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The CIA Triad and SharePoint

The propriety information that SharePoint propagates and builds upon is the essenc collaboration enabled organization. Protecting this information should be the primary goal of an organizational after the proper enablement of it, safeguarding it from intruders and attacks that may have malicious intent. This is especially pertinent in the case of SharePoint where the integrity of the stored business data is nothing but operationally critical. In this, a simple principle should be maintained. Users that can access the data should be able to do so easily and efficiently, whereas users that are not authorized to do so cannot. In order to enforce a certain standard, it is wise however for one to take this concept of security beyond a rudimentary level of access control mechanisms, since attacks can occur at the pipe, post transit, as well as when in archived storage.

The concept of the CIA triad is one of the methodologies that are immediately available to empower a user to properly structure their SharePoint security strategy. Within the concept of SharePoint which builds upon various objects having the option of being secured, this means that a SharePoint administrator must look at all of these objects when positioning himself/herself to secure SharePoint.

The CIA triad is composed of three main layers:

  • C – Confidentially
  • I – Integrity
  • A – Availability

How the CIA triad is applied to an organizational is a molded basis. It is never a uniform application since it requires taken each individual company and applying it as an aggregate framework. For each organization that implements SharePoint, the overall goals that they wish to achieve will be different, as well as the limits that the CIA objectives can touch tend to be excluded against the overall business strategy of the company. Whenever applying a security protocol however, it is best to think that the you are doing it to preserve a layer of the CIA triad.

Confidentially

Within any organization, the concept of confidentiality is ever present. Particularly in a SharePoint environment where the nature of the system is to aggregate business data this is an ever increasing problem that needs gentle application. The basis of confidentiality is that the base of a certain object, whether it is a Microsoft Office Word document, list item, or any other arbitrary SharePoint item, has not in any way shape or form been compromised by another party, and is only available to parties that require access to this data. The latter in general means that only trusted parties are the ones that have access to that data. There are a multitude of ways that a person may breach confidentially, whether it is through technical or social means, either through hacking and sniffing to calling up a support representative of a company and social engineering their way into the data that they wish to get access to.

Every party can be susceptible to committing an act that would breach confidentiality. Since SharePoint at its essence is a self service system, it is particular vulnerable to site / site collection owners causing the breach, particularly through social engineering tactics. Although an exact example of this is fairly impossible to give, it would in general just be an attacker posting as a trusted user attempting to gain access to a site collection. The problem with social engineering in the realms of creating the most secure collaboration systems is that it is often an endeavor that companies are not willing to pay for, since it results in high user training costs and proper security training.

Integrity

Somewhat related to the concept of confidentiality is the subject of integrity. When a individual posts a certain business asset to a site collection, there is the understanding that the data will not be tampered with either after-post or while the upload is happening. if the data is committed by any of these two breaches, the data is considered to be of failed integrity.

Integrity can be defined very simply as data that party A commits to SharePoint will never be modified or destroyed by any unauthorized party. Therefore, there are typically two points during the data transmission process where the breach of integrity could occur. When uploading a document to SharePoint from the origin to destination site collection, the user is assured that

  • the document during transmission will do so without any unauthorized tampering or modification
    where the document is stored is the target site collection without doubt. Otherwise the integrity of the arbitrary business asset is forfeited.

Establishing the concept of integrity is relatively simple for one to do. There are three main principles that are typically implemented against a SharePoint framework in order to achieve this:

  1. LUA (Least User Access) – The user only will need access to certain site collections. Spreading privileges to think will cause breaches in integrity.
  2. Rotate Duties – Rotate the site collection administrator permissions within an arbitrary web application in order for absolute control to be difficult to maintain
  3. Separate Duties – One person should never have complete control over the SharePoint environment. This task should be split across multiple parties to ensure failover points and separate trust within the collaboration environment.

Availability

Availability is a problem that occurs within any collaboration environment, and can be an operational killer. For a collaboration environment to properly build out virtual teams, it is essential that the SharePoint network have optimal uptime. Although availability does encapsulate the point of making sure that the environment is stable and maintained, it also houses the fact that users should be able to quickly get to the information that they require with little waiting time. The concept of availability is usually subject to calculating the Quality of Service that one can provide to their SharePoint users. The concept of QoS means that a standard will be maintained for all natural disasters, against technical attacks that may effect availability (such as a Denial of Service attack), and that a redundant collaboration environment is architected in order to promote the highest level of failover.

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