How To Get The Most Out Of Your Security Software

Sidebar: Before companies invest more of their budgets on new security technologies, they should make sure they're properly using what they already have, say industry analysts and security consultants.
This is a sidebar to Security Sieves: Misused Technology Leaving Networks Vulnerable.

Before companies invest more of their budgets on new security technologies, they should make sure they're properly using what they already have, say industry analysts and security consultants.

"Are IT technologies being used efficiently? No. Are they optimized? No," says Michael Rasmussen, director of research and information security at Giga Information Group. "Does it mean companies need to outsource it all? No...they can handle this."

Paul Robertson, director of risk assessment at Herndon, Va.-based TruSecure Corp., says IT and security administrators need to take the time to focus on what's already in their shops.

"If you have things that will provide you with protection, and you're not using them properly, it's a waste," says Robertson. "Obviously, they're not getting the best value for the dollar."

Here are some suggestions -- from corporate users, analysts and security consultants -- for making sure your technology is being optimized:

  • Don't start buying software and devices until you know specifically what you're trying to protect. What are the areas where key data is being stored, and how does that data affect the enterprise?

  • Make sure you've adopted your industry's own security standards and best practices;
  • Develop granular security policies;

  • Have actual security administrators instead of making security part of an IT worker's job;

  • Educate all of your employees about the need for security and how they can help protect the company, its information and, ultimately, their own jobs;

  • Implement technologies as needed, taking the time to configure and test them;

  • Stay current on all patches and updates;

  • Get an external self-assessment (Don't just look at pure technical risks. Look at the business risk model. For instance, if there is the same vulnerability on two different systems, you need to understand the business impact of both so you can prioritize the fixes.);

  • Make sure the people running things like a firewall are trained to do so;

  • Don't immediately cave in to every user demand for new features and protocol access. Take the time to weigh the business advantage with the security risk;

  • Make sure you understand how new technology affects your existing system. Microsoft's Windows NetMeeting, for instance, could open up tens of thousands of UDP ports if not handled properly;

  • Don't ignore technologies that could act as security devices. For example, put filtering rules on the border routers between the company and the ISP;

  • Give security administrators they authority they need to weigh in on or make network decisions;

  • Filter attachments on your email gateways;

  • Don't allow users to connect to the internal network over a VPN and to the Internet at the same time, and

  • Don't allow users to connect to the internal network via a personal home computer.





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