SEC Workers Fail to Encrypt Computers with Sensitive Information
November 9, 2012 9:12 AM
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Sources say workers involved are being disciplined
With the myriad
high-profile hacks and attacks on government and corporate computer systems around the world
, it's easy to believe that the U.S. federal government and its many arms would do all they can to keep its networks secure. However, that is not always the case.
reports that workers at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission failed to encrypt some of their computers that contained highly sensitive information from stock exchanges. The failure to encrypt the information left data vulnerable to cyber attacks according to people familiar with the situation.
The computers left unencrypted reportedly belonged to a small number of employees in an office within the SEC Trading and Markets Division. That particular division is tasked with ensuring that various stock exchanges follow guidelines to protect the markets for potential cyber threats and system problems.
That makes it incredibly ironic that the employees tasked with ensuring systems are protected from cyber threats would leave their own computers unprotected.
Some of the staffers are known to have taken the unprotected computers to a
Black Hat convention
where computer hackers gather. There is no clear indication of why the staffers would have taken unencrypted and unprotected computers into the hackers den.
The SEC insists that no data was breached from the insecure computer systems. However, the SEC was forced to spend around $200,000 to hire a third-party firm to conduct a thorough analysis to come to that conclusion.
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11/9/2012 1:55:24 PM
I agree. At the very least it should have been the local IT department's rule (although it should really have been a directive from the head person at the SEC) that all the computers in their care have encrypted HDD prior to use, which again points at the IT department for not having such a rule. I'm sure they wouldn't forget to load their favourite antivirus software, so how come they thought it was ok to not have an encrypted HDD? The only logical answer is because they have lots of HDD that aren't encrypted, which is stupid because PCs are often sold when they are deemed "out of date", and people have often resurrected data from "erased" HDDs in the past. If every computer did have an encrypted HDD, and one "escaped the net" and was sold without having the HDD securely erased ... Do I have to ask? Do they have a policy regarding this?
As an aside, I do wonder what indications the new computers would have given if they did or didn't have encrypted drives to their new owners. When I bought this computer it booted up to Windows 7 in just seconds (I removed it and loaded a Linux distribution), so how is a new owner supposed to know the HDD wasn't encrypted?
Is it possible for the LAN to be set up so that there is an immediate indication given that a computer doesn't have an encrypted HDD, e.g. no one can login on it?
I think these employees are just being made scapegoats for the failure of a whole department of "yes men".
"Paying an extra $500 for a computer in this environment -- same piece of hardware -- paying $500 more to get a logo on it? I think that's a more challenging proposition for the average person than it used to be." -- Steve Ballmer
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