Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Cybersecurity is about more than technology

Securing Supply Chains Beyond Vendors and Service Providers

Securing supply chains is becoming a more crucial aspect of information risk management. But the definition of the supply chain is evolving.

The supply chain, from an IT security perspective, often is perceived as the hardware and software an organization acquires from vendors as well as online offerings furnished by service providers.

According to control SA-12: Supply Chain Protection, organizations use acquisition and procurement processes to require supply chain entities to implement necessary security safeguards to reduce the likelihood of unauthorized modifications at each stage in the supply chain and protect information systems and their components, before taking delivery of such systems and components.

But that's not quite how it works with shadow suppliers. Those running IT and IT security at government agencies and businesses don't always know that a system or component has been acquired. That's because the technology was not acquired through the normal procurement process.

We see organizations acquiring a service such as Dropbox, which allows individuals to easily share documents through a public-cloud service: 
Colleagues sitting around a conference table want to share a document, but the document owner, after five attempts, can't access Microsoft SharePoint, a document management system that operates on the internal corporate network. 
Frustrated, the document owner uploads the document to Dropbox, where his colleagues can easily access it. Suddenly, Dropbox is a supplier, and the business or government agency doesn't even know it. This is a huge area of the supply chain that now exists that is completely shadowed.

Of course, NIST offers other controls to deal with cloud services, such as requiring that information stored on the cloud be encrypted for added security. And many organizations have implemented controls to limit or ban the use of employee-owned devices and cloud services, such as Dropbox.

But as long as employees can find better technology than their employers offer, they will concoct ways to use them. Even if there is a policy against doing it, people are naturally doing it anyway, not to be rebellious but just to be more productive.

Organizations must be more agile in developing policies and adopting controls because there are too many choices in the marketplace. Years ago, organizations provided their employees with the best technology; not so today.

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