DSS News
                D. J. Power, Editor
          June 3, 2007 -- Vol. 8, No. 11

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* Ask Dan: How can managers and technology staff secure 
decision support data and decision support systems?
* DSS Conferences
* What's New at DSSResources.COM
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Ask Dan!

How can managers and technology staff secure decision support data
and decision support systems?

by Dan Power

Using computers to support business decision making is mission
critical in many companies, but security for such systems is often an
after thought. Data security and privacy are also important but often
neglected concerns related to computerized decision support. A
data-driven DSS used for performance monitoring or ad hoc business
intelligence queries should be secure and the data should be
protected. Many of the interchanges facilitated by a
communications-driven DSS are sensitive and should be kept
confidential. The knowledge bases of most knowledge-driven DSS are
proprietary and should be protected. The models in model-driven DSS
describe important relationships that should be kept secret from
competitors. Finally, document-driven DSS often access, analyze and
monitor sensitive documents. maintains a chronology of major data breaches that
have been reported since January 10, 2005. In the past 30 months more
than 700 incidents have been reported, approximately 23 per month. A
data breach occurs when there is unauthorized access to sensitive
data. DSS of all types use, transmit and generate sensitive data. 

The following examples highlight some common problems. On January 9,
2007, 5 laptops were stolen from Towers Perrin, allegedly by a former
employee, that contained names, SSNs, and other pension-related
information of Altria and United Technologies. In December 2006,
MoneyGram, a payment service provider, had a company server unlawfully
accessed over the Internet. The server contained information on about
79,000 bill payment customers. In mid-December 2006, a laptop computer
containing taxpayer data was stolen from the car of a North Carolina
Department of Revenue employee. On February 2, 2007, an employee of
the New York Department of State posted commercial loan documents to a
Website that mistakenly contained Social Security numbers. The forms
are posted to the Web to let lenders know the current financial status
of loan recipients. On February 9, 2007, a programming error resulted
in personal information of 65,000 individuals being exposed on the
East Carolina University's Web site. On February 10, 2007, a hacker
gained access to the official Indiana State Web site and obtained
credit card numbers of individuals who had used the site's online
services and gained access to Social Security numbers for 71,000
health-care workers. On February 19, 2007, credit and debit card
account information including PIN numbers was stolen by "high-tech
thieves" who apparently broke into checkout-line card readers and PIN
pads at Stop & Shop Supermarkets (in Rhode Island and Southern
Massachuesetts) and tampered with them. On March 12, 2007, a former
contract worker of Dai Nippon, a Japanese commercial printing company,
stole nearly 9 million pieces of private data on customers from 43
clients, including Toyota Motor. On April 9, 2007, a Nebraska woman
using Turbo Tax online was able to access tax returns for other Turbo
Tax customers in different parts of the country. On May 15, 2007, an
unnamed vendor lost computer tapes containing information on IBM

So what are major security problems for computerized decision
support? Stolen computers, especially laptops and handhelds, hacking
and unauthorized access to servers, mistaken public postings of
information to Web sites, programming/software errors, data theft
using technology, data theft by former employees,
inadvertant/unauthorized access to Web-based systems, and lost/missing
data. We have been dealing with some of these problems for many years,
but the development of the Internet has significantly increased the
likelihood that a network accessible DSS will be breached. 

Most managers realize that security for DSS is an important topic.
The problem is actually determining how to secure the systems and
avoid data breaches. Improving security for decision support
applications involves addressing a number of issues. First, managers
and MIS staff must determine DSS security needs. Based on the needs
identified by managers and staff, we should implement any required
security measures and fix any technical problems. Once appropriate
security is in place, someone must monitor the system and any new
security problems that are identified should be fixed quickly.
Finally, both managers and MIS staff need to stay informed about new
security problems and methods for breaking into information systems.
Both managers and MIS staff need to assume shared and equal
responsibility for the security of Decision Support Systems and
decision support data (cf., Jones, 1998, Power, 2002).

A recent CIO Insight research study on IT security (May 31, 2007)
"shows increased spending on anti-virus/spyware/malware software,
identity management and authentication, encryption, security education
and training and security consulting services." The danger is that the
focus will be on infrastructure and transaction processing and that
decision support applications will receive insufficient attention.

According to Wikipedia, application security "encompasses measures
taken to prevent exceptions in the security policy of an application
or the underlying system (vulnerabilities) through flaws in the
design, development, or deployment of the application." Decision
support applications should be audited using a protection profile that
is appropriate. The protection profile should vary for the 5 different
types of DSS! Also, managers should specify the security requirements
for the DSS they regularly use.

I'm a DSS generalist, so I decided to get some help for this column
from a security specialist, David Friedland, Vice President of
Business Development for Innovative Routines International,
CoSort/IRI, Inc. He responded by email to four more specific questions
relevant to DSS security. David has a business degree from University
of Albany (SUNY).
Why use ETL tools to encrypt and protect data before it is moved to a
data warehouse?

Friedland: "ETL tools can encrypt data before it moves into a data
warehouse when there is a need to protect specific database columns
from hackers."

