Securing Your Technology Infrastructure Five security areas of focus for small to medium businesses.

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1 Securing Your Technology Infrastructure Five security areas of focus for small to medium businesses. Anthony Suda Network Manager marketing + technology sundog fax: th st s floor 6 fargo, nd

2 Small and medium businesses today have data and equipment that needs to be protected from the dangers of real-life disasters and virtual threats from cyberspace. A business can go from booming to bankrupt overnight if it does not have at least a basic layer of protection. Having a plan of action and different lines of defense against attacks can save a company significant time and money. This white paper will define five of the key areas where small and medium businesses should focus on security, and give solutions in each area. Area 1: Workstations Whether they are laptops, desktops, or even netbooks, workstations are the most frequently used devices a company has. In most cases, these devices access anything and everything cyberspace has to offer; whether it be on the internet or talking to each other in your local network. This makes workstations our first stop on our security tour. Antivirus Software If you are reading this, chances are you already know about computer viruses. They lie hidden in websites and are transferred by the thousands daily via . Once a virus installs itself onto a workstation, it can, depending on how it was written, quickly infect an entire network and possibly raise havoc by causing computer glitches, or even data loss. One solution is to put something in place to stop a virus from doing its foul deeds or prevent it from installing itself in the first place. Antivirus software has been around since the late 1980 s, according to Kaspersky Lab. Today we have hundreds of options to choose from. Businesses have the option of using software that is completely independent from one workstation to the next, usually labeled as stand-alone, or a managed solution that resides on a central server and then smaller software packages, usually referred to as clients, are installed on the workstations and report back to the central server. The stand-alone option would be recommended for smaller businesses with only a few workstations to worry about. The client-server model makes sense if a business needs to monitor a large number of machines. The client-server model also is recommended if you have a Network Administrator or anyone who happens to be the IT guru for your business, as it will help them more easily manage their time and resources. The stand-alone versions of antivirus software are typically less expensive than client-server versions. However, one reaches a point of diminishing returns when buying the stand-alone version. For example, if your business has fifty workstations that all need to be protected and the cost of stand-alone antivirus software is $40, you have a $2,000 investment which does not include the cost of personnel to install the software on each machine manually. A client-server option may cost only $1,500 or less with client licenses. If all of your workstations are connected to the local server, an employee just has to select the workstations on the network from the server and choose install this feature is also very handy for updating the software and for tracking down infected machines. Anti-spyware/malware Software The terms virus and spyware/malware are used interchangeably, but technically they are different even though the results can be the same: gathering private information like website history or contact and credit card information, and the annoyance of slowing down a machine. Spyware/malware usually does not replicate itself over your network, and is usually installed inadvertently by the user when they install some other program. Some free programs that exist online have a catch like this built into them so that when a person doesn t read the fine print and installs it, the spyware/malware software is also installed. (Fraser, n.d.; Rubenking, 2008). Spyware/ malware can also be installed by just visiting some lessreputable sites that ask you to download and install a special plug-in in order to view the site correctly. 2

3 The options for protecting workstations from spyware/ malware are similar to antivirus software. There are stand-alone and client-server options. The difference is that client-server versions have not been as popular. The best known and most effective spyware/malware programs out there usually have corporate editions of their software that a company can buy to manage and scan their networked workstations for spyware and remove it, just like the client-server antivirus software. Most of the time, these options are overlooked, especially since business or corporate editions of software have higher prices particularly when compared to the standalone versions which are usually free for personal use (note: personal use does not mean business use). Some software companies have combined antivirus and anti-spyware/malware software into suites so that your solution can come in one package. Some software solutions do this well, others do not. It seems that some of these suite packages still can t catch everything so research on the available solutions that will work best for your business is needed. Area 2: Firewalls A firewall is usually defined as a combination of hardware and/or software that limits the exposure of a computer or computer network to attack (Princeton University, 2006). Chances are, if you have more than one computer connected to the internet, you are running at least a basic firewall already. Most network routers, by default, act as a simple firewall that block incoming attacks to the computers that sit behind them. They prevent direct access to workstations and servers by only allowing certain types of communication to pass through. As indicated by the definition, there are a couple of different types of firewalls and there are also different locations for firewalls. There are hardware and software firewalls, in addition to network and computer firewalls. Hardware firewalls are usually installed to protect networks while software firewalls are installed on computers, whether they are workstations, laptops, netbooks or servers. Most of the time, software firewalls on workstations behind your business firewall are seen as redundant and unnecessary even troublesome, as they can interfere with those workstations talking to each other or talking to your own servers. However, software firewalls on laptops or netbooks that will be moving from inside the protected corporate network out into the unprotected world of coffee shops and other public access points, are seen as a good idea. Most Microsoft Windows (versions XP and higher) and Mac OS X users have a standard firewall built into the operating system that can do a good job at protecting the system. Protecting your entire business network with a firewall will help keep predators out and can also serve to keep people on your network from sending some types of information out or getting access to undesirable content. Simple routers can act as firewalls as stated before, however they can eventually be cracked and can only handle a small load of traffic going through them. If you have a lot of machines on your network, or are hosting your own website or other service to the world, you will need a heftier appliance. That hefty size can come at a price, but it s certainly less costly than a successful attack on your network and/or legal fees that result from an attack or unauthorized access. 3

