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1. Basic Principals
2. Change Control
3. Server Environments
4. Network and Wiring
5. Network Security
6. Software Purchases
7. Documenting IT

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Information Technology Digest:
Stable Computer Environments
by Wolfgang Blauen, CISSP
5. Network Security (continued)

But beware of the trap of implied simplicity. Setting up and maintaining an effective firewall is definitely “kids, don’t do this at home” stuff! Without in-depth understanding of the mechanisms involved in specific communications technologies and applications, a single configuration change can render the firewall entirely useless. Leave firewall configuration for non-standard applications to a professional!

What about other threats? Here’s a list of “cures”:

  • Viruses: There are several great (and in some cases even free) virus protection software providers in the market. You can get recommendation for these in any computer magazine or on the Consumer Report web site. While mostly a PC /Windows dilemma, there are several products in the market that start to branch out into more sophisticated protection that applies to the Mac environment as well. Virus protection belongs on every server and workstation in your network regardless of whether they are frequently used to access the public Internet or not.

  • Pop-Up Ads: Pop-Up ads utilize Browser internal functionality and can, depending on the Web Browser you chose for your company, be a platform-independent problem. The same companies that produce Virus protection programs have started to create Pop-Up blockers and some Internet Service Provides (ISPs) actually let their users download and install these blockers for free. Pop-Up blockers should be installed on any computers that have a Web Browser installed and are configured for Internet access.

  • SPAM email: The nasty side effect of email being so easy to use is that there are quite a few shady individuals out there that bombard you with unsolicited email messages many of questionable content. There are quite a few SPAM blocking and tagging tools available. My recommendation is to install an email Proxy server (i.e. SpamPal: on your firewall, since you most likely download your email from an ISPs mail server. That simplifies the maintenance of global allow or deny lists for specific sender addresses. Alternatively you may have the option to turn on SPAM filtering as an ISP provided service or install the tool on each Workstation (beware of the added complexity and maintenance as well as platform dependence).

No matter how you twist it, the best way to protect your business is to train your employees. They should be able to spot malicious email and phishing attacks, they should be able to verify and distinguish good web sites from bad ones. Limit the distribution of critical information to specific trustworthy individuals and give clear auditable guidelines as to its use.

Remember: Just because you’re not paranoid doesn’t mean nobody is out to get you (or your data)!

(read on ...) 

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