Tips for Securing Your Network

When computer networks were isolated within the walls of offices, an Internet connection was a luxury and not a critical component of business functions. That has now completely changed for businesses that rely on computers to acquire and deliver services. Customers, business partners, remote office locations, and mobile workers expect connectivity to your office network. This interconnected nature of networks opens doors to new levels of productivity; and to threats that can disrupt business.

Securing your network should not be an afterthought; it just makes business sense. The benefits of a secure network are numerous:

It is more reliable, has fewer problems, and consequently costs less to maintain.
It improves productivity across all your stakeholders: customers, partners, and employees.
It protects your investment in bandwidth by controlling abusive use and unwitting hosting.
It lowers your exposure to legal and regulatory action.

In this article I highlight numerous tips for securing networks. This information was gleaned from research of published industry best practices and tips from government sites, such as the FCC, and from our own experience in supporting business networks.

The tips presented here can significantly enhance your computer network security. Do note, however, that no one can guarantee absolute security. You need to carefully balance the requirements for implementing security with proper investments in time and money, while keeping business objectives squarely in mind. These tips are organized into a few key strategies.

Employee Education and Policy Strategy

Provide Security Training: All employees, includes managers and executives, should be educated on basic security practices and how to protect sensitive business information. Establish policies and rules, including penalties for violating them, on how to protect sensitive data and make training available on a regular basis. Topics include: whether and when to use Web for personal use on office computers, instant messaging, social networking sites, streaming video and music, if and how company monitors Web usage, prohibited activities, tips for safe browsing, common techniques used by hackers and how to avoid falling prey.

Use Strong Passwords: Passwords are the most common method for gaining access to network resources. Unfortunately, they are also easy to hack through the use of automated tools. Train staff to use their passwords as they would their home keys: don’t leave them lying around and don’t share them. Strong passwords typically use a combination of letters, numbers and symbols, are at least 8-characters long, are changed every quarter, and differ significantly from previous passwords.

Regulate Access to Information: You probably don’t want to give everyone full access to everything. The judicious use of network user groups and permissions ensure network resources and data are available on a business need basis and that the Administrator account is only provided to trusted resources and executives and used only when necessary. Many line-of-business applications support roles, such as Sales, Operations, Accounts Payables, etc. to provide access to data they maintain on a business need basis.

Internal Network Strategy

Implement Backup and Disaster Recovery Procedures: Core business data is the lifeblood of any business. Implementing a multi-level backup procedure; image, file and folder, and offsite, is a simple way to protect critical data. Backup and Disaster Recovery (BDR) appliances take this a step further by helping you quicken server recovery in case of failure. Testing your backups periodically is an important component of any backup strategy.

Implement Desktop and Server Virus Protection: These software solutions have been around for a long time and they continue to evolve as threats evolve. Keep your anti-malware software current and its definitions current.

Patch Desktops and Servers Regularly: Security vulnerabilities in the operating system and in applications are regularly addressed by reputable software vendors. Take advantage of them. Keeping security patches current from your software vendors protects your computer from known attacks and vulnerabilities. Again, there are centralized patch management tools that make the process less time consuming.

Centralize Computer Administration: By implementing a server and applying a group policy across computers, you can standardize the process and save each user the time it takes to implement configurations one computer at a time. There are tools to centrally manage virus updates, security patches, desktop firewall, permission groups, and other security features.

Secure Physical Access: Do not overlook the physical location of your critical network infrastructure. These should be accessible to trained and trusted employees. Keeping this infrastructure secure in a locked room or server closet will reduce inadvertent or fraudulent access or change to network.

Secure WiFi Access: WiFi access to the network enables even mobile employees to be productive. Data, as it travels over the air is typically less secure than when it travels over wired networks. Information traveling over the air is at risk of interception. Use wireless data encryption protocols to ensure that data is encrypted during transit from source to destination to protect against risk or interception. Also, setup wireless access point for guests on a separate subnet so they can access the Internet but not your network.

External Network and Perimeter Strategy

Consider Outsourcing Email Services: Corporate email has become mission critical for businesses of all sizes. If you do not have a mission-critical application support infrastructure internally, consider outsourcing your email infrastructure. The widespread availability of such solutions from key industry vendors makes these affordable. And you can leave the worry of securing and maintaining such infrastructure in the hands of those that do it 24×7.

Secure the Perimeter: Connecting your network to the Internet allows you and your employees to gain access to valuable data and be productive even when on the run, but it also exposes your network to attack from intruders. Most small businesses use consumer grade routers/firewalls to protect the edge of their network that is right behind the broadband modem. Though these devices have grown in functionality, they aren’t equipped to handle the perimeter security needs of a business. With business grade routers/firewalls/UTM (Universal Threat Management) appliances, you gain a powerful hardware platform that provides ability to filter malicious traffic and spam from the outside, receive regular security updates, provide secure remote access, implement intrusion detection and prevention services, and prevent infectious code from executing from trusted but compromised sites.

