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CSO Journalist

Oz watchdog eyes whitelisting as “reasonable” privacy measure

Dec 07, 20122 mins
Data and Information SecurityMalwarePhysical Security

Enterprise information security in Australia could come under much greater scrutiny with the nationrsquo;s Information Commissioner looking to drill down deeply into the details of an organisationrsquo;s security practices after a breach.

The Office of the Australian Information Commission (OAIC) has sought feedback on a wide range of security factors that could become part of how it assesses ldquo;the steps that the entity took to protect the informationrdquo; and ldquo;whether those steps were reasonable in the circumstancesrdquo; during a breach investigation.

The consultation paper puts forward whitelisting and patching as candidates to join the ldquo;reasonable stepsrdquo; guidelines it will look for when assessing an organisationrsquo;s compliance with Australiarsquo;s privacy laws.

Whitelisting, which only permits approved files, applications and content on a network, is traditionally viewed as an extreme but the Defence Signals Directorate recently placed it as a highly-effective method of mitigating malware threats.

Under the guidelines put forward for debate, OAIC investigators could be asking:

Is whitelisting of applications employed? Is whitelisted filtering of email content employed? Is whitelisting of web domains and IP addresses employed?

Other questions include whether an organisationrsquo;s systems are fully patched, have up-to-date antivirus, how and where encryption was used, what type of authentication was employed and whether network security was up to scratch.

ldquo;Are operating system functions that are not required disabled?rdquo; the OAIC asks, flagging potential risks for organisations harboring, for example, old Java versions on office desktops.

Removing or disabling unneeded software, operating system components and functionality from a system reduces its vulnerability to attack. Disabling functions such as AutoPlay or remote desktop, if they are not required, can make it harder for malware to run or an attacker to gain access, the OAIC points out.

Questions over access include whether multi-factor authentication was required to access sensitive material, how liberally administrative privileges were doled out, and whether systems demanded strong passwords.

Security related questions also in scope canvas physical security, penetration testing, data breach response procedures, and personnel security, which would ask whether an organisation trains staff to be aware of social engineering or phishing.

The closing date for comments is Monday 7 January 2013.

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CSO Journalist

Liam Tung is a seasoned tech reporter who's been covering cybersecurity, privacy, business, and legal issues that shape the tech industry in the US, Europe and Australia. Over the past decade, his work has frequently been distributed on influential tech news aggregator sites including Techmeme, Reddit, and Hacker News, the news-sharing site run by Silicon Valley accelerator, Y Combinator. Liam has worked with IDG Australia's since 2011 and today remains one of its key contributors, offering news and insights into the latest ransomware threats from cybercriminals and government surveillance, as well as new initiatives from government cybersecurity agencies and global tech giants, including Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, Oracle and the many companies and organizations that specialize in cybersecurity. He's always on the lookout for the latest information about vulnerabilities and cyberattacks that could compromise the integrity of your data.

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