When I’m preparing for a webcast I usually send the sponsor a copy of the presentation so they can prepare their section. While I’m a huge stickler for keeping my content objective, they also usually provide feedback. Some of it I have to ignore, since I don’t endorse products and won’t “tune” content in ways that break objectivity (I’m quickly worthless if I do that), but I often get good general feedback ranging from spelling errors to legitimate content mistakes.

In prepping for the Oracle webcast on Friday, they caught a big gaping hole that I think is becoming a common mistake (at least, I hope I’m not the only one making it). It’s one of those things I know, but when running through the presentation it’s clear I drifted off track and muddled a couple of concepts.

Although the presentation is about preventative controls for separation of duties, many of my recommendations were really about least privilege. When I talk with people around the industry I’m not the only one who’s started to blur the lines between them.

According to Wikipedia (yes, validated with other sources), separation of duties is defined as:

“Separation of duties (SoD) is the concept of having more than one person required to complete a task. It is alternatively called segregation of duties or, in the political realm, separation of powers.”

Pretty straightforward.

But we often say things along the lines of, “you need to monitor administrators for separation of duties”. Well, when you get down to it that isn’t really SoD since the one user can still technically complete an entire task. We also talk about restricting what users have access to, which is clearly the concept of least privilege. Even auditors I’ve worked with make this mistake, so it isn’t just me.


So I don’t have to completely trash my presentation I’m using an informal term I call, “Real World SoD”. It’s a combination of detective controls, real SoD, and least privilege, Basically, we restrict any single individual from completing a task or having unfettered access without either preventative or detective controls.

Before you nail me in the comments, I’ll be the first to admit that this is not SoD, but for conversation and general discussions I think it’s reasonable to recognize that the common vernacular doesn’t completely match the true definition, and in some cases splitting hairs doesn’t do us any favors.

Just something to keep in mind. True SoD means splitting a task into parts, and we need to be clear about that; but I think it’s okay if we mess up sometimes and talk about multiple people also reviewing a task as a form of SoD. I do think we should be clearer about least privilege vs. SoD, but, again, I’m not going to lose sleep over it if we sometimes drift in our discussions as long as we have the controls in place.

Because that’s the really important part.


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