Information security professionals are fond of pointing out that networks are only as secure as their weakest point. The most pressing issue for organisations today, though, is that the increasing complexity of our networks means there are many more weak points for hackers to exploit.
Since we’re all increasingly reliant on digital technology, there’s a lot more valuable information out there in the electronic ether that’s ripe for the picking. This has led to a vast increase in both the volume and sophistication of attacks.
As a result, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for organisations to find and plug all the holes before they fall foul of a potentially damaging breach. Without a sound security strategy and the continual use of automated tools to monitor networks for vulnerabilities and orchestrate their security policies, many network managers are forever chasing their own tails, reacting to events as they occur.
THE CHALLENGES OF NEW TECHNOLOGIES
Trends such as BYOD (‘bring your own device’), cloud computing and social networking present untold challenges for network security managers, and require that organisations take a fundamentally different and more rigorous approach than might have been appropriate a decade ago. Back then, the threats were comparatively minimal – a few nasty worms and viruses that you could, by and large, deal with by firewalling the perimeter of your organisation and running up-to-date antivirus software, and ‘man in the middle’ attacks which you could prevent by using encryption and VPNs.
Today, employees use myriad devices, operating systems and browsers to access their applications and data. There are iOS, Android, Windows and BlackBerry smartphones and tablets; Apple, Windows and Linux laptops and desktops, plus at least 10 different types of web browser. Not only that, but all of these operating systems and browsers have multiple flavours and versions, all of which present different security vulnerabilities. And since many devices are owned by employees, they often sit completely outside corporate control.
If a single device, file or online account becomes compromised or infected, employees might subsequently infect systems inside the corporate firewall. A hacker with criminal intent doesn’t even have to be particularly tech-savvy. Anyone can download easy-to-use attack tools that exploit known security holes, and there are even underground web marketplaces where attackers can buy unpublished (so-called ‘zero day’) vulnerabilities.
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