HOUSTON—We live in a world where gadgets allow people to collect and send information at warp speed. We download, Tweet, text, use e-mail and Facebook. But what makes users’ lives convenient also makes them vulnerable.
Take the case of Julian Assange, the founder of Wiki Leaks who was briefly arrested and could be charged with espionage after leaking classified military information. The information, investigators say, came from Army Private Bradly Manning, who reportedly took a Lady Gaga CD and downloaded diplomatic cables and thousands of war documents onto it before handing it over to Assange.
It was a simple, but devastating, security breech by Manning, who’s in military prison and could be sentenced to 52 years if convicted.
"You have to believe that someone was asleep at the wheel," said Umesh Verma, CEO of Houston-based Blue Lance, which provides security software for everything from banks to health care reform. "Our company tracks access from the moment an individual logs onto the system."
Verma’s not referring to hackers, but employees.
"We feel uncomfortable about monitoring our own people, but that’s where the biggest risk is," he said.
The risk includes people with flash drives that can be disguised as simple objects like a key or wrist band. Verma says people can bring them to work, download sensitive information and walk out.
Hospitals have become a major target of security breaching because of all the personal information kept on record.
The Harris County Hospital District, for example,serves 800,000 patients.
Tim Tindle, the hospital district's chief information officer, said it monitors every employee online.
"We have softwares and systems in our data center that prevent all of our computers from being able to write to any memory device at all, without specific authorization," he said.
The hospital district got stricter on flash drives two years ago after an employee took one home, then lost it. Now only a few workers get them, and the flash drives now have have an encryption that prevents unauthorized persons from using it.
In an ever-changing cyber world, the Army has discovered what many Houston companies already know: that the biggest high-tech threat may be the threat within.