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“What is network security?”
The average company’s need for vigorous network security is just a few years old. This need was born when networks began growing and corporations became more interconnected with the outside world via the Internet.
The recent escalation of security incidents underscores the need for increased security but leaves IT departments with many unanswered questions about how to implement a security solution. It is important to remember that network security requires a long-term strategy in order to achieve significant network protection.
To create a viable security strategy, it is necessary to have some ground rules. By starting the process at a defined starting point, many future headaches can be eliminate
Rules of the Road
Rule One: Security Is Relative
The level of security for any entity can range from unplugged to unsupervised. Unfortunately, there is no definitive metric for a completely secure network. In fact, there is no place or time when any network can be considered completely secure.
Networks are so complex and self-transforming that their security needs will evolve over time, as the threat environment escalates.
The Lesson: Recognise relativity as a fundamental characteristic of security.
Rule Two: Security Is a Balance
To determine the desired level of security; one first must balance the usability of a network and its hardness. These are inversely proportionate. The more you lock down a network, the less user-friendly it becomes.
What level of inconvenience will your users tolerate to have the maximum possible level of security? Users who work on highly sensitive material may be more inclined to live with some inconvenience in order to ensure the integrity of their data. Other users might find even the smallest security policy additions too cumbersome.
The Lesson: Strike a balance in your network security between usability and degree of lockdown.
Rule Three: Security Is a Process, Not a Product
Unfortunately, there is any out-of-the-box solution that will provide complete network protection. That is why there are so many complex components involved in a good security strategy.
Some of those components are hardware or software products, some are simply written policies and guidelines, while others are users’ and managers’ mindsets and attitudes toward security.
The Lesson: Commit to the process, not to the product, and your network will be much more secured.
Rule Four: Security Is Both Internal and External
One of the most difficult things to accept about network security may be that the greatest threat is internal rather than external. The threat hacker present is well known, but more security incidents are the result of internal attacks than of external attacks, according to the FBI and Ernest & Young.
Banks have learned this lesson well and have implemented layers of oversight both internally and externally. The wise network manager will do the same.
The Lesson: Secure your network from both external attack and internal misuse to achieve a comprehensive security solution.
Rule Five: Avoid the “Blame Game”
Another issue that sometimes crops up is the “blame game,” and the resultant defensiveness of the IT department regarding security issues. If a virus attacks a system or some other type of incident takes place, there is a tendency to blame the IT staff within a company as though the successful exploit were their fault. This can be avoided in two ways
First, the IT staff must become aware of security issues and must work to create the most protected network possible. By embracing security instead of becoming defensive about the subject, the staff can protect themselves from unwarranted criticism.
Management must recognise the complexity of the systems they have tasked their IT department with maintaining. They should understand that network security is a highly specialized branch of information systems, and that they cannot expect their IT staff to dedicate themselves to it at a level that will maximise protection.
Network management is difficult enough without considering the security piece of the puzzle. The security-aware manager will support hiring someone with specialised security expertise to work with the IT team to create a secure network.
The Lesson: Acknowledge the difficulty inherent in proper network security, and provide your team with the proper human and technological tools to effectively secure your network.