4 Area 3: Client/External access So now you have a firewall protecting your network. But say you want to give employees the ability to work from home, or to allow certain clients to share files or access to servers easily between your businesses. Opening up your entire network so that only a handful of people or a few other businesses can access one or two servers is equivalent to leaving the front door of your house open because your Aunt Mary is going to drop off a pie for you while you are at work. It is just asking for trouble. So what do you do? You give your aunt a key to get in. In the network world, that key can mean a few different things, but we are going to focus on only one; Virtual Private Networking, or a VPN. Basically, a VPN is a secured path or tunnel from one machine or one network to another. No one else can use the tunnel unless they have the correct keys/authentication to do so. When a computer is connected to a VPN tunnel, the machine can act as if it is plugged directly into the network just like the rest of the computers in that network. Restrictions can also be applied to the VPN tunnel so that anyone connected via VPN can only access server A, for example. Some of the higher-end firewalls/routers on the market come with some standard VPN capability. Another option is using one of your servers as a Remote Access Server, or RAS, and then opening up the firewall to allow authentication traffic to that RAS server, which would in turn create the tunnel. If you decide your company would benefit from having this access, look to see if your current firewall/router already supports this feature. If it does, the setup may be fairly straight-forward. Otherwise, you can see if you can setup one of your servers to also handle RAS. If you have a budget for new hardware, I would recommend going with a firewall/router upgrade before buying a new server. In my experience, it is more reliable connecting to your main internet connection than having to go through that and connect to a server to get access. Area 4: Wireless Security In today s mobile world, wireless networks are everywhere, and a lot of them are wide open. This not only allows for easy connectivity, and free internet access to any passerby, but also opens all of the other computers on that same network to anyone who connects. It is no different than a person coming off the street and plugging onto your network with a cable. The solution is quite simple, but it is often overlooked for the sake of convenience: secure your wireless network. There are a few different options when doing this, but any security is better than none. The two most popular are Wired Equivalent Privacy, or WEP and Wi-Fi Protected Access, or WPA. The main difference the normal user would notice between the two is that WEP keys are random hexadecimal sequences, like 431aB2C71f, whereas the WPA passphrase can be a hex value or also a combination of numbers/words people might actually be able to remember, like 320YellowGiraffe7. Because it is fairly easy to hack, WEP is now a depreciated standard and it is recommended to go with the more-secure WPA or WPA2 security on your wireless networks (Borisov, Goldberg, & Wagner, 2001, p. 2, 9; Geier, 2002). Notice, in the examples above, the keys are pretty random, even if a passphrase is being used. Having a wireless network key of or wirelesskey doesn t make the network much more secure than having it wide open. The simplest way to go about securing one s wireless network is to run the software or read the manual for the wireless access point before plugging it in and going for it. Most access points out there today come with very easy to use software for setting up a network with security. This process will also take a person through changing the defaults of the device so that a person who might have purchased and setup the same type of hardware cannot just use the default username and password to get into your device and change everything. 4

