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UK companies fail to control employee access to sensitive information

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Current News Updates

Independent survey finds UK companies seriously failing to control employee access to sensitive information

An independent survey published on 18 October 2006 by UK company Secerno suggests that databases are open to attack from growing insider threats. Key findings from the survey were:

  • Over 60 per cent of UK employees have access to computer records at their place of work
  • 41% have access to records that are not necessary for their job
  • One in ten has been tempted to abuse this access
  • 56% of employees have no restrictions placed on the information they have privileges to access

Databases lie at the heart of most companies, and contain many of the most valuable assets of these organisations, and indeed of their customers. These assets range from research data, development plans and price lists through to Social Security numbers, credit card information, health records and buying habits. According to Gartner the database management systems software market is set to grow dramatically over the next five years bringing it to $13.2 billion in 2009. According to Yankee Group research, the confidentiality and integrity of an estimated 70% (by volume) of all critical and sensitive information relies on database mechanisms.

Until now, there has been no way of stopping internal employees who have the necessary permissions to access a database from abusing those rights. In addition the incidents of database attacks originating outside the company are growing rapidly. A few high profile examples are hitting the headlines but this is just the tip of the iceberg. The trend now is towards targeted database attacks, using skilled hackers to obtain specific data from a specific company, by getting access through conventional firewalls, or by corrupting web applications, often with insider assistance A few well publicised examples of external attacks on databases exist. In the CardSystems security breach hackers stole 263,000 customer credit card numbers and exposed 40 million more using an SQL Injection attack. Russian hackers broke into a Rhode Island government Web site and stole credit card information from individuals who had done business online with state agencies. They claimed to have stolen 53,000 credit card numbers during this attack. The Web Application Security forum lists 15 incidents. . There has been no effective way of addressing these vulnerabilities.

“Secerno.SQL, which we are launching today, is a totally new generation of security product. For the first time it is now possible for companies to protect their databases effectively from both insider abuse and targeted attacks.” said Paul Davie, CEO and co-founder of Secerno.”

Secerno has developed a unique new appliance that understands the patterns of normal access to each individual corporate database. The model of normal access is like the DNA of the database, and is learned over a period of time by the appliance, and will adapt to changing usage patterns. As such, IT Departments do not have to build complex policies; the system does it for them. The appliance can be installed in a matter of minutes and will then learn normal database usage, going on to protect the system without complicated user intervention.

“This technology is unique” said Steve Moyle, CTO Secerno, “and evolved from research in Machine Learning that I undertook at the University of Oxford. To our knowledge this type of technology has never before been applied to database security. This is another great example of UK technology breakthrough.”

The Secerno.SQL appliance also helps companies meet compliance requirements. Companies need to be proactive in recording who is accessing what data, and when. They need to create efficient logging environments demonstrating audit compliance.
“We chose Secerno.SQL to address our Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) compliance needs.” Said Mike Jones, formerly Director of IS of OD2. “The increasing emphasis on control and accountability imposed by auditors meant that we needed to segregate the duties of the DBA in order to reduce the risk of collusion. Secerno's solution saved us the cost of hiring an additional DBA to achieve this. Their unique technology provides an independent and reliable process for managing access, so we can meet our protection and reporting needs cost-effectively and with minimum effort. In addition Secerno.SQL provided us with a long-term mechanism for monitoring the behaviour of our own applications on an on-going basis, which in turn opened up the opportunity for continual improvement in our systems and processes.

Nigel Stanley, Practice Leader for IT Security at industry analysts Bloor Research comments, “The ability to demonstrate to an auditor that you know exactly what traffic is going to and from your database and that you can proactively deal with abnormal situations is very compelling.”

Secerno's breakthrough in an advanced branch of Machine Learning allows their product to learn how each specific database is being used, and then adapt to changing usage patterns. This technology is not constrained by the signature-based approach which prevents traditional tools from dealing with carefully crafted database attacks. Similarly, encryption and authentication methods will do little to stop misuse by authorised users.

Davie adds, “It has not been easy to strike a balance between protection of sensitive information and availability of data for commercial profit. Secerno goes a long way in meeting this challenge by providing ongoing protection of databases against any threat, known or unknown, internal or external. Companies can now protect online digital assets while safely exploiting their information systems.”

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