Case Study

Once the dust cleared from the largest single hack that Green Valley Bank and Trust ever experienced, Adrian, the network administrator, had a good laugh. The credit and banking information of more than 30,000 customers from as far back as 20 years had been stolen, and the publicity department was nervous while preparing a statement for the press in case word got out. One of the managers gave Adrian a glaring look to let him know how inappropriate it was to laugh, so he quickly put on his best somber face.

The damage was so extensive that the bank president returned immediately from vacation, all tanned and smelling like tropical oils. The reputation of the bank hung in the balance as it was one of the few independent holdouts who had successfully managed to leverage their 100-year-strong community commitment into a position no major bank chain could penetrate in the county. However, the bank's need to modernize to provide Internet banking and other electronic services weakened resources and did little to bring more customers. The bank president disliked the idea from the start, but the board wanted growth, and they felt that electronic banking with a hometown touch was the way to accomplish that. Unfortunately, to his chagrin, this attack confirmed his apprehension and also killed any chance the bank had to expand at all. Now he looked defeated and everyone could see that, even Adrian.

The president sat in an enclosed glass meeting room with board members, lawyers, and the chief information security officer (CISO) in charge of network security. Hands were animated as they talked loudly and shoved papers around. Adrian sat at his desk, half hidden behind his monitor, and watched the action. He had no authorization to access the security systems—the various firewalls, the Intrusion Detection and Prevention Systems, or even the weekly vulnerability test reports. However, he did have access to the few web servers and database logs so he could try to see what happened. He looked up and saw the president throwing papers back at the CISO. His voice was loud enough that even Adrian could hear it, "Well apparently compliance is NOT security!"

Adrian looked back down at his computer screen and giggled again. He knew that it had been just a matter of time before they would get hacked. He never considered that any of the compliance audits were any good. He always wondered how good a regulation could be if it requires running antivirus software on the Linux servers too? As terrible as the attack was he did feel that justice had been served. He had told them to put in more process controls. He had told them they had to encrypt the information and not just the transactions. He had told them they needed to tighten the authentication schemes to ensure that nobody could deny any part of any interactivity they had with the systems. He had told them they had to make sure the security auditors used the OSSTMM to measure their protection levels to indemnify themselves properly against attacks. He had told them all this time and again. Furthermore, he had argued that compliance to a generalized and watered-down regulation could not possibly be security fit for a bank. At the time, their dismissive attitude was perplexing to him.

Adrian continued searching through the server logs to find out what happened when the CISO stepped out of the meeting room and called him in. He grabbed his notepad and a pen. He felt confident even though the tension as he entered was palpable. He began to sit down when the CISO told him to remain standing.

"It appears you have been in charge of remediation?" the president asked him, his comb-over hair oily and in disarray.

"Yes, sir," said Adrian.

"You are aware of the situation we encountered last night?"

"Then you understand why we will have to let you go."

"Our audit reports show good scores on security, therefore, the only flaw we can determine must be in the remediation process. Unfortunately, this is your area of expertise. I cannot understand the full technical details of how you failed to meet compliance, but I see, for example, that it took you months to get even antivirus software running on the Linux web servers. That is just unacceptable, and although sometimes you may get away with not responding quickly to the auditor's recommendations, this one time it has been disastrous."

"But—" Adrian mumbled, dumbstruck.

"We're all sorry it happened this way but where were you when the process broke down? Security will see you out immediately."

The armed guards showed up to escort Adrian to his desk where he could pick up his personal belongings and then walked him out to the street.

Once an asset can be separated from a threat the asset is said to be secure. If you need to allow access to assets in particular ways, or to particular people or processes, you can use interactive controls to assure the access is within particular boundaries. However, what happens when an asset is in motion or is in an environment beyond your control? For those instances, there are process controls.

Process controls are perhaps the most widely applied controls for the information age. Where interactive controls interfere with interactions, process controls protect assets where access is not a requirement. So as communications increase and individual privacy becomes more and more precious, the five process controls are even more vital.

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