Apart from simply “watching you”, the intruder can replace programs so that now your email is being forwarded to the intruders machine, your word processing application is now key-logging, so recording your every entry. And we’re only getting started. For example a first step can be to create a new local account on this machine, with administrative rights, so when someone, sometime will replace the administrator password, there is already a back-door, with administrative rights.
Now you may be reading this and saying “this is just a re-hash of commonly known hacking risks”, and you would be right. But in this case the risk is not the outsider but the insider who is trusted and whose job it is to actually look after your workstation and administer the network. And whether this is being done from your office or from somewhere on the other side of the world by some invisible outsourced employee, the unsuspecting Financial Officer, Auditor, Payroll clerk, etc., are oblivious to what is happening.
So what steps should you be taking? Well very simply – every single shared identity from the workstation to the database must be protected and changed on a regular basis. Access to a shared account must be logged so that the individual who requires a particular password should be required to provide a reason, and this request should be authorized – dual control.
Each and every administrative/shared/privileged password should be unique. The practice of accepting the same administrative password on every workstation should be discontinued, since having access to the clerk’s password means access to the CEOs machine.
Administrative passwords must be changed on a regular basis, including workstations. This process can be completely automated, which adds the benefit that specific individuals are not aware of passwords until such time as they need them.
Audit logging of every access or request for a password is essential, and this must be done in a manner that it provides non-repudiation for external auditors. In other words can you prove that you are doing this and policies are being adhered to? Can you identify the individual who last had access to any system or application?
Is this paranoia? No – paranoia is wondering everyday if someone is looking over your shoulder. This is simply common sense advice to any enterprise that values its confidentiality, and is not in the business of unnecessary risk. If you value your business, then you should not be wondering if your assets are protected.
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