Taking the first step towards IT security: Where to begin


In my previous post, I wrote about some of the many reasons why IT security is vitally important for businesses today. Now I want to look at some of the challenges that companies will face, and some of the technological solutions they will need to consider when deciding to improve IT security.

Two considerations before you begin:

Let’s say that the executive leadership of a company decides that IT security needs to be more of a priority. Before acting, there are two key considerations that need to be kept in mind.

First, how do you ensure that the new system does not negatively impact employees or corporate culture? While it may seem obvious, ensuring that end users embrace the new measures can mean the difference between success and failure. Communication, timing, training and support are all critical elements to be considered.

Then there is the fiduciary concern. Systemic changes are costly, both financially and politically. Making the wrong choice can be ruinously expensive for the company as a whole. That’s why it is crucial that the IT team is aligned with senior management, so that both will understand what the objectives are, and what success looks like.

Three important IT security solutions to think about:

If your company has wrestled with these considerations, then comes the decision regarding implementation.

Today, the three most important IT security solutions are micro-segmentation, next-generation firewalls, and endpoint security.

A few months ago, I was at a pre-event dinner where Kevin Mitnick, formerly one of the world’s most notorious black-hat hackers, was in attendance. Today he earns a living consulting with Fortune 500 companies, and when he was asked to pick just one technology that business customers need to have, his answer was clear: micro-segmentation. Micro-segmentation software, like Cisco’s Identity Services Engine (ISE), controls network access and security. In a micro-segmented network, no device can connect to any other device without going through a central point of security policy and control. It provides rock-solid security, but businesses are often reluctant to implement a solution like this because of the complexity.

Then there are next-generation firewalls. A decade ago, a few industrious hackers found they could get unlimited free internet from Starbucks by tunnelling through an open TCP port for DNS, and past the ordinary firewall. This same attack would never happen with a next-generation firewall. Next-generation firewalls examine the traffic going through them, and prevent access to anything that seems out-of-the-ordinary, focusing on the application being used, and the behavior of the user, rather than what port is being used.

Last, but not least, there is endpoint security, the next-generation anti-virus. Endpoint systems study the behaviour of applications being run. They monitor the application usage of employees, and can tell when something has changed, when a user is using more than just Word or Excel, or whatever is in the normal range of behaviours, and shuts it down.

If you’re wondering what solution is right for you, think about the two key considerations I mentioned, and if you’re ready, let’s have a conversation so that we can assess the best solution for you.



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