Data Security – It’s in the Name!

Posted on December 20, 2012


I have just come out of my last meeting before Christmas in which security has been forefront (again) on both business and IT principles minds, and tongues…

The bizarre thing is that despite the obvious, the prevalence of IT security systems protect the ‘Environment Boundary’ in which data resides or is transmitted, whilst understandable form a certain perspective, it is somewhat medieval in its approach to the core ‘Data Security’ problems facing organisations and individuals today.

It is all good and well using SSL (Secure Socket Layers ) to ensure your communications (data exchanges in transit) are secure. BUT a waste of time if the communicating entities do not apply similar levels of security when the data is stored (data at rest). Even the most inept hacker knows that the easiest point to attack in any data exchange is the client (workstation, notebook, mobile device). The server end of the chain is likely to be more secure environment (not necessarily) than the end users. Hence the prevalence of end user vectored attacks, email being the weakest and most convenient conduit to perpetrate a hack. Once a Hacker can get some malware on a user’s PC they can just about do what they want with it, and that includes all the data unless the documents and or data is encrypted.

Thus we get to the headline of the article. DATA SECURITY. If all data adopted the same protective measures as the entertainment industry tries to do with their music and movies then less of our private lives would become public, and organised crime feeding off corporate systems selling inside secrets or blackmail would be poorer overnight. Organisations should be securing their CONTENT as well as their IT environments. Currently most organisations actually do ‘Environment Security‘ NOT ‘Data Security’.

Information Rights Management (IRM) has been around for decades in various guises.. ISV’s (Independent Software Vendors) are largely ignoring a HUGE market opportunity to tap this capability. Some understand it and build their business on this core feature, but most ignore it and defer security to the IT department’s ability to secure a whole environment. IRM has never been easier today to implement, without even needing to deploy a service it is possible to tap Windows Azure AD Rights Management and have this capability on tap. For organisations using the Microsoft Office 365 Online Software as a Service (SaaS) suite it is possible to enable this with ease:

Microsoft Office 365 with Windows Azure AD Rights Management enabled represents one of the most secure and feature complete collaboration environments available on the market today. I would challenge some enterprises to prove a more secure data environment, and this is available to the smallest of organisations for less than £15/mth per user. This default functionality in Microsoft Office 365 is just a baseline, for the more security conscious this can be enhanced exponentially with third party products.

IRM is not full proof, nothing can stop someone re-typing a document or photographing a screen. BUT it represents a significant convenience barrier to those perpetrating corporate espionage and removes any ‘accidental’ disclosures.

I suspect though there will be a few more fruitful Christmas seasons for the corporate espionage crime syndicates to roam deserted corporate systems before the penny drops.