6 Common-Sense Security Measures Every Business Should Adopt
December 27, 2012 8:45 AM
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Beware threats from both within and without; protect employee privacy; secure your networks via education
Today's workplace is a massive nightmare for information technology folks when it comes to security. But by emphasizing consistent, workplace-wide policies and by enforcing reasonable access limits, a company safeguard itself against both internal and external data loss.
Let's discuss a few keys to maintaining a secure workplace.
1. Rule BYOD, don't let BYOD rule you
Most businesses are going to let employees bring their own devices (laptops, tablets, etc.) to do work with. But holding seminars on how to keep private and workplace data is crucial.
must be managed with a clear and consistent policy, with well-defined limits to prevent your IT employees from accessing personal data.
BYOD can save costs, but poses unique privacy and security risks.
[Image Source: Andrew Hinderaker]
That way if employees do choose to bring devices and their privacy is violated, the liability will lie not with your management, but on the staff member who violated that trust. Likewise, if the employee engages in inappropriate behavior (say viewing adult videos at work) you'll have the analytics to challenge them as necessary.
2. Ban USBs, CD Burning; go to an Internal Cloud
An internal cloud is a much more secure solution than allowing employees to share and transfer files via physical media such as USB sticks or CDs. Not only can such media
, but it can also be used by a malicious employee or person posing as an employee to steal valuable trade secrets from your firm.
If your private cloud is properly designed and firewalled from the external world, it not only will allow you employees to share information more easily, it will also cut off a major source of data loss.
Banning physical media
is a smart idea and easy to do with today's technology.
3. Adopt the Latest Software
Still kicking around Internet Explorer 7? Kicking it with Windows XP? Quit it.
Old software is a security risk. If it is patched, it is often patched at a sordidly slow pace. And there's typically a lot of it lingering around here and there, so inevitably it's a highly attractive target for malware authors.
We know you loved Windows XP, but it may be time to move on. [Image Source: Microsoft]
While few businesses have the need or resources to upgrade with every single release of Windows and every single new browser release, many should put a bit more effort into staying up to date. And if you're testing software for older browsers or other older platforms with inherent security risks, be sure to isolate them from your other networks. Just ask Google Inc. (
) which saw
IE 7 test machines exploited by Chinese hackers
to steal data off its network.
Huge security risk, enough said.
5. Enforce Passphrase Use, Use Strong Hashing
Hold an employee seminar and explain how you can make a sentence into a password. A 30 or 40 character long password is very hard to break even with modern GPUs.
Like the sound of that? Do one better by also securely backing the password with the
most modern hashing algorithms
like SHA-256 or SHA-512. Combined these two techniques will make it virtually impossible to brute force your passwords.
6. Hold Education Seminars on Phishing, Spear-Phishing
Phishing -- sending malicious links inside innocent-looking email messages -- is a huge security risk for every company. Even the best password won't protect you if you go giving it to the wrong web-form. Teach your employees to watch their url bar in their browser and to avoid clicking on email links to access a site, unless they really trust them.
Beware spear-phishing, lest it compromise your employees who hold the most valuable files.
[Image Source: FBI (modifications: Jason Mick/DailyTech LLC)]
Special care should be taken to prevent
-- attempts to target specific high profile catches, such as a CEO/CTO/CFO's login information. You executives may moan and groan, but they're far to valuable to let them fall for such ploys.
Special screening of executive email can help cut down on spear-phishing threats as well. While staff obviously can't hand-screen every email message, it is practical to screen high-level management's messages for clear fraud/spam attempts.
Again a clear-cut policy to protect privacy must be enforced here, to prevent unfortunate incidents.
Following those 6 principles will take some work, but it will be worth it. After all, your firm is only worth as much as its security.
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Old software is a security risk?
12/27/2012 10:48:25 AM
Why wouldn't older, well-patched software be more secure than new software? New software will be old some day, will that make it less secure than it is now?
RE: Old software is a security risk?
12/27/2012 11:07:48 AM
Much of this depends on the software's exposure. For systems getting a lot of hacking exposure like Windows, some argue that a patched Windows XP system is more secure than a patched Windows 8 system since Windows 8 is untested. In this situation, I would argue than Windows 7 is the better option since it's newer than XP but has been in the wild for a bit and is still supported for quite some time.
In my IT circles, the general rule of thumb for production OSes is to wait about 1 year for most of the holes/issues to be plugged/fixed. Once it's been in the wild for a bit, then consider it for deployment. It typically takes a while to complete some base compatibility testing anyway if you're in the enterprise.
RE: Old software is a security risk?
12/27/2012 2:08:34 PM
Also, new OSes have additional security features. For example Vista added the UAC, an updated firewall, ASLR, and NAP.
My issue with old OSes is that people have had plenty of time to find exploits. While many of the big ones have been patched, I am sure there are many more which have not been reported, waiting to be exploited.
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