8 Questions to Ask When Thinking About Network Security
A new CenturyLink Infographic detailed the four most dangerous cyber security threats headed our way in 2016, and it paints a rather ugly picture. They are:
- DDoS attacks – overwhelming a server with bogus traffic in an attempt to disable sites.
- Phishing schemes – luring email and messaging recipients into clicking links that contain malware. While once easy to spot, these messages are getting more sophisticated and harder to identify.
- Poor patch management – IT personnel are perpetually frustrated by the number of employees who don’t update their browsers or applications with updates. Many of these updates are to patch security holes that hackers can use to exploit vulnerabilities.
- Employee errors – Aside from poor patch management, many employees also lose work-issued devices, fail to use strong passwords, or simply neglect common sense when using the Internet from work.
These four cyber threats aren’t new, but they’re still dangerous. Before sounding companywide alarms, the first order of business is to conduct an audit. Ask and answer the following questions, and you can help build your self-awareness of your company’s network and data security vulnerabilities, and then start 2016 with some level of network protection beyond software and/or hardware.
- What’s your company’s current digital footprint? Think not only about how people are using what’s visible, but also how they’re using IRC/ICQ message channels or other groups. It’s crucial to identify areas where people can (mistakenly) expose corporate information about employees, partners or other stakeholders. Think like a hacker!
- What are employee or partner vulnerabilities that can cause damage?
- What are the vulnerabilities of your network, applications in use, and other IT resources being used? A thorough documentation of all IT infrastructure will help you paint a picture of what needs attention.
- When was the last time you conducted a comprehensive scan of ports, vectors, and protocols? The most common malicious network scans search for vulnerabilities in a standard range of 300 ports on a network where most vulnerabilities are found. It’s not uncommon, however, to have over 60,000 ports on your network, and hackers are getting more and more sophisticated.
- How does your network interact with outside parties? Many companies have client logins and other network access points. Access your network as an outsider might and see what information is required and how easy it is to gain entry.
- How does your network interact with inside parties? We all like to believe that every employee is a loyal asset, but unfortunately that isn’t always the case. Try accessing sensitive areas of the network from the inside and see what protocols are currently in place and which may need updating.
- What wireless security protocols are currently in place? Almost all organizations today have wireless access to networks – for employees or guests. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, even removable storage devices, all contain potential entry points for hackers. All it takes is for someone to pop a rogue USB flash drive into their laptop for a sophisticated hacker to take advantage of a weakened network.
- When was the last time you briefed employees on social engineering dangers? Social media is ripe with opportunities for hackers to gain personal information that can be used against your employees for access to your systems and networks. Take the time to speak with them and update your written policies about social media protocols.
As we enter 2016, there will likely be even more talk of sophisticated network security crimes, and we’ll certainly share some updated stats on what we can expect. In the meantime, take the time to ask yourself these questions. The answers will shed light on what needs to be done to make your network secure in 2016 (and beyond).