

Consider reviewing your DLP policies before implementing a technical DLP solution

  1. Create and enforce a data classification policy. Classifying data, and then putting tighter controls around the most sensitive data, can greatly decrease the risk of data loss/leakage.

  2. Restructure access controls. Take a look at who needs access to data and why. This should be a routine process. As the business grows and matures, data access needs will change.

  3. Consider modifying roles and responsibilities. It's possible that the duties which require access to sensitive data could be consolidated into one role versus spread across multiple roles. This will certainly reduce exposure of sensitive data.

What You Can Learn From a DLP Policy Review

You may find that by following these suggestions you've reduced your risk to a point that implementing a large, complex DLP solution is no longer a sound investment. Perhaps minimal DLP controls on your email and internet connections will be sufficient. On the other hand, after working through the steps outlined above you may find that you need to implement even more technical controls. You could consider controls such as restricting access to USB mass storage devices or adding encryption to individual files. Another option is to implement digital rights management (DRM) to files, which allows you to restrict the rights to open, modify, print, copy, email, upload or take other actions on restricted documents.

One thing is for sure. Businesses that implement DLP solutions without reviewing and updating their data classification standards and DLP policies haven't really reduced their risk. They've simply masked it.

Need to assess your IT Risk? We can help.

The human element of information security.

When most people talk about developing an information security program, they are referring to the administrative, physical or technical controls used to protect information. While no information security program can be effective without them, there is one key element that is often underestimated: the employee element. The reality is that employees are responsible for designing, implementing and following all of the controls put in place to protect sensitive information. One misstep by an employee can spell disaster in terms of information security. And the sad thing is that it often does.

The good news is that by providing effective information security training to our users, we can solve many of our security issues. According to the Verizon Data Breach Investigation Report, nearly 1 in 3 successful cyberattacks has a social engineering component. Social engineering is nothing more than a hacker psychologically attacking a human rather than a computer. They use their knowledge of human behavior to con a user into giving them information over the phone, online or in person. If we can prevent social engineering attacks, we can reduce the number of successful cyberattacks.

Targeted Cyber Attacks Against Employees

Raise your hand if you took an information security awareness course for work this year. If that course explicitly trained you to spot and respond to specific social engineering attacks that would be targeted to you, keep your hand up. I’m guessing there aren’t many hands still in the air.

Traditional information security training is failing.

Attacks are becoming more targeted to companies and individuals. They are coming from groups that have done research into your organization’s people and practices. They have a specific target objective and have been designed specifically for this purpose.

A Small Number of Security Incidents Can Make a Large Impact

The Verizon data breach investigation reports that 23 percent of users open phishing emails and more than one in 10 click on links in these emails. This may seem like a small number, but let me put this a different way. One of every 10 users in your company will take a single action that will allow a hacker to compromise your security when presented with the opportunity. In a company of 500 people, a hacker will have 50 or more people who will provide credentials or open a machine to compromise by clicking on a link in an email. Does this paint a different picture?

Information security training has to be more than just a review of regulatory guidelines, company policies and good password selection. It has to show users examples of the types of attacks they are facing right now. It has to transcend computer use in the office and needs to show how our digital life is connected to both work and personal computer use. How can we expect people to combat digital con artists when they don’t even know how to spot them? Security awareness training is a cost-effective method for fighting back against the onslaught of attacks against your organization.

Read our blog, Top Tips for Developing Effective Security Awareness and Training Programs
Which SOC Reporting method should I use to handle subservice organization controls?

This article is written for service organizations that are going through or are considering a SOC report. The purpose of this text is to help explain how to handle controls of subservice organizations (1 A service organization used by another service organization to perform some of the services provided to user entities that are likely to be relevant to those user entities' internal control over financial reporting.). There are two methods for handling subservice organizations’ controls: Inclusive and Carve-Out.

Inclusive Method

The inclusive method is when the subservice organization’s controls and functions are included in the service organization’s description of the system. These controls and functions will be included in the scope of the report and therefore tested just as the service organization’s controls are tested. A written assertion from management must be signed by the subservice organization to state the accuracy of the controls as they pertain to the subservice organization’s services. The subservice organization must also be involved in the fieldwork, which makes communications and the ability to work together very important.

Carve-Out Method

The carve-out method allows an organization to “carve-out” or exclude the controls of the subservice organization from the scope of the engagement and report. However, it is the service organization’s responsibility to have controls in place to monitor the subservice organization to ensure their controls are functioning as intended. The monitoring of these controls will be included in the SOC examination and description of services.

Which SOC Reporting Controls Method Should Be Used?

When determining the best method for your organization, start by checking if the subservice organization has a type 1 or type 2 report that covers the outsourced services. The key here is to make sure the exact services you are using are covered in the SOC report. Organizations often have different SOC reports for various aspects of their business. If the subservice organization has a SOC report that covers the correct services, use the carve-out method.

If the organization does not have a SOC report that covers the services your organization utilizes you will most likely want to use the inclusive method. As stated above, communication and cooperation with this subservice organization will be critical in a successful audit. They have to be willing to have their control environment tested as well as provide a written assertion from management. Most organizations are willing to do this as they don’t want to lose your business. If they aren’t cooperative and don’t have or plan to implement acceptable security controls, it may be time to consider a new subservice provider.

Although the inclusive method is the preferred method for subservice organizations without a SOC report, the carve-out method can be used in this scenario as well. However, the controls covered by the subservice organization would then have to be excluded from the report and as a result your organization would not have a complete report to provide to customers. The gaps in the report may reduce the value of your SOC report and customers may raise questions regarding the completeness.

In summary, if you can use the carve-out method, use it. It will save time, money and the hassle of including another organization into the conversations. If you have any uncertainty about which method is best for your organization, please contact us.

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