Stupidity is the WikiLeaks Problem

Wayne Rash
Now that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is safely in jail, with no immediate chance of getting out, it's time to take a step back and look at the real problem with WikiLeaks and the kerfuffle surrounding it. This is a story that is nothing if not sensational. Leaked Cables! Dangerous outcomes! Espionage! DNS servers! It's a perfect storm of headline material.

Problem is, despite the reprehensible conduct of Assange, he's not the real problem. Likewise, all of the posturing regarding the freedom of the press isn't the issue, either. At this point, all that's been found is a lot of embarrassing information regarding world leaders behaving badly when drunk, and other world leaders secretly saying things that others were already saying in the open-such as the suggestion from Saudi Arabia that the world would be a better place if Iran doesn't get nuclear weapons.

The real problem is stupidity, especially on the part of the person(s) in charge of the computers at that forward operating base in Iraq where the material was first stolen. Whoever was in charge of those computers did a number of really dumb things. First, they allowed computers with removable storage - in this case a CD-ROM drive-to be on a secure network. Then they had no protection against copying information, or any logging or intrusion prevention method of any kind. And then they let a clearly disturbed young man have access to highly classified information even after they knew he was highly disturbed.

Now, think about how this applies to your company. Very likely you have information on your computers that should not be seen by the outside world. Perhaps it's your customer list, or perhaps it's confidential information belonging to a customer or client, or perhaps it's financial transactions that are protected by federal law. Most companies have at least some information that must be protected, and while this may not qualify as critical to the national defense, it's still important.

Now, ask yourself if you have any computers with access to this information that also have removable storage? Ask yourself how hard it would be for a disgruntled employee to take your customer list and accounting data when they leave. If the answer is "not very hard at all," then you know where to get started to avoid stupidity.

So ask yourself a couple more questions: Have you run even a minimal background check on employees who handle financial information? Do you think it would be nice to know if any of them has a criminal record?

These are pretty simple questions, and if you aren't asking them about your own company, then it's time you should. But these are also the questions that the officers in charge of the computers in Iraq should have also been asking, and it's clear that despite the extremely high level of security that was supposed to be in use, it wasn't really there. This is just plain stupidity on their part.
 
But having seen how easy it is for someone to steal your most valuable information, isn't it even more stupid to fail to take action to make sure it doesn't happen to your company?
 



Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Dec 8, 2010 4:12 PM Anonymous Anonymous  says:
idiot Reply
Dec 8, 2010 4:12 PM Anonymous Anonymous  says:
Stupidity! Reply
Dec 8, 2010 6:12 PM Anonymous Anonymous  says:
you are a full blown idiot.. Reply
Dec 9, 2010 6:12 AM marco marco  says:
I could not finish reading your story because your idiocy made me puke. However, one point that you and the rest of the fascist republicans have to be reminded is that Government is not a Business. Wikileaks and Bradley Manning are heroes! Is about the principle of the universal right of freedom of information and our right to be told the truth.� Jemima Khan wrote on her Twitter later during the day, �I make no judgments of Julian Assange as an individual as I have never met him. I offered my support, as I believe that this is about the universal right of freedom of information and our right to be told the truth.� Bravo Jemima! Remember the quote from Mark Twain? "In the beginning, a patriot is a scarce man, hated and feared and scorned. But in time when his cause succeeds, the timid join him, because then it costs nothing to be patriot." Reply
Dec 10, 2010 2:12 PM Anonymous Anonymous  says:
I think this article is pretty informative, I was looking for some data storage tips. Freedom of speech is not being debated here, nor is the very existence of Wikileaks, the article is simply pointing out how easy it is to get supposedly secure data and how IT depts should think about how their data (no matter if it is top secret or not) is really being protected against internal and external potential threats. Reply
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