What We Should Really Worry About

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2011-03-20 Print this article Print


After all, most of the people trying to break into your data system probably aren't the same people who broke into RSA. But even if they are, you still have a password to prevent entry. Now's the time to make sure that you confirm that you really are requiring strong passwords, that they're changed as necessary and that people don't write them down on Post-It notes and stick them to their monitors. 

The RSA breach also means you have to make sure that employees are practicing safe computing, which they should have been doing anyway. They may need to be reminded that they shouldn't open attachments on strange e-mails and they shouldn't share their passwords. In addition, security managers should monitor access attempts, and they should monitor any changes to privilege levels and access rights, all things that should be done anyway.  

While two-factor authentication is very secure, it's not able to overcome bad security practices. In other words, SecurID isn't a silver bullet, it's just a very convenient token. But it's still a token. Even without the theft from RSA, it's a token that can be misused. It's also subject to social engineering or just plain larceny. The problem with a very effective security solution such as SecurID is it's easy to become complacent, and as a result fail to protect your security against access that shouldn't take place with or without SecurID. 

So for now, you're probably safe. What should be worrying you is learning exactly who took the information from RSA and why. Clearly this was a highly sophisticated attack, and whoever went to the effort to do it clearly had a reason. Were they trying to steal RSA's trade secrets to build a competing device? Was it the Russians, Chinese, terrorists, criminal gangs or some other group trying to find out government secrets? Once we know what was taken, who took the information and why, it'll be easier to protect against such an attack. 

But for now, continue to use your SecurID card, but otherwise go back to those standard security practices that you should have been doing anyway. You might think about adding a second type of two-factor authentication just in case, even though there's no evidence right now that existing implementations are actually compromised. It is, after all, a good idea to have a backup system just in case one fails.  

Wayne Rash Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazineÔÇÖs Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.

He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.

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