7 Ways to Lockdown Network Security by Changing User Behaviour

Security technologies are some of the most advanced technologies, but security itself must be combined with good business and user practices to work effectively. No matter how advanced and well implemented the technology is, it is only as good as the methods used in using and managing it.

  • Acceptable use policy – what network activities are allowed and which ones are not

To protect employees, customers and suppliers all members of staff should be given a copy of the company’ s policy for acceptable use of IT resources including Internet and email.  Often this forms part of the contract of employment. Having an acceptable usage policy in place helps protect the organization from exposure to malware and web threats as well as helping in disputes with employees.

  • E-mail and communications activities

To help minimize problems from e-mails and attachments, informing user behavior is key. Robust email and web security, coupled with appropriate user training and security procedures, are absolutely essential to the protection of corporate data, financial and other electronic assets. Without adequate solutions and controls, cybercriminals can exploit gaps in security defenses and cause serious damage to an organization.

For example:

  1. On Christmas Eve and again on December 26th, 2012, cybercriminals used malware installed on a local PC at Ascent Builders to transfer $900,000 from the company’s Bank of the West account. The theft was followed shortly after by a major distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack on the bank, presumably to conceal the theft of funds.
  2. In December 2012, cybercriminals added 11 bogus employees to the payroll of Niles Nursing, Inc. by using the company controller’s login credentials. Using ACH payments from Niles’ bank account, the criminals initially transferred $58,000 in funds to these individuals, who were to wire the funds to contacts in Russia and Ukraine. In total, approximately $170,000 was stolen from the firm.
  3. A study conducted for the UK Cabinet Office found that the loss of intellectual property – much of it the result of malware and other forms of cybercrime – costs British organizations upwards of £9.2 billion annually.
  • Antivirus policy

To help protect networks against threats such as viruses, worms, and Trojan horses, companies need to implement anti-virus protection on all company devices – specifying what anti-virus software is installed and what interval they are scheduled to run at. In addition, the anti-virus software and the virus pattern files must be kept up-to-date. Virus-infected computers must be removed from the network until they are verified as virus-free. System Admins are usually responsible for creating procedures that ensure anti-virus software is run at regular intervals and computers are verified as virus-free. Any activities with the intention to create and/or distribute malicious programs into the company (e.g. viruses, worms, Trojan horses, e-mail bombs, etc.) should be clearly stated as prohibited, in accordance with an Acceptable Use Policy. Any employee found to have violated this policy may be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment.

  • Identity policy

To help safeguard the network from unauthorized users, current corporate policies surrounding network security often neglect the most critical and weak security component: the human element. An organization’s overall security is only as strong as its weakest link – the user. Environments with disparate sources of identity information have different approaches for organizing user entries, security practices and access control. Internal identity issues can be complicated and need clarifying in a policy format.

  • Password policy, to help employees select strong passwords and protect them

A complex security system won’t matter if a hacker or phisher gets a hold of an employee’s password. If you take a laissez-faire approach to creating and protecting passwords these type of security breaches are more likely to happen. Smart password practices require next to no budget. They don’t need to take up much time either when formalized in a company policy. Password policy is often overlooked, but it’s a very important part of keeping secure in an online world.

  • Encryption policy, to provide guidance on using encryption technology to protect network data

A common scenario occurs when a company with a security policy in place directs the use of encrypted USB storage and distributes these devices to its users. After time it becomes apparent the company is still at risk from a data breach because users continue to use unencrypted USB keys. This company had a security policy in place and they issued encrypted devices yet still there’s a data breach that they must deal with. An encryption policy will not work unless users understand their role in protecting company data. It’s important to have an encryption policy but it’s just as important to have an encryption policy that can be enforced and is easy for the end user to adhere to. The hard part in this process is that it often requires a behavior change, the secret to success is showing employees how they benefit from tighter network security. Cybercrime and phishing attacks most commonly originate with an employee clicking a link to a website hosting malware, opening a file attached to an email that contains malware, or simply just giving up corporate information when asked via a phishing email or website. Such information can then be used as the basis for a sophisticated phishing attack or may be sufficient to get the scammer what they need. There is no silver bullet, but these threats can be mitigated against by training the workforce to identify, prevent, and report such attacks in a timely manner.