5 Area 5: Data Integrity So far, we have been focusing on attacks from the outside world. However, there is another area of security that also should be considered: data security. This definition of security is not really about keeping bad guys out, but about having a system in place in case of a natural disaster or hardware failure. As we have touched on before, a business has two differing sets of computers: servers and workstations. The trend has been that servers are where files are stored in order to be shared with workstations across the network. More and more businesses are turning to cloud-based solutions that share files securely over the internet so they are accessible from anywhere and one does not need to worry about backing up a local server because of those files. Servers perform important roles in the network and, without certain servers, the network will not even function correctly. These servers store everyone s user account information and passwords, or hand out addresses for workstations on the network, or direct traffic on the network or any and all combinations of these and other features. These servers should be on the top of the list for having some data backup plan so they can be recovered quickly and efficiently. Some businesses have a dedicated backup server that all other servers backup to. Another option is to have external hard drives that each server backs up to independently. Another layer of protection is to move successful backups off-site on a schedule so that if the worst should happen, like a fire, a business has a recent copy of its data at a safe location. Workstation backups are the second area of focus. If an employee s hard drive fails and it has important documents on it, the results can obviously be troublesome for that employee, but also for the company as a whole. For example, those files could be about business operations or about an important sale. Again, one could backup every machine to the backup server or have external hard drives for every machine. Depending on the number of servers and workstations a company has, data backup in itself can wind up being a full-time job, especially if it is done on a machine-bymachine basis. Just like with the antivirus and antispyware software, there are options for centralizing backup control to one server so that managing everything is a bit easier and automated. Even if every machine has its own dedicated external hard drive for backups, having client software on every machine that can be controlled from a central server can save everyone time and headaches. This way, the person in charge of backups does not have to interrupt everyone at random times to install/fix/upgrade their backup solution and users don t have to learn how to use or keep track of new software. 5

6 Summary So to sum up, here are the suggestions in each area: Area 1: Workstations - Get stand-alone or client-server antivirus and anti-spyware/malware software for all workstations (and servers) in your company. Area 2: Firewalls - Make sure your company has at least a basic firewall protecting all your machines whether it be a software or hardware solution. Area 3: Client/External Access - If needed, setup VPN access through your firewall/router. If you need to purchase a solution, research firewalls/routers that have built-in VPN configurations. Area 4: Wireless Security - Encrypt your wireless networks so they require a security key to connect. If possible, chose WPA or WPA2 over WEP encryption. Area 5: Data Integrity - Research storage and software solutions for backing up data on servers and workstations, and also have an off-site data rotation plan in case of fire or other large catastrophe. Resources that might help with decision making in each area: Area 1 About.com: Top Windows Antivirus - about.com/od/antivirussoftwarereviews/tp/aatpavwin.htm PC World: Top Antivirus Software - com/article/124475/top_antivirus_software.html Area 2 Consumer Search: Firewalls - search.com/firewalls/best-pc-firewalls Experts Exchange: Networking Hardware Firewalls - Area 3 ZDNet: Virtual Privacy - reviews/hardware/peripherals/soa/virtual-privacy-8-vpnappliances-tested/0, , ,00.htm Area 4 Wi-Fi Planet: WPA-PSK Step-by-Step - Area 5 PC Mag: Backup - Reviews and Price Comparisons - There are certainly more than five areas of focus that businesses should keep in mind. However, it is in this author s opinion that these five should be among the first to consider and implement solutions for. The specific solution that will work best for your company in each area can, and probably will be completely different from every other company, even those that are the same size and are in your same business sector. Nevertheless, it is great to get ideas and strategies from other companies and experts and then pick and choose what you see as best for your own business. Just because you plan a specific path for your business, it does not mean the plan can t change down the road; in fact, one should expect changes to happen as your business grows and changes over time. The same solution that works today in one area may be too small to handle, or too bulky to manage in the future. Take your time, investigate, plan, experiment. The time spent is worth it, especially when compared to the alternative of not having a secure IT infrastructure. 6

7 References Borisov, N., Goldberg, I. & Wagner, D. (2001). Intercepting Mobile Communications: The Insecurity of , 9. Retrieved June 4, 2009 from Fraser, D. (n.d.). Virus Or Spyware - What s The Difference? Retrieved June 1, 2009 from Network Liquidators: Geier, J. (2002) WEP: Concepts and Vulnerability Retrieved June 8, 2009 from Wi-Fi Planet: Kaspersky Lab. (n.d.). Viruslist.com Retrieved May 29, 2009 from Viruslist.com: Princeton University. (2006). Wordnet Search: Firewall Retrieved June 1, 2009 from Wordnet: Rubenking, N. J. (2008). Nine Ways To Wipe Out Spyware Retrieved May 15, 2009 from PC Magazine: 7

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