Magazine article Workforce Management

Steal Our Data, Please

Magazine article Workforce Management

Steal Our Data, Please

Article excerpt

Mike Saylor, who shows firms how vulnerable their most sensitive data is by taking it, says that even the most elaborate corporate security can be undermined by basic human nature.

INFORMATION SECURITY

As a consultant, Accretive Solutions' Mike Saylor has what might appear to be an unseemly, if not outright criminal, expertise. He's a self-taught expert at slipping past security perimeters and checkpoints at business facilities and stealing sensitive data.

But it's all good, because it's the corporate victims themselves who enlist Saylor and Accretive, a New York- based firm that helps companies to identify and fix holes in their information defenses. Often, Saylor says, the vulnerability that he discovers and exploits isn't a porous firewall or inadequate vetting procedures, but something even more insidious: basic human nature.

In one recent assignment, for example, Saylor was given the address of a Detroit debt collection agency, and instructions to obtain an assortment of personal credit reports stacked in a printer tray somewhere in the building. Saylor's preliminary surveillance revealed that the business had elaborate defenses against intruders, including an entrance checkpoint where a receptionist screened visitors and verified they had appointments and interior ones that could be opened only with security badges.

So Saylor chose to exploit what he says usually is the weak link in corporate security: the human factor. He walked into the lobby playing the part of a typical preoccupied executive, talking on a cell phone, with a bunch of paperwork in one hand and a Big Gulp in the other.

"I got past the receptionist without even talking to her, and people just opened the doors for me, because they didn't want to be rude," Saylor recalls. "I made it past two secured areas, found the printer, and made it out of the building with 39 confidential credit histories. …

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