I have encountered a situation where sensitive data files are saved unencrypted to server file directories temporarily for 1 to 30 minutes before being sent to a destination application. The data files are not full extracts from the source application, but files for discrete time periods. For example, if the files was obtained by an unauthorized person they would have one day's data, not the full year's data if the person where to obtain the data directly from the source. The servers that temporarily host the data are behind a firewall, have access control restrictions in place, are patched, and scanned for vulnerabilities. The data is encrypted at rest at the source and destination applications, and during the remainder of the transmission process. I am curious about the following:

1.) In the grand scheme of things does this represent a major exploitable risk or a minor security risk? I realize this answer might be influenced by the content of the file as well as other mitigating controls not mentioned.

2.) What are some general scenarios where this gap could be exploited?

Thank you all!

1 Answer 1


This is a generic vulnerability, for example Insecure Temporary File - OWASP .

You ask if this is "a major exploitable risk or a minor security risk". That is the wrong question -- a vulnerability is not a risk. For example, using the Internet Security Glossary a risk is "An expectation of loss expressed as the probability that a particular threat will exploit a particular vulnerability with a particular harmful result." You have one of the parameters -- the particular vulnerability -- but you need to know what kind of harmful result you are expecting (probably disclosure of sensitive data) and then a particular threat and the likelihood that that threat can exploit the data.

Suppose the material is quite sensitive indeed, whose disclosure can put the company at risk. Suppose that a system administrator has access to the temp directories, and is curious and clumsy or disgruntled. The risk could be very high indeed!

You describe some protective controls. The servers are enclaved and perhaps you have done your diligence -- but without more information, there isn't any way to know.

That's why the job of a security officer is interesting. :-)

  • The problem that most come to face is the security creep, where it gets to a point that everything needs the highest amount of protection. But! Eventually it has to be decrypted somewhere insofar as it has to be viewed or worked upon.
    – munchkin
    May 8, 2015 at 1:04

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