A little-known security threat

Tuesday, 17 June 2003, 9:16 AM EST

Q: I feel like I have a good handle on how to protect my company's secure information, but I'm not sure my employees do. How can I be sure my data is protected?

A: A man calls the receptionist at a competitor's company and asks for the name of the sales manager. The receptionist says his name is Bob Jones. Later, the man calls back to the same company and says he needs to speak with the IT help desk. When the help desk operator answers, the man says, "Hi, my name is Bob Jones and I seem to have forgotten my new password. I'm on my way to an important meeting. Can you reset it right away?" In an effort to help the user regain access to the system, the help desk operator resets the password and tells the man the new password. The man then accesses the employee area of the corporate Web site and logs on to the e-mail system of Bob Jones and subsequently reviews all of Mr. Jones's contact information and correspondence.

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