I'm building a software that requires a lot of security for the data. The user data in essence is very sensitive. So we are building a lot of encryption, 2 step authentication, app call tokenization etc., Now our DBA's and support admin have access to this data via tokenized database interface calls, no direct database manipulation. They also have to login, essentially to support issues that come from the field. For instance if there is some record corruption in the database and a user complaint comes in, the DBA's and admins can login and find the user data and try to correct the corruption. But this means essentially they will be accessing the user data. Is this ethical given the amount of security we are putting in. Is there an industry standard way of accessing this data (possible contractual agreements that this data is not leaked, granting selective permissions etc.,)? Or are there other secure ways of doing this?

  • Are you sure your concern is "ethics"? – schroeder May 8 '15 at 6:04
  • well yes and no. My concern is that I shouldnt be crossing the lines legally in accessing the data and also it should be the ethical way of doing it, and also not hinder the support teams and pretty much render them useless if there are issues and the data cant be accessed, if that makes sense – Vrashabh Irde May 8 '15 at 6:08
  • I think it is related to your terms of service and privacy policy in the company, if users accept that when they use your services and consequently in critical situation admins or specific users have access to that, it is not only unethical but also is professional. – Ali May 8 '15 at 6:12
  • You need to be able to access customer data in order to properly provide the service they contracted you for, so access IS ethical on that basis alone – schroeder May 8 '15 at 6:12

A lot of a correct answer for you will be up to the jurisdictions that you are subject to (laws, regulations, contracts with customers, etc.)

But, as for industry standard ways of dealing with access to customer data, you would need:

  • a ticketing system to record the request by customers for changes (and thereby, permission to access)
  • clear separation of duties for all parties to ensure that no one individual can by-pass controls
  • logging of all systems involved to trace the activity of the data access and also to show the state of the data before and after the access
  • independent internal auditing of all of the above to make sure it all happened according to plan

But, as I said, the details of all of these things will depend on the laws and regulations that you are subject to.

  • Thanks, the ticketing permissions make sense. I think continuous internal auditing is pretty important and that was what I was thinking too – Vrashabh Irde May 8 '15 at 6:11
  • Separation of Duties is very important and tricky to implement - if you don't have that, then the rest is moot. – schroeder May 8 '15 at 6:13
  • Thanks, well we are thinking that we have clear seperation of concerns for employees, those who have been deemed to have permissions to access and those who haven't, and put systems in place for unauthorized access. – Vrashabh Irde May 8 '15 at 6:15
  • Least Privilege goes hand in hand with Separation of Duties and should also be incorporated into the process. – amccormack May 8 '15 at 15:11
  • Follow up question: security.stackexchange.com/questions/97735/… – Vrashabh Irde Aug 26 '15 at 9:11

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