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Send  Share  RSS  Twitter  07 Mar 2012

INFOTECH: Your Network Has Been Compromised


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Unsanctioned devices, compromised networks, downtime – today's IT is all about embracing imperfections. In a perfect world, your network would suffer no downtime and be locked down tight. However, the gap between this dream and cold hard reality just gets wider every day.

“More and more workplaces these days resemble a geeky party that's strictly BYOD (bring your own device). The problem‘ Many IT departments either never got an invitation or failed to RSVP,” says Simon Campbell-Young, CEO of Phoenix Software. A survey done by IDC last year found that 95 percent of information workers used self-purchased technology at work, roughly twice as many as executives in those surveys estimated. IDC predicts use of employee-owned smartphones in the workplace will double by 2014, so ignoring the security aspect of this is very short-sighted.”

The iPhone Revolution

The iPhone revolution is here to stay, and tech departments can either enable them to be used securely or risk the consequences. “Unless IT supports the devices and technologies users demand, the users will simply go around IT and use personal tech for business purposes," Campbell-Young adds. "That is a much more dangerous situation from a security standpoint than supporting the consumer devices in the first place."

Everybody wants their networks to be easy to manage and hard to breach. What they usually settle for, though, are security appliances that are hard to manage and easily compromised. The solution to this is an effective security program loaded on every machine, allowing IT departments to find where the nasties may be lurking, such as inside a peer-to-peer app or an encrypted social network, and making it easier to remove any infections.

"Modern malware has become so pervasive and so adept at hiding within our networks, that according to a Computer Security Institute survey, 4 out of 10 organisations experienced an incident such as a malware infection, botnet, or targeted attack in 2011; another 10 percent didn't know if their networks had been breached. A smarter approach is to start with the assumption your network has already been compromised and design security around that,” says Campbell-Young.

Social Networks the Cause of Malware Infections

The greatest risk to corporate networks at the moment comes from malware infections distributed via social networks. Campbell-Young explains that the behaviour of people using social media is like their behaviour using e-mail 10 years ago. “With email, we've learned to never click on anything. But inside social media, people click on every tiny URL because they trust the sender. That's why botnets that were successfully rebuffed five years ago are now coming back via social media.”

And to make matters worse, malware is not the only risk factor on social networks. Nearly one out of four organisations in the US has lost sensitive data when employees spilled the beans online – and South Africa is following hot on America’s heels. “Even organisations that use social media security solutions or data loss prevention tools can't keep Facebook fans or Twitter heads from spilling company secrets or other embarrassing facts to the world,” Campbell-Young points out. “What's most important is education. Educate, re-educate, and educate again. Put technology-coaching solutions in place, where you can remind users of the risks regularly and remind them also of your company policy about visiting sites that are not relevant to business. And above all, ensure that you have a good security software suite installed on your company network."

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