10 SharePoint Security Mistakes You Probably Make
Bradley Manning allegedly stole sensitive government cables destined for WikiLeaks from a SharePoint server. Are your information security controls tighter than the Army's were?
Consider the case of Bradley Manning, the Army intelligence analyst who's accused of leaking 250,000 government cables to WikiLeaks. According to an Army investigator who testified at a hearing to determine if Manning should face a court martial, one of Manning's laptops contained an Excel spreadsheet, containing a tab with multiple Wget scripts--designed to download large numbers of files--that "pointed to a Microsoft SharePoint server" that stored documents for the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base detention facility, reported Wired. The investigator further testified that "he ran the scripts to download the documents, then downloaded the ones that WikiLeaks had published and found they were the same."
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Similarly, any business that relies on SharePoint to store confidential--or even sensitive--information should know who's accessing that data, and why. What's the best way to make this happen? Start by avoiding these 10 stupid, but common, SharePoint security mistakes.
[ Check out other tips for optimizing your SharePoint performance. See 5 SharePoint Pitfalls To Avoid. ]
1. Poor security training. According to a survey of 100 SharePoint users conducted by security vendor Cryptzone at a November 2011 SharePoint Saturday conference, 92% agreed that removing information from SharePoint made it less secure, but 30% were willing to take that risk "if it helps me get the job done." Obviously, there's a disconnect at many businesses between security and productivity. Worryingly, 34% of respondents also said they'd never even considered the security implications surrounding SharePoint.
2. Collaboration barriers. Likewise, the survey found that 45% of users regularly copied sensitive or confidential data from SharePoint to their hard drive, to a USB drive, or to email it to someone else. In the majority of cases (55%), this copying was to facilitate information-sharing with someone who lacked access to the SharePoint documents. This highlights the need for businesses to put clear policies in place regarding how information can be shared, and then to monitor access and enforce policy compliance.
3. Unclear security oversight. Who's responsible for SharePoint security? At 69% of businesses, the Cryptzone survey found that access management responsibility fell to in-house IT administrators. But 22% of respondents--which included SharePoint users, administrators, developers, and architects--didn't know who was responsible, which suggests that there's a lack of oversight and thus access accountability at their businesses.
4. Overly broad access rights. When it comes to access, less is typically more. "One of the most common issues we see with SharePoint is end users having access privileges that are far too broad," said Enterprise Management Associates (EMA) senior analyst Torsten Volk, via email. "It's a lot of work to properly create user roles and map them to Active Directory," and even more work to keep them updated, revised, and removed after employees depart. According to Scott Crawford, managing research director at EMA, this challenge "has given rise to vendors such as Aveksa, Varonis, and others" to analyze usage patterns and determine likely data custodians.