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In-depth

Let's play IT security Buzzword Bingo

A report into the threats employees pose to data security has Davey Winder up in arms this week...

Exit doors

Many years ago I'd amuse myself by playing a game called Buzzword Bingo. Each week someone in my IT security professional network of friends would distribute a bingo card laid out with the most outrageous ITSec lingo of the time.

If a press release, research document or even telephone conversation with a client included any of those words, I'd cross them off. Prizes, generally beer-shaped ones, were awarded for four corners or a line.

If I were still playing today, I would be well on my way to a full house this week, having overheard phrases such as offboarding, deprovisioning, rogue access, exit interviews and user lifecycle management. Can you tell what I've been researching yet?

No, I'm not surprised. So let me help you by revealing all. The reason for this myriad of management speak is a report which looked at the threat to enterprise data from former employees.

According to the survey by Osterman Research (commissioned by hosting firm Intermedia), 89 per cent of employees retained access to applications such as PayPal and Salesforce after leaving an organisation, which was described by the Intermedia spokesperson who contacted me as "posing a big threat".

Well, you don't say? Furthermore, over half of those ex-employees actually logged in after leaving the firm.

Am I allowed to say WTF at this point? Seriously, it's enough to make me think there's almost no point being an IT security consultant any longer if enterprises are making this kind of rookie error. Of course, I say almost as I am kept in business courtesy of this ridiculous lack of secure thinking. What's really amazing is these organisations are going out of business for the same reason.

Offboarding may be a silly word, and one that sounds like it has something to do with spooks interviewing suspected terrorists, but it describes a very serious weapon in the enterprise security armoury: access revocation.

When the organisations questioned admitted the number of ex-employees retaining access to confidential information was 45 per cent, you get an idea of just how important an exit interview can be.

Yep, the admin guys should be revoking access rights as a matter of course, that goes without saying, but it does seem that a reminder to departing employees about the legality of popping back in for a nosey, or to store data, as 68 per cent were doing, might be in order as well.

The problem is one that could hit smaller businesses hardest, as they are less likely to have the same kind of rigorous controls in place when it comes to changing application logins.

Some 60 per cent of respondents said they were not asked for cloud logins when they left their companies. It's not like these people even have to be malicious to do damage, just storing something inappropriate on company servers could be enough.

C'mon people, get with the offboarding exit interview user lifecycle program. House!

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