RSA Breach Stresses Need for Security Education

Sue Marquette Poremba
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10-Step Security and Vulnerability Assessment Plan

When I ask security experts about best practices for preventing breaches and keeping networks malware-free, the response always stresses the importance of education. Employees and general computer users simply aren't educated enough about security.


That stress on education was certainly on my mind when I read an article that explained how the RSA breach happened. If you haven't heard, low-level RSA employees were targeted with a spear phishing attack and at least one employee made the mistake of clicking on the attached Excel spreadsheet, which targeted a zero-day vulnerability in Adobe Flash.


An article on reported:

According to the details released last week, the attackers installed a backdoor and a variant of the Poison Ivy remote administration tool, to reach out to a remote command-and-control server and navigate through RSA's sensitive systems. Once in, the attackers shoulder surfed on the victims, mapped the network and the resources, and started looking for a path to the coveted assets they desired.

There were other issues at play in the RSA attack, which the article explains, but it all began with that first step: someone opening a file because they thought it was real. I see this as a reminder that no matter what industry you are in, security education for everyone who has computer access should be a top priority.


As a side note, RSA's parent company, EMC, recently announced it is integrating with NetWitness, which provided the technology that investigated the attack.

Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Jan 3, 2012 3:55 AM Malinda Hartwig Malinda Hartwig  says:

It's pretty obvious that general computer users are not educated enough about security. Moreover, they not even very interested in getting that education; we all want to keep things simple. I'm not an expert since I only got an online leadership degree but what I'm saying here is based on facts not suppositions. Anyway, keeping networks malware-free is not going to happen too soon.

Jan 9, 2012 8:54 AM Mariane Torok Mariane Torok  says:

Unfortunately there are many people who don't know have knowledge about preventing breaches and they open different attachments without knowing what they really are. This is why it is very important to educate them especially those who work in companies and to teach them the basic File Extensions that should be avoided.


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