August 19, 2013

Our take on the NSA’s decision to cut back on sys admins

NavalA couple of weeks ago, the NSA Director, General Alexander was quoted in a Reuters article saying that in order to limit data access and potential leakage, they will cut back on 90% of NSA system admin staff.

This statement drove lots of criticism, since it makes no sense to cut back on critical staff in a very disproportionate way, which makes us believe that there is something else there…

"At the end of the day it's about people and trust," Alexander said.

Maybe he should have phrased things a little differently: "At the end of the day it's about people and trust, plus monitoring the people you trust."

It seems like the real issue is not the number of people, but rather the number of people who hold administrative privileges. What you really need to cut is administrative privileges from 90% of the people.

Administrators should not be immune to scrutiny. In order to refrain from the next Snowden-like issue, segregation of control should be implemented, necessitating a collusion of at least two individuals of different teams to leak the data.

To do so, the security team should be supplied with a compensating monitoring system over files and database access which:

  • The administrator has no control of
  • Can only monitor access to the data rather than actually accessing the data(eliminating another potential backdoor)

”In God We Trust, All Others We Monitor”

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