Security-must-enable-people-Code42-Blog

Security Must Enable People, Not Restrain Them

Do you ever think about why we secure things? Sure, we secure our software and data so that attackers can’t steal what’s valuable to us — but we also secure our environments so that we have the safety to do what we need to do in our lives without interference. For example, law enforcement tries to keep the streets safe so that civilians are free to travel and conduct their daily business relatively free of worry.

Now consider how everyday police work keeps streets safe. It starts with the assumption that most drivers aren’t criminals. Officers don’t stop and interrogate every pedestrian or driver about why they are out in public. That type of policing — with so much effort spent questioning law-abiding citizens — would not only miss spotting a lot of actual criminal behavior, it would certainly damage the culture of such a society.

There’s a lot we can learn about how to approach data security from that analogy. Much of cybersecurity today focuses on trying to control the end user in the name of protecting the end user. There are painful restrictions placed on how employees can use technology, what files they are able to access and how they can access them. Fundamentally, we’ve built environments that are very restrictive for staff and other users, and sometimes outright stifling to their work and creativity.

This is why we need to think about security in terms of enablement, and not just restraint.

“ Security should be about enabling people to get their work done with a reasonable amount of protection — not forcing them to act in ways preordained by security technologies. ”

Prevention by itself doesn’t work

What does that mean in practicality? Consider legacy data loss prevention (DLP) software as an example. With traditional DLP, organizations are forced to create policies to restrict how their staff and other users can use available technology and how they can share information and collaborate. When users step slightly “out of line,” they are interrogated or blocked. This happens often and is mostly unnecessary.

This prevention bias is, unfortunately, a situation largely created by the nature of traditional DLP products. These tools ship with little more than a scripting language for administrators to craft policies — lots and lots of policies, related to data access and how data is permitted to flow through the environment. And if organizations don’t have a crystal-clear understanding of how everyone in the organization uses applications and data (which they very rarely do), big problems arise. People are prevented from doing what they need to do to succeed at their jobs. Security should be about enabling people to get their work done with a reasonable amount of protection — not forcing them to act in ways preordained by security technologies.

This is especially not acceptable today, with so much data being stored, accessed and shared in cloud environments. Cloud services pose serious challenges for traditional DLP solutions because of their focus on prevention. Since so many legacy DLP products are not cloud native, they lose visibility into what is happening on cloud systems. Too often, the result is that people are blocked from accessing the cloud services they need. Once again, users are treated like potential criminals — and culture and productivity both suffer.

This is also a poor approach to security, in general. As security professionals who have been around a while know, end-user behavior should never be overridden by technology, because users will find ways to work around overbearing policies. It’s just the law of governing dynamics and it will rear its head when the needs of security technologies are placed above the needs of users.

Where’s the value for users?

There is one last area I’d like to go over where traditional DLP falls short when it comes to providing user enablement, and it’s an important one. Traditional DLP doesn’t provide any tangible value back to staff and others when they are working in an environment protected with legacy DLP. All they typically get are warning boxes and delays in getting their work done.

In sum, traditional DLP — and security technology in general — doesn’t just prevent bad things from happening, it also too often prevents users from doing what they need to do. They feel restrained like criminals for simply trying to do their jobs. In actuality, a very small percentage of users will ever turn malicious. So why should we make everyone else feel like they are doing something wrong? We shouldn’t.

Code42 Next-Gen DLP

At Code42 we believe it’s essential to assume the best intentions of staff and other users. That’s why Code42 Next-Gen Data Loss Prevention focuses on identifying malicious activity, rather than assuming malicious intent from everyone. It’s why the product is built cloud-native: organizations aren’t blind when it comes to protecting popular cloud services, and users aren’t blocked from working the way they want to work. It also doesn’t require policies that need to be created and forever managed that pigeonhole users to work certain ways.

Finally, we believe in providing value to the end user. It’s why we provide backup and restore capability in Code42 Next-Gen DLP. This fundamentally gives users the freedom to make mistakes and recover from them, and it gives them the knowledge that that their data is also protected and safe.

Because it doesn’t block or interrogate users every step of the way, we believe Code42 Next-Gen DLP helps users to be more secure and productive, and enhances organization culture. It also provides the security team the opportunity to be an enabler for their end users, not an obstacle.

In this sense, Code42 Next-Gen DLP is a lot like good police work. It gives its users the freedom they need to move about the world without every motion being questioned for potential malicious intent. This is a very powerful shift in the workplace paradigm; users should be empowered to behave and collaborate as they want without fear or worry regarding the security technology in place.

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