Network Security Across the Enterprise

Today’s business networks consist of numerous remote access connections to employees and outsourcing firms. The security risks that come with those connections outside the network aren’t considered. The continuous improvement has been made to enhance security in the current network infrastructure. Paying special attention to users who access the network from outside and monitoring access to end-user points is crucial for businesses to secure the digital data they store.

Installing the right software for the requirements of the IT infrastructure is essential to having the best security protection available. A lot of companies purchase “off the shelf” security software, and assume that they are protected. Unfortunately, that is not the case because of the nature of today’s network threats They are diverse in nature and include the typical spam, spyware, viruses trojans, worms and occasionally, hackers have targeted your servers.

The right security solution that you choose for your business will stop the majority of risks on your network. Most of the time, even with the installation of a software program, network administrators spend the majority of their time around the outer edges of the network, guarding its integrity , by manually fighting off attacks , then manually patching security breaches.

Affording network administrators to ensure the integrity of your network can be a costly venture – more so than investing in the appropriate security measures your network needs. Network administrators also have other tasks that require their attention. Their job is to help your company run more efficiently. They can’t focus on this if they have to defend networks all time.

Another risk to be considered is that emanating from the perimeter, which is in other words, an employee. The most sensitive proprietary information is often stolen by employees on the payroll. A proper network security solution will guard against these kinds of attacks as well. Network administrators must play their role in this area by creating security policies and strictly enforcing them.

A smart strategy to give your network the protection it requires against the many security threats is to employ a multi-layered security strategy. Layered security provides a tailored method to meet your network’s unique needs using both hardware and software solutions. Once the hardware and software are working together to safeguard your company, both are in a position to immediately update their capabilities to cope with the latest in security threats.

Security software can be programmed to update several times per daily, should the need arise hardware updates are typically comprised of firmware updates and an update wizard much like that present within the software.

One-stop Security Solutions A multi-pronged strategy must be used to counter the numerous security threats that exist in today’s corporate networks. Most of the time, the origins of these risks are interspersed with Trojans that are delivered via spyware or spam hidden in a software installation. For a successful fight against these threats, one must make usage of firewalls, antispyware, malware and anti-spam protection.

Recently the current trend in the industry of software is to integrate these security apps that were previously separated into an all-encompassing security suite. Security apps that are commonly used by corporate networks are being integrated into security suites that focus on a common objective. These security suites offer antivirus, antispyware, antispam and firewall security all packaged together in one application. Searching out the best standalone security software in each risk category is still an option, but no longer required.

The security suite that is all-in-one will save a company money in the form of lower costs for purchasing software and also time due to the ease in integrating management of numerous threats.

TRUSTED PLATFORM MODULE (TPM)A TPM is a standard set by the Trusted Computing Group defining hardware specifications that create encryption keys. TPM chips not only guard against hacker attempts and software attacks but also physically theft of the device housing the chip. TPM chips function as an additional layer of authentication to enhance the authentication process.

Authentication refers to all the processes used to determine if an individual who has access to the corporate network is, actually, the person that person claims to be. Authentication is usually done through the use of a password, but other techniques involve biometrics that make it possible to identify a user only through identifying an individual characteristic which no one else can have such as a fingerprint or characteristics of the eyes cornea.

In the present, TPM chips are often integrated into the standard laptop and desktop motherboards. Intel began integrating TPM chips on its motherboards as of 2003 as did other motherboard manufactures. Whether or not a motherboard is equipped with this chip will be contained in the specifications for that motherboard.

The chips protect data at the local level, providing an enhanced level of security for remote locations like the WiFi hotspot, which is full of innocent looking computer-users who may be bored hackers with malicious intent. Microsoft’s Ultimate as well as Enterprise editions of Vista Operating System utilize this technology inside the BitLocker drive Encryption feature.

Although Vista provides support for TPM technology The chips aren’t dependent on any particular platform to function.

TPM is a feature on Linux the same way it functions within TPM’s Windows operating system. There are also specifications from the Trusted Computing Group for mobile devices such as PDAs and mobile phones.

To make use of TPM improved security, users of networks only need to download the security policies to their computer’s desktop and run a setup wizard that will create a set of encryption keys for that computer. The simple steps listed above significantly improves security for the remote computer user.

Admission based on User Identification The identity of a user is dependent on the successful completion of the authentication procedures. As previously mentioned user authentication can involve much more than just a name of the user and a password. Alongside the growing biometrics technology that allows users to authenticate themselves smart cards and security tokens are another method that can improve the user’s name and password authentication process.

The use of security tokens, also known as smart cards, adds a hardware layer requirement for authentication. This creates a two-tier security need, one of which is with a secret password, the second one is a hardware requirement the secure system must recognize before granting access.

Tokens and smart cards operate in a similar way but with a different look. Tokens have the appearance of a flash device and connection through the USB port, whereas smart cards require specialized hardware, like a smartcard reader that connects to the laptop or desktop computer. Smart cards usually have the appearance of an identification badge and could even contain a photo of the employee.

However authentication is verified when this occurs, the user is granted access to the network via an encrypted virtual network (VLAN) connection. A VLAN establishes connections with the remote user as if the person were part of the internal network and allows for all VLAN users to be group together according to separate security policies.

