Whodunit? Stop these employees from leaking your corporate data

Was it the receptionist, the salesman or the building manager who gave away company secrets? Here's how to find and stop the leaks

You might know how to secure your network devices and data centers to keep your corporate intelligence safe. But do you know how to teach your employees how to guard against attacks -- not generically, but based on the work they do? Experts suggest that a well-constructed security plan involves customized training by job function. You need to tell your HR people to manage personnel files that might reside in multiple locations, your facilities crew to watch out for people entering the building with fake IDs and your salespeople to guard access to the company's CRM system.

Trusting an employee with access to mission-critical or sensitive systems is a risky but unavoidable gamble. Let's face it: People are wild cards. In fact, let's take the gambling analogy a step further. Just as casinos thwart cheaters at every table or station on their floors, so, too, can IT officials thwart breaches by customizing security plans for individual employees in every zone of their companies.

In fact, casino practices can be translated to the corporate IT world to create at a common-sense list of do's and don'ts for redoubling security based on who does what job. The lessons we learn from craps pits and blackjack tables reveal that it's never wise to entrust your business's most valuable or vulnerable assets to a single employee. Instead, compartmentalize access whenever possible, and never hesitate to look over employees' shoulders.

Above all, follow the golden rule of a casino: Gauge your level of risk and develop airtight audit trails, urges Bruce Schneier, a security expert in the US, who has written several books on computer and network security, including Applied Cryptography (Wiley, 1996). Schneier often uses the casino metaphor to drive home important points surrounding individualized security. "If you look at a casino floor, you will notice immediately that people are watching people," he says. "That's because a lot of cash is moving, and it's moving very quickly."

Just as edgy casino managers constantly size up everyone on the floor as potential security threats, so must corporate IT security leaders size up every employee. "People are the weakest link in security. They always have been, and you will never change that," Schneier says. "But the reality is that you've got to deal with people, and people are going to make mistakes."

Security isn't the responsibility of a single security manager or even a security department. Just as quality was understood in the 1980s to be the responsibility of everyone in an organization, so, too, is security everyone's responsibility.

Each person in the organization creates, works with, transports and stores valuable information and physical assets. And each employee has a responsibility to safeguard those assets. Unfortunately, too often employees aren't educated by the organization as to what their duties are and how they can effectively manage risk while still getting their jobs done.

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Jennifer McAdams

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