What can managers do to maintain the security of decision support

Friedland: "They can protect it at the physical level to some extent
with special access rules and procedures, including database and disk
encryption. But those methods are often overkill because they cut off
access to all the data from decision support systems, including the
safe data. They can instead ... protect data at its source (in files)
during ordinary processing and reporting, by specifying a security

What is the role of access security to limit use of decision support

Friedland: "Tools like CoSort's Logon Security restrict and audit
on-line access according to business rules. Similarly, field level
protection rules can be assigned by the data governance office and
applied via different security functions (e.g. encryption libraries
and pass keys) to limit the access to, and exposure of, sensitive data
flowing through decisioning systems."

Friedland: "To the extent that protected data limits the use of data
for decision support because it was morphed prior to, or removed from,
analytic applications, the protection scheme can surely interfere with
decision support jobs. It is another reason why we offer a choice of
protection functions to preserve the look and feel of the original
data, and why CoSort's encrypted output displays with only printable

Who has responsibility for preventing security and privacy breaches?

Friedland: "The chief information security officer (CISO) or head of
the data governance office is usually responsible for identifying and
securing personally-identifying "data at risk." That said, privacy
legislation in effect for various industries (like HIPAA for
healthcare) may hold higher level executives accountable for
non-compliance, and it they don't, shareholders reeling from lawsuit
and remediation expenses ultimately will. For these reasons, it is
important that companies not only take steps to protect data at rest
and in motion (preferably at the source), but that their tools provide
an audit trail so compliance activities can be specifically verified.
It is not enough to protect -- you must be able to prove proper steps
were taken to protect the data."

What about other actions?

Power: Companies can implement a virtual private network (VPN) to
communicate confidentially over a public network. A VPN can be a cost
effective and secure way for a corporation to provide users access to
the corporate network and for remote networks to communicate with each
other across the Internet.

Power: Companies can also implement proxy based firewalls. An
application layer firewall actually inspects data packets prior to
interaction with a Web-based DSS.

Wikipedia: "Social engineering awareness - Keeping employees aware of
the dangers of social engineering and/or having a policy in place to
prevent social engineering can reduce successful breaches of the
network and servers. ... Social engineering is a collection of
techniques used to manipulate people into performing actions or
divulging confidential information."

In general, a company needs a Computer Security Policy (CSP) to
ensure the safe and organized use of IS/IT resources. A CSP is a
document that sets out rules and principles that affect the way an
organization approaches security problems. A company should specify
security policy for each specific DSS.

The DSS security problem is expanding. In a May 30, 2007
Computerworld article, David Haskin writes "Mobile security threats
are a relatively minor annoyance to a handful of users in Europe and
Asia. However, conditions are rapidly ripening for these threats to
start overwhelming both companies and individual users in North
America." He quotes Kris Lamb, director of the Xforce team at Internet
Security Systems. Lamb said "The trend toward making mission-critical
data available to mobile users is just starting and will grow rapidly
... and some of the factors contributing to that growth will also
benefit hackers."

Security should be a proactive rather than a reactive issue in

As always your comments and suggestions are welcomed.


Chabrow, E., "CIOs Set IT Spending Priorities,", May
31, 2007,
last accessed June 3, 2007. 

Conway, R. W., W. L. Maxwell, H. L. Morgan, "On the implementation of
security measures in information systems," Communications of the ACM, v.
15 n.4, p.211-220, April 1972.

Friedland, D., Email Interview on DSS Security, May 29, 2007.

Haskin, D., "Five reasons to prepare -- now -- for more mobile
security threats,",
last accessed June 3, 2007.

Jones, D., A University Course on Systems Administration, Department
of Math and Computing, 1998.

Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, "A Chronology of Data Breaches," URL, 
last accessed June 3, 2007. 

Power, D.J., Decision Support Systems: Concepts and Resources for
Managers, Westport, CT: Quorum/Greenwood, 

Power, D.J., Decision Support Systems Hyperbook, Cedar Falls, IA:
DSSResources.COM, HTML version, 
2000, URL ,
last accessed June 3, 2007.

The SANS Institute, URL .

Wikipedia, "Application Security," URL ,
last accessed June 3, 2007. 

Wikipedia, "Computer Security," URL ,
last accessed June 3, 2007.

Wikipedia, "Social engineering (security)," URL
last accessed June 3, 2007. 

Thanks to Betsy Scherzer for arranging the email interview with David


Check the Reflections with Jim Courtney at DSSResources.COM


DSS Conferences

1. AMCIS 2007, Americas Conference on Information Systems,
Keystone, CO USA, August 9-12, 2007. SIG DSS mini-tracks.
Check .

2. DaWaK 2007, 9th International Conference on Data
Warehousing and Knowledge Discovery, Regensburg, Germany,
September 3-7, 2007. Check .

3. Pre-ICIS SIG DSS Workshop, Sunday, December 9, 2007, 
Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Check 


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What's New at DSSResources.COM

05/27/2007 Posted an interview with Tom Davenport "Competing on
Analytics". Check the interviews page.

05/21/2007 Posted Jim Courtney Reflections on Decision Support. Check
the reflections page.


DSS News Releases - May 18 to June 1, 2007
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05/23/2007 Standard Register invests in the future with Teradata

05/23/2007 Oracle announces Oracle DW Information Appliance
foundation on Dell and EMC.

05/23/2007 MicroStrategy selected by Netflix as enterprise business
intelligence standard.

05/22/2007 EMC drives innovation in transactional content management
with next generation Documentum platform.

05/21/2007 Reportive unveils new rapid application development
platform - Reportive V8.

05/21/2007 Campbell Soup company heats up customer satisfaction with


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