Remote users connecting through VLANs should be granted access to essential network resources and the ways in which they can be copied or modified must be watched carefully.

Specifications established through the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) have been able to create what’s known as Secure VLAN (S-VLAN) architecture. Also known as tag-based VLAN standard is referred to as 802.1q. It increases the security of VLANs by using an additional tag inside the media access control (MAC) addresses that identify the hardware used by network adapters within a network. This will stop the unidentified MAC addresses from gaining access to the network.

Network segmentation This idea, which works together with VLAN connections, determines which resources a user can access remotely via the policy enforcement point (PEPs) to ensure the security policy is enforced across networks segments. Additionally, the VLAN as well as the S-VLAN can be treated as a distinct segment that has its own PEP requirements.

PEP works with a user’s authentication to enforce a network security policy. Every user who connects to networks must be guaranteed by the PEP that they comply with the security policy guidelines contained in the PEP. The PEP determines the resources a user is able to access and how those resources are modified.

The PEP of VLAN connections needs to be improved from what the same user can do with the resources internal. This can be achieved through network segmentation simply be defining the VLAN connections as an individual segment and then implementing the same security policy throughout the segment. The policy that is defined using this method could also determine which internal network segments a client is able to access from remote locations.

Maintaining VLAN connections as a distinct segment also helps to isolate security breaches only to this segment in the event that one should occur. This keeps any security breaches from being spread to the entire corporate network. To further enhance security for the network, a VLAN segment could be handled by it’s own virtualized environment, thus isolating all remote connections on an organization’s network.

Centralized Security Policy Management Technology software and hardware that tackle the various aspects of security risks create multiple software platforms that all must be separately managed. If done incorrectly, this can result in a daunting task to manage a network and increase the cost of staffing because of the greater time needed for managing the different technologies (whether they are hardware or software).

The integrated security software suites can centralize an entire security strategy by integrating all security risk attacks into one program that requires only one management console for administrative purposes.

Depending on the type of business you’re operating, a security policy should be adopted across the company, and should be all-encompassing for the whole network. Managers and administrators can decide on the security policy in their own ways but the primary definition of the policy should be in place so that it’s consistent throughout the company network. This will ensure that there aren’t other security processes that are in conflict with the centralized policy and limiting what the policy was formulated to enforce.

Not only does a centralized security policy become more simple to manage, it also lessens the load on resources of the network. Multiple security policies created by various software applications focused on a specific security issue could aggregately hog much more bandwidth than an centralized security policy found within an entire security system. With all the dangers coming via the Web easy management and application is crucial to ensuring the integrity of any security policy.

Frequently asked Questions:

  1. I am confident in my employees. What are the reasons I should improve the security of my network?

Even the most reliable employees can pose a threat to a security breach. It is crucial that employees adhere to the established company security standards. Enhancing security will guard against employees who are not following the rules and occasional disgruntled employee seeking to damage the network.

  1. Do these new technologies actually create an environment of security that allows remote access?

Yes, they are. These enhancements not only greatly enhance the security of VLAN connections however they also employ generally accepted standards that are frequently integrated into common software and hardware. The technology is there, your business only needs to get started using the technology.

  1. My company is happy with the use of separate software, this means each program can concentrate on a particular security threat. What are the benefits of an all-in-one security solution?

A number of popular software programs used by business have expanded their focus to include every security threat. This includes solutions from both software and hardware appliance technology makers. A majority of these companies recognized the need to consolidate their security in the beginning and subsequently purchased smaller software companies to acquire the knowledge that their firm was lacking. Security suites at the application level, will make management much easier and your IT personnel will thank you for it.

  1. Do I require a hardware requirement to my authentication process?

It is recommended that the use of security tokens or smart cards should be considered for employees who connect to the network of the company from a remote site. Particularly, if the employee has access to sensitive company data when on the move or on the move, a flash drive secure token will stop thieves from accessing this sensitive information on laptops that have been stolen.

  1. With all this concern about WiFi hotspots should employees be required not to use these spots to connect to corporate networks?

WiFi hotspots have sprung up nationwide and present the easiest method for remote employees to access the Internet. But, these hotspots may also be full of bored or unemployed hackers that have nothing better to do than discover a way to intercept employees’ communications at the next table. That’s not to say employees on the road should avoid hotspots. They’d be severely restricted from connecting to the network at all. With S-VLAN technology and secure authentication, an organization can employ strategies to limit threats at present and in the coming years.

Implementing the latest network security techniques is a major requirement in IT Management. In today’s network environment with many people who access your digital assets remotely it is essential to have the security of your network in order when you are planning the process of integration.

Of course, it is not forgotten that the majority of large corporations run multiple operating systems (Windows and Mac O/S etc.) and that for many of these firms, all-in one security suites are faced with certain issues when operating in a mixed system environment.

This is why I advise that you consider having layered security (both hardware and software) and not rely on software programs to safeguard the digital data you have. With the advancement of technology, so do the opportunities for security attacks.

As these security threats evolve both software and hardware manufacturers will continue to create new and innovative solutions, and it’s essential businesses keep up , and implement these technologies.

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