Dr. Larry Ponemon: Achieving Security in Workplace File Sharing

This is a transcript of The Axway Podcast of the same name.

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PONEMON: We find that about 80 percent of our respondents, therefore almost all of our respondents, see the need to secure documents, especially documents containing intellectual property. The company secret sauces. Business information, for example, that in the wrong hands could be a big problem. Respondents in our study consider the loss of intellectual property to be by far the most negative consequence of insecure file-sharing tools. Even though it’s a big problem, and it’s viewed as a big problem, it seems to happen regularly. That’s another finding of this study.

ANNOUNCER: From Phoenix, Arizona, this is The Axway Podcast. Here’s your host, Mike Pallagi.

PALLAGI: In January 2014, The Ponemon Institute — an institute dedicated to advancing responsible information and privacy management practices in business and government — presented the findings of “Achieving Security in Workplace File Sharing,” a study that focused on the practice of public cloud file sharing in the workplace, threats to corporate information, and the features most desirable in achieving security in the sharing of files and documents. Next week on November 18th, Dr. Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder of the institute, will join Dave Butcher, Axway’s Senior Director of Managed File Transfer Solutions, for a candid webinar about the study. So to give our readers and listeners a little preview of the webinar, I caught up with Dr. Ponemon and asked him some questions. First, what did the study find?

PONEMON: What we find in our study is data breaches involving company data, stored in a public cloud environment, are likely to go undetected. This is a big problem for companies, as well as for regulators. Only 11 percent of our respondents say they would be very likely to know if sensitive or confidential information was even lost or stolen as a result of a data breach. So one way of looking at that is that 89 percent, if my math is correct, basically would be not necessarily likely, or maybe unlikely, to know whether or not data was lost or stolen as a result of a data breach. As it would happen, obviously, in a public cloud environment, I think that’s where the most risk is.

PALLAGI: What about employee use of file-sharing tools?

PONEMON: This is a very important issue, obviously. In an organization where you have hundreds, if not thousands, of employees running around doing their job, what we basically find is that employees’ decisions to use certain file-sharing tools — including cloud-based tools and, as I mentioned before, may be insecure — are made without guidance or oversight from the organization. Only 50 percent of our respondents say their organizations have a policy that informs them about approved file-sharing tools. In other words, about half even have a policy, an acceptable use policy.

PALLAGI: Of those who do have a policy, what do they say about the state of their policy enforcement?

PONEMON: So if you do the math, it’s like half don’t have a policy, but those that do, almost half, 48 percent, say that policy is not enforced. And if a policy is not enforced, it means the policy is not really a policy. We also find that 69 percent of our respondents are not likely to know whether employees are even using unapproved and risky file-sharing tools. Even if you have a policy, and even if the policy is not enforced or enforced, there’s a very high percentage of companies that acknowledge the fact that they don’t have the wherewithal to know whether an employee is doing something…not nefarious. Again, good people make mistakes. We say good people do stupid things in the workplace, and it seems to happen a lot in the file-sharing arena.

PALLAGI: Popular cloud sharing services have created problems for IT departments and their organizations for a while now. What were the survey’s findings on that issue?

PONEMON: About half of respondents, in our study, in fact exactly 48 percent, believe that popular cloud-sharing services are, quite frankly, not suitable for business use. But they would worry less about the security of confidential documents in these insecure environments if the data’s encrypted. Especially if it’s encrypted and the encryption keys are in their control rather than in the hands of the cloud provider, and storage was segregated, not shared with other tenants, unlike, for example, servers or at the rack level. If we were able to control the physical storage location and have encryption with key management in the hands of the company, that would go a long way in reducing the concern that people have. But still, it doesn’t solve the problem completely.

PALLAGI: Here’s what Dr. Ponemon had to say about corporate culture as a security challenge.

PONEMON: Corporate culture, in almost all of our Ponemon studies, is a barrier to achieving security in the workplace. And it’s true in the security of workplace file-sharing applications. Fifty-eight percent of respondents say their organizations place more importance on employees’ productivity than they do on security of corporate data. Not to say that corporate data, or the security of corporate data, is not important. But it’s really about employee productivity and enabling them to do all of the cool things that they want to do in the workplace. With the tools that they like, usually. So, with that being said, many of our respondents believe that the use of file-sharing tools increase worker productivity and efficiency. So it’s the yin and yang: on the one hand, we want people to be mindful of security issues, but we want them to do it in ways that do not diminish their productivity and, quite frankly, that can be a problem.

PALLAGI: To minimize the risk, Dr. Ponemon suggests that one solution that would work for many companies would be to provide an approved file-sharing tool.

PONEMON: In fact, 62 percent of our respondents believe providing an approved file-sharing tool would reduce employee use of public cloud. If we have a tool that basically has the same functionality as our favorite file-sharing tools that operate in a public cloud environment, I think a lot of people would recognize the fact that these in-house tools should be used first and foremost. And it would probably reduce demand for basically going outside the organization’s perimeter and choosing tools that are, in fact, creating great security problems. So I think that is kind of a natural. And I think a lot of companies are waking up to the fact that they need to have something that is secure but doesn’t diminish the productivity of the employee.

PALLAGI: Any thoughts about the upcoming webinar?

PONEMON: We have lots of very interesting, and I’ll call them cool, findings. And I think it’s going to be enjoyable for the members of our audience. I would also encourage our audience members to ask good questions. A good webinar happens because you have a good speaker and you have really good questions, otherwise known as a good audience. So we really look forward to a great event. It should be fun.

To sign up for the webinar, please click here.

To read the report in its entirety, please click here.

How are APIs & SOA like Chipotle & Taco Bell? Find out at Accenture & Axway API Workshop event in Dallas on Nov 14

Though it seems like a long time ago now that we’ve had our first snow in Boston, it was just two weeks ago at Axway’s “Connections” event in scorching Arizona where I saw Kevin Kohut present Accenture’s API Maturity Model.

Kevin gave a very entertaining and insightful talk where he rounded on the common SOAP/REST debate, saying that “It’s not about REST vs SOAP, but about API-driven vs SOA-driven” (kicking off a discussion on Twitter).

He also talked about what it means to be API First. He explained that “API First” means that:

  1. The API is the contract, and;
  2. APIs are a product

In the world of SOA, it would have been unusual to find a “product owner” for a Web Service. But in the world of APIs, it is valuable to treat APIs like products in themselves, with owners. This advice from Kevin resonated with many of the API practitioners present at Axway Connections.

One of the most memorable parts of Kevin’s talk was about how APIs are like Chipotle while SOA was like Taco Bell. You’ll have to come along to his talk at the API Workshop in Dallas on the morning of Nov 14 to find out how :) . We’ll also be covering API scenarios such as OAuth SSO for Office365 APIs, Google SSO, mobile access via Angular.js, and integration with the SalesForce API.

(Originally posted in slightly different form at soatothecloud.com.)