Data Leakage Prevention – Protecting Sensitive Information

When DuPont lost $400 million in intellectual property, it wasn’t because a hacker from the other side of the world infiltrated their system. The information was simply stolen by a former employee. Alarmingly, data loss incidents are not always caused by deliberate actions.

A file containing personal information accidentally attached to an email and sent to multiple recipients; financial data stored in a USB pen drive, accidentally left in a restaurant; or bank account data of colleagues, inadvertently posted on a company website – these are also some of the everyday causes of data loss.

A report done by research company Infowatch regarding global data leaks in 2010 showed that there were actually more accidental data leaks in that year compared to intentional ones. Accidental leaks comprised 53%, while intentional leaks comprised 42% (the rest were unidentified).

But even if they ?only? happened accidentally, breach incidents like these can still be very costly. The tens of thousands of dollars that you could sometimes end up paying in civil penalties (as in the case when you lose other people?s personal information) can just be the beginning. More costly than this is the loss of customer and investor confidence. Once you lose those, you could consequently lose a considerable portion of your business.

Confidential information that may already be leaking out right under your nose

With all the data you collect, process, exchange, and store electronically every day, your IT system has surely now become a storehouse of sensitive information. Some of them, you may be even taking for granted.

But imagine what would happen if any of the following trade secrets fell into the wrong hands: marketing plans, confidential customer information, pricing data, product development strategies, business plans, supplier information, source codes, and employee salaries.

These are not the only kind of data that you should be worried about. You could also get into trouble if your sloppy IT security fails to protect employee or client personal information such as their names; social security numbers; drivers license numbers; or bank account numbers and credit/debit card numbers along with their corresponding PINs.

In some countries, you could face onerous data breach notification requirements and heavy fines when these kind of data are involved.

There are now more holes to plug

It’s not just the different varieties of sensitive electronic information that you have to worry about. Because these data can take on different forms, i.e. data-at-rest, data-in-motion, and data-at-the-endpoints, you also need to take aim at different areas in your IT system.

Sensitive information can be found ?at rest? in each of your employees? hard disks, in your servers, storage disks, and in off-site backup disks. They can also be found ?in motion? in email, instant messaging, social networking messaging, P2P file sharing, ftp, http, and so on.

That’s not all. Your highly mobile workforce may have already introduced yet another high-risk area into your system: data-at-the-endpoints. This includes USB flash-disks, laptops, portable hard disks, CDs, and even smartphones.

The main challenge of data leak prevention

Having been made aware of the various aspects of data leakage, have you already come to grips with the extent of the task at hand?

There are two major things you need to do here to prevent data leakage.

One, you need to identify what data you have that can be considered as sensitive/confidential information. Of course you have financial information and employee salaries in your files. But do you also store personally identifiable information? Do you have trade secrets that are stored in electronic form?

Two, you need to pinpoint their locations. Are they only on your hard disks and laptops? Or have they made their way to flash drives, CDs/DVDs, or portable HDDs? Are they being transmitted through email or any other file transfer media?

The reason why you need to know what your sensitive data are as well as where they are is because you would like all efforts of securing them to be as efficient and unobtrusive as possible.

Let’s say, as a way of protecting your data, you decide to implement encryption. Since encryption can consume a lot of storage space and significantly reduce performance, it may be impractical to encrypt your entire database or all your files. For the same reason, you wouldn’t want to encrypt every single email that you send.

Thus, the best way would be to encrypt only the data that really need encryption. But again, you need to know what data needs to be encrypted and where those data can be found. That alone is no simple task.

Not only will you need to deal with the data you already have, you will also have to worry about the data that will go through your systems during the course of your day-to-day transactions.

Identifying sensitive data as it enters or leaves your system, goes through your network, or gets stored in your file system or database, and then applying the necessary security actions should be done automatically and intelligently. Otherwise, you could end up spending on a lot of man-hours or, worse, wasting them on a lot of false positives and negatives.

