Monday, September 10, 2012

DLP and encryption

The “Security Manager’s Journal” series of articles from Network World are a really nice way to understand the day to day challenges of real Infosec shops out there. Today’s article, “DLP tool is suddenly blind to email”, is a very interesting example of the challenges related to DLP and encryption. However, the most interesting aspect of Today’s article for me is the approach around decision making for the issue reported.

Summarizing the post, the author says they had implemented a DLP solution, but recently it stopped finding data leaving by email. It was found that the issue was caused by opportunistic TLS encryption between their Exchange server and the cloud based anti-spam solution. After finding that the author goes about the potential solutions to allow the DLP system to inspect the encrypted traffic.

What I found interesting about the article is that he never mentioned the alternative to disable encryption. WHAT?? ARE YOU FREAKING NUTS?? Yes, I’m serious. I mean, encryption is always good, but let’s consider it; email hitting the anti-spam provider will probably be delivered to the final destination unencrypted. So, what’s the real benefit of encrypting it between their Exchange server and the anti-spam system? Is it more valuable than the ability to scan (and block?) the outbound messages for data leakage?

That was something that I’d like to see when issues like the one described are discussed. We know that security is always about trade-offs, and this case is about a slightly different trade-off: one control for another. How would we compare the value of the controls? What’s the organization priority on this case? Those are all questions that would help understanding the scenario and adding a more mature risk management spin to the whole thing.

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