By now you will probably have heard of the infamous Edward Snowden, who stole data that was held by the NSA then decided to announce key parts of it publicly. Well last week we actually found out that our best mate SharePoint, may have been a guilty party to!
First the facts…
To discover the source of this announcement watch this video and watch from about 27 minutes. The key phrase Alexander uses is “This leaker was a System Administrator and ran the SharePoint account at NSA Hawaii, so his responsibility was to move data..”
Interestingly, if you watch from 45:15, you will also hear “This leaker was a System Administrator who was trusted with moving information to actually make sure the right information was on the SharePoint Servers that NSA Hawaii needed.” This makes it sound as though he was loading it into SharePoint ,rather than downloading it.
This is contrary to a few reports that came out last week such as :
- ‘NSA chief leaks info on data sharing tech: It’s SharePoint‘ by the Register.
Anyway, for the purposes of this discussion, let’s get some artistic license and assume it WAS in SharePoint 😉
My question is to both SharePoint Administrators and Developers alike! What can we do to make SharePoint more secure and could this have been prevented ? All though they don’t say, let’s make the assumption that the data was stored in standard document libraries.
To help frame the answer, think about :
- What technologies in SharePoint and available as an add-on can we use ? (Some promo is fine 😉
- How can we ensure that the currently logged on user is that user ? Are there different log-on mechanisms that simple user name and password ?
- Can we encrypt the data in SharePoint ?
- Can we audit who, what, when where ?
- Can we put some extra controls in when the documents are being downloaded ?
- Can we lock down Sys Admin privileges ?
- Can we require certain actions in SharePoint to need two users to approve ?
- If he was a SysAdmin could he just go straight to the database ?
If you can’t answer all the questions that’s expected! If you know about a particular area, e.g. auditing then share your knowledge on that. Maybe there’s a nice reference document to be made out of all the answers! Share your experiences, especially if you have worked on a SP farm that requires security clearance!
more great info here: http://investigations.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/08/26/20197183-how-snowden-did-it?lite
The takeaway: if you do bad things, your sysadmins may feel an ethical obligation to expose said bad things.
They’re the guys setting up all the security and safeguards for everyone else.
Stop doing bad things.
Excellent relevant post today by Bruce Schneier on this subject:
(Stefan’s reply about firmware is another generally overlooked point)
In the end, It’s all about Human Beings.
Very interesting topic..
The key factor is human….
As human being we have the ability to ignore rules, polices etc…There are tools, products and techniques which can prevent unauthorized user gaining access, but with top level access how do you protect against that…
The more secure the environment the more pre-employment vetting is undertaken before that individual is allow access, but once access is granted there are no more safeguards.
Until something changes Humans are required and always a risk.
– inability of the system to isolate access to metadata and data (actually, at the item permissions level, access is granted to both data and metadata indistinctively)
I have also faced this one, and the way around it according to me is to separate the data from the metadata, separate items.