What could have stopped the Computershare rogue staffer?

The fact that the world’s largest share registry business has been hit by a potentially major data breach after a (now former) employee walked off with the firm’s data when she left the company is a classic situation that could have been prevented with good data governance.

The member of staff – a security risk auditor – walked out of the company building with large volumes of data on a USB stick. Then, when the company discovered what had happened, it apparently asked for the data back and was refused.

It was at this point that the lawyers were let loose and most of the data was recovered. Whilst the good news was that the data did not include share dealing customer’s details, the apparently stolen data included thousands of company documents – most of which, of course, should never have left the company’s servers.

The case – which is still ongoing – highlights what can happen when an organisation does not know who is doing what and when with a given element of information at all times.

With more than two-thirds of company data being stored in unstructured formats that are not audited or locked down, conventional IT methods cannot always keep track of the very large sets of information involved.

Put simply, if Joe from accounts is copying company client files to a USB stick from a file share on a Friday afternoon, appropriate alarm bells need to start ringing. And whilst this may happen for some applications and databases, if Joe is copying from a server it is impossible for most organizations to know exactly what data he is really copying.

This is an extreme example of the many thousands of times that data is copied every working day in a large organisation, so keeping track and automatically risk-assessing each data transaction – which may involves gigabytes of unstructured data – is a major task, even for specialist security software.

And this is where data governance technology enters the frame, as it can track all the data, all the time. Had the international share-dealing company had our data governance software installed on its platform, then the appropriate alarm bells would have been ringing when she started copying the company files to her desktop, USB stick or similar portable storage device she apparently used to move the data out of the company’s offices.

Good data governance software does this automatically and in the background, only alerting appropriate members of staff when something unusual happens, and if the data change/copying is really suspect, then the breach can be stopped and those data files locked down pending an urgent investigation.

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David Gibson has been in the IT industry for more than 15 years, with a breadth of experience in data governance, network management, network security, system administration, and network design. He is currently Director of Technical Services at Varonis Systems where he oversees product marketing and positioning. As a former a technical consultant, David has helped many companies design and implement enterprise network architectures, VPN solutions, enterprise security solutions, and enterprise management systems. He is a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP).