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Identity Authentication and Maintaining Data Integrity

Pentura : 09 February, 2010  (Special Report)
Simon Morris, Research and Development Director of Pentura looks at the handling of sensitive data within the context of identity authentication and strong data security
No matter what industry sector we look at today, the value of data and management of information is crucial. Businesses must assess and quantify the risks to high value information and understand and protect the asset it resides on. The integrity of the device protecting the information can be assessed in a number of ways, such as how well it is audited, patched and secured.

Utilising just one security product that promises to protect a business 'from all threats' is not enough. To protect information assets a number of areas need to be assessed in order to understand what solutions are best positioned for protecting business critical information.

IT Security managers need to start at the core of their organisation and work outwards. Businesses need to assess the integrity of information assets where sensitive data resides and assure that they are fully patched and secured. Then consideration can be given to working outwards to the network where they should carry out similar risk assessments i.e. is the network the information asset resides on secure and appropriate for the information it contains?

Take for example the NSPCC and Bernardos, both are child support organisations that need to protect extremely sensitive data. Organisations such as these must assess all IT risks from the asset the information is placed on, through to the network. Looking at one without the other will compromise potentially security.

System integrity is vital when controlling who can access certain information. Even if a business places sensitive data on a VLAN other networks can still access the information as they can freely route between each other unless filtered, as such they are wide open for anyone to access sensitive and valuable data.

Security technology has progressed well over the past few years and now integrates with the credentials of a user to allow controlled access to certain information. There are products available that can monitor and manage who has access to specific data instead of just folders, such as Varonis, a solution provider of comprehensive and actionable data governance solutions that can secure the shared drives and prevent them from containing random information. For example, if an employee accidentally drags and drops financial information from a folder they have access to into a public folder; Varonis can highlight this and lock down access to that particular information.

Businesses of all sizes and across all industries must make sure that the data they store is only accessed by the relevant people. Varonis can manage this with ease by migrating into a business's infrastructure instantly and will coexist so the business does not have to change its infrastructure, instead it closes the holes that allow staff to access information they do need to see.

The most important aspect of Identity Authentication is that it educates users to be more aware of locking down desktops and portals. When staff leave their desks an unsecured work station can offer anyone within the organisation access to valuable and sensitive data, which opens up a range of data breach liabilities. All organisations must ensure their staff are made aware of the security risks involved in their day to day work and implement an Acceptable Use Policy that details what information they do and don't have rights to access.

Many public sector organisations have to protect large quantities of sensitive data and information from system vulnerabilities. Pentura believe the most effective method of prioritising these vulnerabilities involves a number of key steps, which Pentura has developed as a Vulnerability Risk Assessment (VRA) service. This includes: modelling and mapping the network and importing rules from multiple devices, defining the threat origins and classifying the assets based on importance to the business. This identifies the vulnerabilities presenting the greatest threat to the business and allows remediation and protection of the most important assets. Pentura's Risk Assessments have a proven track record of success, and in many cases, remediation of the top 30 - 40 threats has dramatically brought down the overall business risk.

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