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Saving Energy Step 3 ? Towards a Variable Energy Bill

Do you remember the days when energy was so cheap we paid the bill almost without thinking about it? Things have changed and we have the additional duty of reducing consumption to help save the planet. This is the third article in our mini-series on saving energy. It follows on from the first that explored implementing a management system, and the second listing practical things to implement on the shop floor. These open up the possibility of the variable energy bill we expand on as follows.

If ?variable energy bill? sounds strange to you, I used the unusual turn of phrase to encourage you to view things in a different light. We need to move on from the ?pie chart? mentality where we focus on the biggest numbers like materials, facilities and labour, and zoom in on energy where we can achieve similar gains faster with less pain. But first, we need to see beyond the jargon that governments and consultants love, and get to grips with the reality that we can vary our energy bill and bring cost down.

As executives we recognise this, although other pressures distract us from accepting it as a personal goal. And so we delegate it down the organisation to a level where it becomes ?another crazy management idea? we have to follow to stay out of trouble. I read somewhere that half the world?s organisations do not have energy as a defined objective to monitor in the C Suite. No wonder commerce is only pecking away at energy wastage at a rate of 1% per year.

Find out where you are ?spending energy? and relate this to your core business. If there are places where you are unable to make a connection, challenge the activity?s right to exist. Following the energy trail produces unexpected benefits because it permeates everything we do.

  • Improved product design reducing time spent in factory
  • Streamlined production schedules reducing machine run times
  • Less wear on equipment reducing costly maintenance
  • A more motivated workforce that is prouder of ?what we do?

As you achieve energy savings you can pass these on in terms of lower prices and greater market share. All this and more is possible when you focus on the variables behind your energy bill. Run the numbers. It deserves more attention than it often gets.

UK Government Updates ESOS Guidelines

Britain?s Environment Agency has produced an update to the ESOS guidelines previously published by the Department of Energy and Climate Change. Fortunately for businesses much of it has remained the same. Hence it is only necessary to highlight the changes here.

  1. Participants in joint ventures without a clear majority must assess themselves individually against criteria for participation, and run their own ESOS programs if they comply.
  2. If a party supplying energy to assets held in trust qualifies for ESOS then these assets must be included in its program.
  3. Total energy consumption applies only to assets held on both the 31 December 2014 and 5 December 2015 peg points. This is relevant to the construction industry where sites may exchange hands between the two dates. The definition of ?held? includes borrowed, leased, rented and used.
  4. Energy consumption while travelling by plane or ship is only relevant if either (or both) start and end-points are in the UK. Foreign travel may be voluntarily included at company discretion. The guidelines are silent regarding double counting when travelling to fellow EU states.
  5. The choice of sites to sample is at the discretion of the company and lead assessor. The findings of these audits must be applied across the board, and ?robust explanations? provided in the evidence pack for selection of specific sites. This is a departure from traditional emphasis on random.

The Environment Agency has provided the following checklist of what to keep in the evidence pack

  1. Contact details of participating and responsible undertakings
  2. Details of directors or equivalents who reviewed the assessment
  3. Written confirmation of this by these persons
  4. Contact details of lead assessor and the register they appear on
  5. Written confirmation by the assessor they signed the ESOS off
  6. Calculation of total energy consumption
  7. List of identified areas of significant consumption
  8. Details of audits and methodologies used
  9. Details of energy saving opportunities identified
  10. Details of methods used to address these opportunities / certificates
  11. Contracts covering aggregation or release of group members
  12. If less than twelve months of data used why this was so
  13. Justification for using this lesser time frame
  14. Reasons for including unverifiable data in assessments
  15. Methodology used for arriving at estimates applied
  16. If applicable, why the lead assessor overlooked a consumption profile

Check out: Ecovaro ? energy data analytics specialist 

Server Application Solutions – Don’t Let Spreadsheets Hold Your Business Back

The problems and limitations of spreadsheet-based systems are well documented. That’s why we at Denizon have come up with ways to give you freedom from these UDAs (User Developed Applications). With the server application solutions we offer, your IT and financial system can be:

Totally devoid of spreadsheet risks

By getting rid of spreadsheets, you also get rid of broken links, incomplete range selections, accidental deletion of cells, incorrect copy-pasting and other spreadsheet-related slip-ups.

