The phone on the desk buzzed. The CEO picked it up, expecting his assistant to let him know his next appointment had arrived. Instead he was told a person had called and wanted to discuss why his managers were paid less than some of their direct reports.
The CEO was puzzled, and worried, so he accepted the call.
“Did you know that you have programmers making more than some of their managers? ” the caller asked, quoting the specific people and their salaries.
The CEO did know, acknowledged this, but declined to discuss the matter. Instead he asked who was on the phone, and how did they know the salaries of his employees.
The caller declined to give their name, but told him that they had found a USB thumb drive outside on the street and had plugged it into a computer. A number of spreadsheets were on the drive, with one containing the salaries and organizational structure of the company. The called left the story there, promising to mail the drive back to the CEO.
The CEO was upset, and worried, but waited a few days to get a package in the mail. He had been planning to terminate someone for carelessness. However when he opened the package, he realized none of his employees was to blame. Instead, this was a device given to an auditor who was verifying the accounting practices of the company.
I don’t know the rest of the story, but it was given to me by someone that runs a decent sized company. It’s a scary story and shows a concern one that has nothing to do with most of us that work in technology departments. However this does show that there are always holes in our processes and practices. We need to consider the fact that many of the businesspeople we work with value convenience much more than security. We need to be sure we take precautions where possible, such as encrypting all data at rest, and in transit, wherever possible.
It might not be our fault, and it might not be something we’re blamed for, but I certainly would feel some guilt if I had copied the data onto the USB drive without providing additional security, such as encryption or at least a password.