One of the great things about the Internet is that it allows isolated assholes to connect and communicate like never before. Thus Rothman and I, mere professional acquaintances and friendly faces at a few industry events, can engage in deeper dialog, dragging any of our loyal readers down with us. (Mike and I are the assholes, not you guys. Except maybe for Will). I like it when smart guys like Mike push me, it makes for better analysis.

I published a little on data security a few weeks ago, and Mike calls for a simpler approach. I thought about it a lot, and it gave me a great idea for a new way to position data security within the data life cycle. The bad news is I’ll be publishing it through Gartner, since that’s sort of what pays the bills. It’s also why I can’t completely expand on what little I wrote here on Securosis, that would be a conflict of interest.

The good news is that occasionally Gartner releases some of our research free to the public.

Below I’ve pasted the complete text of a press release issued by Gartner a few months ago. It’s based directly on a research note I authored, one of the more popular security notes, that any of you with Gartner seats can go take a look at. It’s not often I can release research, but since this is now public material I should be safe. I’m reprinting the entire press release just to be safe.

Here ya go Mike. Not quite as simple as you asked for, but much more direct than the hierarchy-

Top five steps to limit data loss and information leaks: Gartner Public exposure of private data is becoming a regular occurrence, but the majority of these incidents can be prevented if companies implement the proper security best practices, according to Gartner. Gartner analysts have identified the top five steps to prevent data loss and information leaks: 1. Deploy Content Monitoring and Filtering (CMF) A CMF solution monitors all outbound network traffic and generates alerts regarding (or sometimes blocks) activity based on inspecting the data in network sessions. CMF tools monitor common channels, including e-mail, IM, FTP, HTTP and Web mail (interpreting the HTTP for specific Web mail services) and look for policy violations based on a variety of techniques. “CMF tools are best at detecting and reducing information loss from accidents, such as e-mailing the wrong file to the wrong person, or bad business process, such as exchanging HR data over an unencrypted FTP connection,” says Rich Mogull, research vice president for Gartner. “CMF won’t stop all malicious activity and can be circumvented by a knowledgeable attacker. Still, most information leaks are the result of these accidents or bad processes, and CMF is evolving rapidly to address more malicious attacks.” 2. Encrypt Backup Tapes and (Possibly) Mass Storage Gartner analysts highly doubt that many of the reported lost backup tapes containing consumer records eventually result in fraud. However, because there is no way to know for sure, companies have to assume exposure anyway. Encryption can ensure that the data will still be safe. “During the past few years, tools have emerged that significantly improve the performance, manageability and simplicity of encryption,” says Mr. Mogull. “For large tape installations, we recommend in-line encryption appliances. For tape drives connected to local systems or servers, companies may want to consider software encryption. Older mainframes may need an in-line appliance with an adapter for mainframe protocols, while new software solutions can take advantage of extra processors or cryptographic coprocessors in more current models.” 3. Secure Workstations, Restrict Home Computers and Lock Portable Storage Workstations and laptops can be a major source of loss, especially when a poorly configured or out-of-date enterprise or home computer is compromised by a virus or worm, and by losing portable storage media, such as a Universal Serial Bus (USB) drive or CD-ROM. “There’s really no excuse for not keeping an enterprise system up-to-date with the latest patches, a personal firewall, antivirus and anti-spyware software,” states Mr. Mogull. “These precautions alone will prevent the vast majority of commonly encountered Internet attacks.” 4. Encrypt Laptops If organizations give employees portable computers, employees will store sensitive data on it. Policies don’t matter: Users will always use the tools they acquire, and sensitive data will always end up in unexpected places. “There is only one tool to protect sensitive information on a lost laptop: encryption, preferably whole-drive encryption from a third-party vendor,” Mr. Mogull says. “Whole-driven encryption, as opposed to file and folder encryption, involves very little user action, protects all data on the computer, and is not vulnerable to the same kinds of recovery techniques that skirt the protections of passwords or other controls.” 5. Deploy Database Activity Monitoring. Most organizations struggle to secure existing databases that are rarely designed with effective security controls. While companies eventually need to encrypt some of the data in their databases, database activity monitoring is a powerful security control that”s easier to implement and more viable than encryption for many types of data. “Database activity monitoring tools observe all activity within a database, record this activity in a secure repository and generate instant alerts for unusual activity,” explains Mr. Mogull. “Through detection of unusual behaviour, database activity monitoring can limit insider misuse of database systems, enforce separation of duties for database administrators and limit certain external attacks, all without affecting database performance.” Additional issues related to the state of the security industry will be presented at the Gartner IT Security Summit, September 18-19, at the Royal Lancaster Hotel in London.