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Protect What's Precious

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"Staff turnover is higher not because of dissatisfaction, but because we use a lot of hourly student staff," he says. "The issues of access control and identity management are critical for us specifically for that reason. I don't think we've done enough in terms of coordinating that among the entire university establishment."

His school is taking steps to strengthen authentication and get away from simple passwords, which Oliver describes as problematic. Plans for a new research facility include using smart cards to log onto thin clients.

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But for Quantum's Bartlett, trying to implement internal controls at the company, which has about 50 employees, is easier said than done. Anything that slows down access is a hard sell.

"Because of the friendly environment, it's sometimes hard to get people to willingly put a block between [them] and the information, even if it's in the best interest in the long run," he says.

Plus, while protective measures help, they won't necessarily stop a determined malicious employee, notes Jay Martin, security manager at D&E Communications, a provider of phone, Internet and other services in Pennsylvania. The proliferation of devices like USB keys among a staff of about 500 makes the job of data protection even harder.

"In the end, if you have a trusted user who is planning to leave the company or is disgruntled, you can authenticate all day but it's still hard to prevent them from taking the data from their screen and putting it to some use that wasn't intended," he says.

This was first published in December 2006

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