Online Safety Tips, Security Education

Staying off of the suspect list

Often, we’re our own worst enemy.  We do things that make us a likely target for blame.  In other words, we’re on the suspect list.  We receive the blame when something goes wrong because of our actions or the access we maintain.

The idea is to keep yourself and other off of that list.  First of all, it disrupts the investigation in finding the true source of the problem.  Second, it causes others to distrust those on the suspect list, even if their innocent.  The best way to prove innocence is to have a clear name from the onset.

Often security professionals and IT managers have access to many systems, applications, or facilities. They believe it’s required because of their position or responsibility.  The problem is that having access puts them on the suspect list.  Many times I’ve been accused when there were network issues.  “Were you running one of your security scans again?” was a common statement aimed at me just because I had the ability to run scans, not that I did.

Often other activities may add us to the “suspect list”, such as browsing the Internet, transferring documents from home to work and vice versa, clicking on links in email, or installing freeware or shareware applications on a work computer. While they’re not bad in and of themselves, these actions do have potentially dangerous consequences.

Here are five things you need to do to keep yourself off of the suspect list:

  • Limit your access.  This is the concept of least privilege.  If you don’t need it or don’t use it every day, disable or delete your access to it.
  • Only use administrator privileges when you administer the system.  If you’re always logged as an admin, then you’re just asking for trouble.
  • Freeware isn’t always free and shareware may mean your sharing more than the program.  Finding programs on the Internet may save money in the short run, but they occasionally contain hidden malware than can take down your system.
  • Think before you click.  Be aware of where you go on the Internet.
  • Keep your secrets secret.  If you allow others to use your login id or badge, then that person is you and you’ll be on the suspect list if something goes wrong. Badges and passwords are like gum, it’s not cool to share once used. 

Security’s objective is to keep people off of the suspect list.  We know that the great majority of our work force wants to do what’s right.  We want to help you.  Like the police, our objective isn’t to get you into trouble, but to keep you out of trouble.  Consider what you should do to keep yourself and others off the suspect list.  It will make your life much easier.