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Introduction to User Access Security Commonly Asked Questions Policy Issues User Access Security Countermeasures User Access Security Checklist A person with a "need-to-know" has been designated by school officials as having a legitimate educational or professional interestin accessing a record. Introduction to User Access SecurityUser access security refers to the collective procedures by which authorized users access a computer system and unauthorized users are kept from doing so. To make this distinction a little more realistic, however, understand that user access security limits even authorized users to those parts of the system that they are explicitly permitted to use (which, in turn, is based on their "need-to-know"). After all, there is no reason for someone in Staff Payroll to be given clearance to confidential student records. It Really Happens!Kim approached Fred cautiously. As the security manager, she knew how important it was to gather information completely before jumping to conclusions. "Fred, my review of our computer logs shows that you have been logging in and looking at confidential student information. I couldn't understand why someone in Food Services would need to be browsing through individual student test scores, so I thought I'd come by and ask you."Fred looked up at Kim as he if was surprised to be entertaining such a question. "Are you forgetting that I'm authorized to access student records?""You're authorized to access specific elements that relate to a student's free- and reduced-price lunch eligibility," Kim clarified. "That's the limit of your need-to-know.""I didn't know that my access was limited," Fred asserted honestly. "I figured that if my password got me into a file, it was fair game."Kim paused, realizing that it might be reasonable for Fred to have assumed that he was allowed to read a file if his password gave him access. "Hmm, I see your point, Fred, but in truth you shouldn't be accessing student record information that isn't related to your legitimate educational duties. I'm not going to make a big deal of it this time, but from now on, limit your browsing to the free- and reduced-price lunch information. In the meantime, I'm going to send a memo out to staff reminding them what need-to-know really means.""And you might want to reconsider how our password system works," Fred added. "It would have beenvery clear to me that I had no business in a file if my password wouldn't get me in."An organization cannot monitor user activity unless that user grants implicit or explicit permission to do so! While there is no question that an organization has the right to protect its computing and information resources through user access security activities, users (whether authorized or not) have rights as well. Reasonable efforts must be made to inform all users, even uninvited hackers, that the system is being monitored and that unauthorized activity will be punished and/or prosecuted as deemed appropriate. If such an effort is not made, the organization may actually be invading the privacy rights of its intruders!An excellent way of properly informing users of monitoring activities is through the opening screen that is presented to them. By reading a warning like the one that follows, users explicitly accept both the conditions of monitoring and punishment when they proceed to the next screen. Thus, the first screen any user sees when logging into a secure computer system should be something to the following effect:Never include the word "Welcome" as a part of the log-in process--it can be argued that it implies that whoever is reading the word is, by definition, invited to access the system. W A R N I N G !This is a restricted network. Use of this network, its equipment, and resources is monitored at all times and requires explicit permission from the network administrator. If you do not have this permission in writing, you are violating the regulations of this network and can and will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. By continuing into this system, you are acknowledging that you are aware of and agree to these terms. Commonly Asked QuestionsQ. Is it possible to have a secure system if you have employees who telecommute or work otherwise non-traditional schedules?A. Yes. While particular countermeasures might need to be adjusted to accommodate non-traditional schedules (e.g., the practice of limiting users to acceptable log-in times and locations), a system with telecommuters, frequent travelers, and other remote access users can still be secure. Doing so may require policy-makers to think more creatively, but each security guideline needs to be customized to meet the organization's needs anyway (see Chapter 2). Q. Is the use of passwords an effective strategy for securing a system?A. Just because password systems are the most prevalent authentication strategy currently being practiced doesn't mean that they have become any less effective. In fact, the reason for their popularity is precisely because they can be so useful in restricting system access. The major concern about password systems is not their technical integrity, but the degree to which (like many strategies) they rely upon proper implementation by users. While there are certainly more expensive and even effective ways of restricting user access, if risk analysis determines that a password system meets organizational needs and is most cost-effective, you can feel confident about password protection as long as users are implementing the system properly--which, in turn, demands appropriate staff training (see Chapter 10). Q. Are all of these precautions necessary if an organization trusts its staff?A. Absolutely. While the vast majority of system users are probably trustworthy, it doesn't mean that they're above having occasional computing accidents. After all, most system problems are the result of human mistake. By instituting security procedures, the organization protects not only the system and its information, but also each user who could at some point unintentionally damage a valued file. By knowing that "their" information is maintained in a secure fashion, employees will feel more comfortable and confident about their computing activities. Initiating security procedures also benefits users by:
The internet first became available to citizens in Iraq around the year 2000.3 At the time, the government adopted wireless internet service as a temporary means of access until suitable fixed-line networks could be created to deliver fast and reliable broadband service. However, most users still depend on costly satellite connections or Wi-Fi hotspots from private companies that often operate without licenses (see A4). Telecommunications companies note that infrastructure limitations make penetration and bandwidth improvements difficult. Because of these factors, mobile broadband has become the preferred method to get online, as fixed-line connections are more costly and difficult to obtain (see A2).4
Despite recent investments, service is unreliable. A report published in 2019 warned that many internet users faced a risk of service termination within two years. It found that more than four million homes in Iraq, minus the Kurdistan region, received wireless service from just 20,000 towers, and the infrastructure was not keeping up with increasing demand.8 Service is also threatened by constant power outages. A majority of schools and libraries still have no internet access at all. Most cafés provide internet access as a free service for customers, but the quality is poor.
Because the Kurdistan region has some ISPs that operate separately from those in the rest of Iraq, it is not necessarily affected by internet shutdowns in the south.2 However, KRG authorities have implemented their own network disruptions. In December 2020, thousands of people in the Kurdistan region participated in peaceful protests, demanding payment of their salaries and calling on the government to hold snap parliamentary elections. The demonstrations turned violent as security forces responded with excessive force. On December 7, the KRG shut down an opposition media channel and restricted internet access across the region for about eight hours.3
In October 2019, antigovernment protests erupted in various cities across Iraq. The government instituted a massive internet shutdown to quell the demonstrations, and social media and communications platforms were blocked nationwide, aside from the Kurdistan region.4 Access to social media was not restored for up to 50 days in some places.5 In November, the Coalition against Blocking the Internet, an alliance of civil society groups, sent a letter to the communications minister urging the government to keep the internet on during protests.6 Similarly, in July 2018, antigovernment protests broke out in Basra and spread to other cities. Authorities restricted internet access on July 14 to limit coverage of the protests, and social media sites were completely inaccessible for several days, even though internet connectivity was restored on July 15.7 A report from Amnesty International quoted sources saying that internet service was cut to prevent people from sharing images that showed the use of excessive force, including live ammunition, against the demonstrators.8
In December 2020, thousands of people in the Kurdistan region participated in peaceful protests, demanding payment of their salaries and calling on the government to hold snap parliamentary elections. The protests started on social media, where activists and citizens alike planned sit-ins and demonstrations. On December 7, the KRG responded by restricting internet access across the region for about eight hours (see A3).1 2b1af7f3a8