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Send  Share  RSS  Twitter  17 Jun 2011

INFOTECH: A Holistic Approach to Business IT Security

 





Recent Gauteng Business News

Cyber criminals are becoming increasingly resourceful and cunning and the
sophistication of attacks threatening businesses today has reached
unprecedented levels. Added to this is the growing reality of cyber
espionage which threatens to divulge sensitive and sometimes confidential
organisational information.

The need for security is clear, but with the ever increasing number of laws
and regulations governing data protection and accurate reporting the need to
prove this security has also increased, on top of shrinking budgets and a
desire to decrease administrative efforts. Research and experience have
proved that connected enterprises face a large number of threats which are
serious, pervasive and are constantly on the increase.

A slap-dash approach to security will no longer suffice, and organisations
need to adopt a holistic approach to security that covers the whole field of
information security activities in a consistent and unified way if it is to
meet the evolving needs of today's world.

Step 1: Develop and enforce IT policies

The security landscape of the enterprise has changed, with increasingly
complicated environments that include mobile devices as well as remote
workers, geographically distributed organisations and the need to offer
services to internet users that ultimately equate to a business network
without physical boundaries. This means that simply deploying security
products is no longer enough to protect the business.

The physical infrastructure still requires protection, because the old
threats have not gone away, but any modern security policy needs to focus on
protecting information. To develop such a policy it is vital to understand
the nature of the threats faced as well as any regulations and legislation
that may apply to a particular business. Policies should specify operational
parameters and should be carefully monitored and enforced across the
enterprise.

Step 2: Identify your main vulnerabilities

In order to understand where the main vulnerabilities lie, a risk assessment
of operations, including IT systems, needs to be conducted. This provides a
basis for identifying and prioritising areas that need to be addressed.
Vulnerabilities may exist in IT spaces, but equally business and operational
processes as well as people themselves can present areas of vulnerability.
It is no longer possible to address external or internal vulnerabilities as
separate entities; they are both equally important and must be dealt with in
security policies.

Step 3: Protect the information

There is today an increasingly broad range of threats facing computers and
mobile devices that have access to the internet, including malicious
applications, inappropriate actions by the user, theft of the device, loss
or misuse of detachable media such as USB sticks, and interception of
communications between the device and servers.

This means that even when information is held on servers or in a data centre
is must be protected from these threats as well as from issues with backup
and threats from insiders who have administrator level privileges. Data
protection also needs to ensure that data is available when it is needed,
and should make certain that reduplication of data occurs to minimise
storage requirements.

Step 4: Authenticate user identities

Good information security requires organisations to limit the people who are
able to access sensitive data and what they are able to do with the data as
well as to know who is accessing what information when and why. As an
example many people may be able to read a file but it may be desirable to
only permit a few to modify this or take it out of the organisation. For
auditing and compliance purposes it is also often necessary to know who has
accessed particular files. For this reason it is important to have a system
that validates user identities for the purpose of accessing information.
This need is even more prevalent in remote circumstances, in which case a
secure VPN link is required to protect data from being intercepted. Data
usage policies should always include reliable identification of users for
maximum security.

Step 5: Manage systems

If the configuration of the system is not well understood this introduces
inevitable insecurities, so good system management is vital in ensuring a
secure infrastructure. Virtualisation has introduced new challenges in this
space, as multiple virtual machines are created for specific and often
temporary needs. These redundant machines can then cause a risk of data
leakage and so need to be carefully managed.

Step 6: Protect the infrastructure

While a lot of emphasis today is placed on securing and protecting
information, it is still vital to ensure adequate protection and maintenance
of the physical network and infrastructure. Infrastructure still needs
protection from malicious attacks and botnets, both from an internal and
external perspective.

The damage that can be caused by malicious software is well understood and
denial of service attacks need to be stopped before they can penetrate the
network. All components of a network require protection from malware,
including end-points, servers, email systems and so on. A large proportion
of malware these days comes from infected websites and legitimate websites
being hacked, so it is also vital to protect users while they are browsing
the web.

Since data availability is important for maintaining business activity, data
backup and recovery also play important roles in protecting data. And with
the increasing move towards virtualisation, infrastructure security also
needs to include not only the physical platforms but also the hypervisors on
which virtual machines run.

In conclusion

Adapting to the new security challenges facing connected enterprises today
is no simple task, and requires a very specific, well thought out approach
to ensure that data and users are kept as secure as possible at all times.
The consequences of data leaks and compromised machines are well known,
making the need for security even greater than ever before. A holistic
approach to business IT security and data protection which covers each of
the six aspects mentioned above is vital to ensure security, and therefore

vital to business continuity in the modern world.


 
 
 
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