Security In The Digital Age
Threats to the safety and security of any business network come in all shapes and sizes.
In the physical world, security vulnerabilities are often fairly easy to spot, predict and plan for. Security systems against fire, burglary and any number of other maladies can be implemented and monitored without much hassle. But things change when we move from the realm of the larger world into the murky environment of cyberspace.
Strong network security is imperative for any business, as our entire economic infrastructure becomes a more intrinsic part of the Internet and global communications.
Any company’s private, internal network can fall prey to viruses, Trojan Horses, brute force attacks, malware, botnets, Distributed Denial of Service attacks and other malicious software at any time without the right protection.
A decade or so ago, losing the corporate network for a day wasn’t a big deal. Today, it’s downright show-stopping. Everything we do from VoIP to billing runs through the Internet or some other inherently insecure public network.
This quick guide will give you an idea of what you need to protect and secure your business network as well as how to choose the right software to accomplish it.
The First Line of Defense
The first line of defense against network attacks starts at the firewall, the face that your network presents to the rest of the world.
In a nutshell, firewalls can be implemented as hardware or software to stop suspicious and potentially harmful web traffic from either entering or exiting the network or an individual PC. This can be achieved through a variety of methods. Blocking threats from passing through the filters set up by software and hardware firewalls prevents malware infestations from infecting your system, and from causing too much damage if they should get through.
Ordinary home Broadband Gateways and routers already come equipped with firewalls to filter IP packets and block traffic from dangerous sources. Business class routers come with the same built-in functionality designed to handle more secure connections as well as support for VPNs.
D-Link is one of the many companies that provide world-class security with the small business office in mind. Netgear and Linksys also make powerful routers and gateways that feature cutting edge, top of the line firewall protection that are easily configurable and flexible to suit your own specific needs.
Virtual Private Network Basics
Many businesses deal with the complexities and problems presented by Virtual Private Networks (VPNs). VPNs give companies a fairly reliable, practical and secure way to wall themselves off from the insecure public network of the Internet.
Basically, VPNs use tunneling protocols and encryption to pass information from one part of the network to another through the Internet in such a way that those not on the network can’t access it. For more information and a better general overview of the subject download the free white paper Network Security and the SMB from SANS.
The essential security concerns of VPNs are fairly easy to grasp, although the implementation often demands the help of qualified professionals. Technologies such as IPSec and SSL/TLS each have their own benefits as well as drawbacks.
IPSec has trouble with some firewalls but tends to be more secure, while the SSL and TLS cryptographic tunneling protocols are more flexible but use TCP and as such can be more vulnerable to packet sniffing and other security threats. The Cisco AnyConnect VPN service is a reliable tool and offers the right level of security for small businesses.
Making sure VPNs are properly installed and configured both for in-house machines as well as mobile workers and remote PCs is incredibly important. Common solutions also include OpenVPN using OpenSSL security encryption, though there are plenty of proprietary solutions that accomplish the same goals.
The service you decide on depends on your budget, what kind of IT staff you have to manage your VPN, and how large your network is going to be. If you’d rather have the details taken care of for you a proprietary solution is typically the best bet.
Security Software Essentials
Cisco SMB Solutions is an extremely effective and affordable way to manage security risks. They feature software suites that cover every aspect of security from firewalls to VPN software to intrusion detection and Anti-virus software.
Responsible IT professionals and business owners should install heavy-duty Anti-virus software on every machine within a firm’s Virtual Private Network. Though the VPN as well as the firewall should stop most intrusions, you still need protection should anything happen. McAfee, Norton, Kaspersky and a handful of others provide excellent protection. Microsoft also offers protection for Windows networks in the form of Microsoft Security Essentials.
Of course, there is the DIY route relying on open source software. Advantages include robust security and the fact that using GPL-based software such as OpenVPN, OpenSSH, free firewall programs and Linux don’t cost anything. However, this approach does mean more work on the part of the business employing it, as the techniques require more technical know-how and maintenance.
Each specific appplication of security software depends on the situation and the business. If you’re unsure of which way to go, you may want to consider outside consulting from security experts specializing in corporate network safety.
In Summary: Hire the Best
Hopefully, you’ve attained a good overview of the threats and dangers inherent in network security in today’s business landscape as well as some tips on combating them. When it comes to implementing network security software and best practices to protect your company’s network, the best advice is to hire good people. Trust in experts. Good network security and the peace of mind it brings is always going to be worth the cost.