Devine Intervention – Intervening by Getting Caught Stealing Company Cookies

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Please do not send the Sept. and Oct. payment together in one wire transfer. Anything over $10,000 wired could draw too much attention.”
Alleged email written by Paul Shim Devine on October 5th, 2007

Is your business-critical information walking out the door?

A few months ago Ipswitch conducted a survey at an RSA Conference. The line of questioning regarding visibility into files moving out of organizations produced some shocking results:

  • 83% of IT executives surveyed have no idea what files are moving both internally and externally at their organizations.
  • 25% of IT professionals surveyed admitted that they used personal email accounts to send files that were proprietary to their own organizations, with the intent of using that information in their next job.

Both of those figures are frightening. Some companies have refused to seriously consider these numbers, so consider this tale as devine intervention (yes, that’s a play on Paul Shim Devine’s name.) This is the saga of one man getting caught with his hand in the cookie jar. It’s actually a perfect example of the reality and consequences of not knowing what files are moving in and out of your organization. It’s the story of a recent case involving Apple and Paul Shim Devine.

See Martyn Williams’ article for the full details, but here’s the 2 cent version. Back in April 2010 “Apple investigators discovered a Microsoft Entourage database of e-mails and a cache of Hotmail and Gmail messages on Devine’s Apple-supplied laptop. The company took a copy of the drive and began working through its contents,” and as for what they found Apple says “the e-mails contained details of payments, and the supply of confidential information that began in October 2006 with a Singaporean company called Jin Li Mould Manufacturing.”

This is happening. Employees are using private e-mail accounts to transfer confidential company information, but really, how often is this happening?

Not only is it common, but it’s startling in its frequency,” said Ipswitch’s own Hugh Garber, recently quoted in a ComputerWorld article.

Garber goes on to say that it’s not always done with bad intentions and that “of course, most of that privileged information misuse is not malicious. Many of the times, it’s your hardest-working employees just trying to get the job done.”

To Hugh’s point, that’s true. I know that in other jobs that I’ve had I’ve emailed spreadsheets or word docs home (to my Yahoo account) to work on so I wouldn’t have to schlep my laptop home.

But what about the “other” kind? How do you deal with the malicious kind?

I received your e-mail on my Apple account. Please avoid using that e-mail as Apple IT team will randomly scan e-mails for suspicious e-mail communications for forecast, cost and new model information.”
Alleged email written by Paul Shim Devine on Sept. 16, 2008.

Ok, that’s one way. Randomly scanning emails for something suspicious. Seems like a good policy to have. Do you know where your organization is in terms of these kinds of policies?

With hundreds of data breaches over the past five years resulting in multi-million-dollar consequences, it’s hard to believe that organizations still don’t have the right solutions in the right places to protect sensitive information,” said Frank Kenney, VP of Global Strategy at Ipswitch File Transfer. “You may be investing heavily on business applications and their inherent security requirements but if you’re not monitoring and enforcing policies with respect to the information moving both internally (between business applications and people) and externally (between you and your business partners and collaborators), the consequences are dire.”

You can check out more of what Frank has to say on this issue, and see what else Hugh has to offer.

And, with this issue in particular, we’d love to hear your thoughts. Do the numbers surprise you? What is your organization doing? Any crimes or misdemeanors you’d care to confess to?

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