In their place, we offer a faster but more robust and reliable centralised system. Errors are substantially minimised by built-in controls, while inconsistencies are avoided because changes made by one user are automatically reflected on the data delivered to others.

Built-in business-critical controls

Some solutions are designed to add control features on spreadsheets. We believe that such features can only be truly effective in today?s fast-paced and dynamic business environment if they are already inherent in the design of the IT solution; not something that’s merely added as an afterthought.

For one, while these band-aid solutions may succeed in adding controls, they don’t get rid of the slow, tedious, and time-consuming processes that accompany spreadsheet systems.

Less prone to fraud

Weak controls and the absence of reliable audit trails are two factors that encourage fraudsters to prey on spreadsheet systems.

With our server-based applications solutions, your data is protected by user-based access controls that allow users to see only the information that they’re supposed to see and modify data which they have been granted sufficient access rights to.

Our solutions also produce clear audit trails for painless tracking, viewing and searching of user-entered changes. This will enable you to pinpoint who changed what, as well as where and when the changes were made.

Ready for regulatory compliance and beyond

When better controls are enforced, financial reports become more reliable. That should give your company the edge it needs to easily comply with SOX as well as other regulations and, as a consequence, build stakeholder confidence.

And because our solutions can churn out accurate reports for regulation compliance at shorter turnaround times than spreadsheet systems, you end up saving more man-hours. That should give your team more time to innovate, analyse information and deliver goods or services to your customers faster.

Designed for agility

Let’s face it. Spreadsheets, which used to serve as nifty ad-hoc business tools, are no longer suitable for agile organisations. When faced with the demands of rapidly changing markets and dynamic environments, spreadsheets can instead slow a business down.

Multi-dimensional reports, dashboards, report filters, drill-downs, collaboration and automated reporting, budgeting and forecasting capabilities are needed for gaining insights and making fast critical decisions.

Sad to say, your trusty spreadsheet application is not designed to provide these features. Hence, it’s time to move on to the type of solutions that are.

Our solutions can transform your IT and financial systems and make them better-equipped to meet the demands of today?s rapidly changing economic environment. With features designed for agile businesses, our solutions can help you tackle change with ease.

Automatic consolidation eliminates errors and wasted time caused by tedious copy-pasting of data and linking of cells.

Better collaboration capabilities allows team members to bring their heads together for planning, budgeting and reporting even while on the go.

Mobility support enables users to input data or retrieve information through their wireless mobile devices.

Superior sharing features ensures that everyone is exactly on the same page and viewing real-time information.

Dashboards provide insightful information at-a-glance through KPIs, graphs and various metrics.

Drill-downs enable users to investigate unusual figures and gain a better understanding of the details that contribute to the big picture.

Easy to learn interfaces allow your organisation to cope with fast personnel turnaround or Mergers & Acquisitions.

More Spreadsheet Blogs


Spreadsheet Risks in Banks


Top 10 Disadvantages of Spreadsheets


Disadvantages of Spreadsheets – obstacles to compliance in the Healthcare Industry


How Internal Auditors can win the War against Spreadsheet Fraud


Spreadsheet Reporting – No Room in your company in an age of Business Intelligence


Still looking for a Way to Consolidate Excel Spreadsheets?


Disadvantages of Spreadsheets


Spreadsheet woes – ill equipped for an Agile Business Environment


Spreadsheet Fraud


Spreadsheet Woes – Limited features for easy adoption of a control framework


Spreadsheet woes – Burden in SOX Compliance and other Regulations


Spreadsheet Risk Issues


Server Application Solutions – Don’t let Spreadsheets hold your Business back


Why Spreadsheets can send the pillars of Solvency II crashing down

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