Stay Informed and Vigilant: There are numerous industry and government sites dedicated to network security. Stay informed as data and practices continue to evolve. Business-grade UTM appliances are designed to be monitored remotely from security operations centers and to send reports and alerts that may need attention.

Request Links to Related Resources

If you found this topic of interest, I encourage you to request a list of additional resources you can download at no cost. Simply email: info@rcare-solutions.com with the words “Network Security Tips” in the Subject line.

CompTIA A+, Security+, Network+ Tutorial – Ethernet Card Troubleshooting

When a computer fails to communicate, the network interface adapter can be at fault, but it is far more likely that some other component is causing the problem. Before you see to the network interface adapter, check for the following problems first:

o Make sure the network cable is firmly seated into the connector on the network interface adapter. If using a hub, check the cable connection.

o Try using a different cable that you know works. If using a permanently installed cable, plug another computer that you know works into it and use different patch cables.

o Make sure that you have the proper driver installed on the computer.

o Check to see that all of the other software components required for network communications, such as clients and protocols, are properly installed on the computer. If no problem is found with the driver, the cable, or the network configuration parameters, then it is time to start checking NIC. Before you open the computer case, check to see if the NIC manufacturer has provided its own diagnostic software. If you are using a Plug and Play, you might not have even looked at the disk included with the NIC, but this is a time when it can be worth your while to do so. If the card is functioning properly, and assuming that the software providing the upper layer protocols is correctly installed and configured, the problem is probably caused by the hardware resource configuration.

There is a resource conflict between the network interface adapter and another device in the computer, or the network interface adapter is not configured to use the same resources as the network interface adapter driver.

Use the configuration utility supplied with the adapter to see what resources the network interface adapter is physically configured to use. You may have to adjust the settings of the card or the driver, or even those of another device in the computer, to accommodate the card. If the NIC is malfunctioning, due to a static discharge or a manufacturer’s defect there is not much you can do except replace it. Before you do this, you should check to see that the NIC is fully seated in the slot, as this is a prime cause of communication problems. If the card is not secured with a screw, press it down firmly into the slot at both ends and secure it. If the problem prolongs, try removing the card from the slot, cleaning out the slot with a can of compressed air, and installing the card again. If not, you can try using another slot. After exhausting all of these avenues, trying installing a different card in the computer, either a new one or one from another computer that you know is working properly.

Burglar Alarm Security Systems and Home Security Networks

It is safe to say that a majority of homeowners want their property to be safe when they are in and out of the house. Having burglar alarm systems in place is one of the smartest ways to eliminate any and all risks of a home invasion. In the event that an intruder enters your home, you will have an immediate alert so that you can take appropriate action before it is too late. Security systems have become much more advanced than in recent years and no home should be without one.

Reasons to Have Burglar Alarm Systems

With the struggling economy becoming steadily worst for a majority of individuals, it has never been more important to keep you home and valuable property safe from burglars. Here are some important reasons to have burglar alarm systems in your home.

• Constant Surveillance – There are many efficient and reliable burglar alarm systems available to choose from. The ultimate reason for implementing this form of security is to have constant surveillance of your property while you are home, outside, or even sleeping during the night. Home invasions can happen at any time so the only way to guarantee complete safety is to have a watchful eye at all times.

• Drastically Cut Insurance Costs – Some homeowners may wonder why their insurance policy to protect their home is so expensive. One simple way to drastically cut these costs is to install burglar alarm systems because this will give your insurance company comfort in knowing that there is minimal risk to your home. Security for your home is completely affordable these days and can be an invaluable tool to reduce your insurance premium.

• View Footage Anytime – Many home alarm systems offer features for viewing footage at a later time. Be sure to find a service that has a backup of this valuable recording. In the event that you need to back track a loss that was discovered long after the incident, you may need to review footage from a previous time. For live alerts and notifications about intrusions to your home, consider wireless services as well.

How to Choose the Right One from the Home Security Shop

Anytime you are browsing for burglar alarm systems at any home security shop, be sure that you are choosing the product and package that caters to your specific needs. There are many choices to choose from including motion sensor technology, and wireless alert services. If you are a frequent traveler, it is important to have live notifications in the event that an intruder enters your home while you are away for a long period of time. If you are not alerted immediately, you could be returning to a completely empty house.

Knowing that your home is completely safe and sound is important to reducing anxiety and stress. Before you make an impulsive buy, be sure to check with a reliable home security shop so you can find a better deal without compromising performance. With quality burglar alarm systems, you can have the ultimate comfort and focus to do the countless other important things.