The Insanity of Your Network – Storing Keys in the Same Place as Everyone Else

by | Sep/10/2018

Imagine that you have a fleet of dozens of expensive vehicles, and you keep all of their keys in a locked cabinet. There is a master key that opens the cabinet.

You assign your IT team the responsibility to secure and manage the keys to the vehicles, so you give each member of your IT team a copy of the master key.

Here is where it gets crazy: Suppose that there is a well-known tradition, in all companies, for IT professionals to store their master keys in the top drawer of their desks. Unfortunately, if someone wants to steal a vehicle, they know right where to find a master key. They can take all the cars once they gain access to the master, and they know exactly where to find it.

In the real world, your IT team has the responsibility to secure and manage your most sensitive data. In doing so, they have the master keys that unlock all the other keys. It is a tradition to give all IT professionals, and even outside consultants, keys to the master lockbox. The shocking part is that all IT professionals are encouraged to store the master keys in the same place, in the default well-known security groups named schema, enterprise, and domain admins.

Your IT team must create new security groups, with different names, in which to store the master keys. It is crucial that the new groups only provide specific privileges to member users on a need to know basis. It is ok if this strategy is new to them.

To measure this, ask your IT professionals to show you what users are members of those default security groups. Discuss moving those users into specific groups that provide the least amount of access they need to perform their work. Depending on the complexity of your system, this may take more time. IT professionals are always busy, so discuss with them their current projects, then prioritize this essential security improvement accordingly.

Storing master keys in a well-known location is absurd, and it is likely that you are doing that now.