CASES.LU

Knowhow

Security measures for small and medium-sized enterprises – Threats to human resources

Manipulation of people

Social engineering is one of the most frightening techniques used to attack users of an IT system.  Social engineering is based on subtle psychological techniques that get people to share the desired information.  By exploiting human vulnerabilities, e.g. the desire to help a peer or the need to impress a superior, an ill-intentioned person can obtain access to data and confidential systems from an individual.

In order to avoid the involuntary disclosure of information, it is important to make staff aware of the general principles of “social engineering” and teach them the appropriate ways to react and communicate. This means, amongst other things:

  • training employees in communication and the protection of the organisation’s image (in particular during email communications, participation in discussion forums, contact with the media, etc.). (Draft and enforce a Sectoral policy on Human factors – Training and information);
  • making employees aware of good security practices outside the organisation’s perimeter;
  • attributing a unique code to each employee who calls the help desk;
  • establishing better identity checks for information requests. (Draft and enforce a Sectoral policy on the Classification and control of resources);
  • checking and tracing long distance calls – or securing telephone servers (PBX).

Human error: prevention measures

There is a large range of human error, going from inadvertently sending an email to the wrong person right up to the accidental deletion of vital company data.

For the best chance at avoiding such errors, it is important to provide:

  • adequate staff training. (Draft and enforce a Sectoral policy on Human factors – Training and information);
  • a reminder of the backup measures for sensitive files. (Draft and enforce a Sectoral policy on Operational and communication aspects – Data backups);
  • a double validation system for critical operations;
  • a log of operations carried out on sensitive information (paper register, audit logs).

Misuse of IT resources

IT resources available to users may be misappropriated for personal use.  An organisation must respect the privacy of its employees just as the employees should not exploit the IT infrastructure for personal use during their working day, in particular regarding the use of the Internet and electronic messaging. You could, for example, include:

  • a paragraph in the charter that clearly indicates what would be considered misuse, within the confines of respect of privacy at the workplace;
  • a restrictive usage policy regarding software set out at operating system level. (Draft and enforce a Sectoral policy on the Classification and control of resources and a Sectoral policy on Access control – Access control policy and Access rights management);
  • website filtering.  (Draft and enforce a Sectoral policy on Access control – Use of external networks);
  • blocking external incoming and outgoing emails. (Draft and enforce a Sectoral policy on Operational and communication aspects – Emails).

Staff absences

The availability of the information system is linked to the availability of staff in general. Ideally, you should ensure that all information is accessible at all times. This can be organised through the use of authorisations, the implementation of a staff rota and on-call service, which is all the more important where system administrators are concerned. It may be useful to introduce the following elements:

The administrator

An information system administrator, as part of their role as supervisor, has specific access permissions. They can therefore have access to all information stored in the IT system and, in the event of a cyberattack, block access to the information system. As a security measure, it is useful to ensure:

  • a log of administration operations on sensitive data and the configuration of authorisations;
  • that administrators are made aware of their legal responsibilities (Draft and enforce a Sectoral policy on Human factors – Training and information);
  • the implementation of measures linked to the “administration impossible” security problem.

Spam / Phishing

Spam is unsolicited email. This type of advertising email is sent to the owner of the mailbox in the aim of getting them to view a service/product or a website. In the best case scenario, the time wasted and electronic space taken up by this type of email may unnecessarily overload an information system and must, as a result, be fought against. Furthermore, the spam could also contain malicious software and so become a concrete threat to the organisation’s assets.

Phishing is a special social engineering technique that primarily uses emails and aims to obtain personal information (bank account details, in particular) by claiming to be a trusted organisation (e.g. a bank) via a fraudulent website. This type of attack is primarily aimed at individuals, but the company’s vital information may also be targeted.

Both of these threats currently plague email inboxes. You can guard against them by:

  • setting up an anti-spam filter (client or server). (Draft and enforce a Sectoral policy on Operational and communication aspects – Emails);
  • making employees aware of best practice in this area, for example:
    • ignoring all spam or phishing emails;
    • ensuring that email addresses are only shared with your express permission. Some service providers may automatically register you in a web directory. (Draft and enforce a Sectoral policy on Human aspects – Training and information);
  • as far as possible, avoid publishing your email address on forums or websites;
  • keeping confidential information secret (e.g. credit card). (Draft and enforce a Sectoral policy on the Classification and control of resources);
  • restricting who can view the organisation’s electronic directory.

Use of limited access by a third party

To be able to access an information system, users are given access rights according to their IT system user profile. The most simple case is physical access to a device. When a third party uses a resource without having been authorised to do so, we call that intrusion. When a third party uses a user’s rights to access a resource, we call that identity fraud. It is important to ensure that authentication always entails identification and that physical intrusion is avoided. It is useful:

  • to lock all electronic equipment after use or, failing this, after a set amount of time. (Draft and enforce a Sectoral policy on Access control – Access control policy and Connection procedures);
  • prohibit the lending of keys, badges, passwords (Draft and enforce a Sectoral Policy on Access control – Password management);
  • track events regarding sensitive locations and data.