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Improving your Network Security; it Doesn’t Have to be a Scary Business


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It’s finally October! Time for the quintessential Pumpkin Spice Latté from Starbucks, complaining about the sudden early evenings and frantic last-minute costume shopping for the office Halloween party. It also happens to be International Cyber Security Month; a friendly reminder to take extra care when it comes to your cyber security, lest a cyber-Dracula should invade and exsanguinate you of all of your rich, iron-filled data. Here at Cetus, we’re always up for a bit of spooky fun, but when it comes to security we’re serious. This week, in honour of Anti-Malware,-Ransomware,-Phishing,-And-All-Things-Evil Month (it’s original title wasn’t quite catchy enough), I’m going to try and make improving your network security a little bit more fun. I’m only 125 words in, so there can be no promises.

Along with an effective cyber security policy, creating a plan in the case of a cyber-attack, using micro-segmentation to minimise the damage of said cyber-attack, making sure that you have ample backups in place to maintain your business after a cyber-attack, and many, many more stress-inducing topics for you to worry about, making sure your network security is up to scratch is also crucial for your business. (If you’re looking at that list and wondering what on earth you’ve been missing, they all link to delightfully hilarious posts that will alleviate all of your fears.) Your network is the glue that holds the entirety of your organisation together. Or, in this instance, it’s the stitching that holds the body parts of your Frankenstein Monster of an organisation in place. Ever try sharing a digital document with Stacy from HR in the next building without a network? It would be faster to train a carrier pigeon to knock on her window- but that wouldn’t be without the risk of interception. Or practise morse code- unless Stacy is on the other side of the building. If you’re lucky enough to be by a window directly across from her, there’s always the option of folding up a paper airplane or, my favourite, using a tin can telephone. And those are all well and good, but what about if Stacy’s office is in another country- or continent? An ultra-sophisticated, time-locked carrier pigeon is the only way to go. Unless you have a secure network, that is.

But ‘pub tonight?’ emails aren’t the only things your network adds to your business (though it might be one of the most important ones). Think of all of the many files that are stored on your organisation’s shared network drive, and all of the instances you need to access one. Last-minute edits to the document that your sleepy, unsupervised intern prepared for your board meeting? Holiday request form? I guarantee you, you pop in there at least once a day to spend half an hour looking for a document someone else created. Without your network, you’d be a building of USBs wandering around the office. Your extremely helpful Outlook calendar that allows you to own the time of your colleagues (but also allows them to rule over yours) is thanks to your secure network, too. Want to work in a café/building site/park bench (near a Wi-Fi source; it’s not that magical)/car park? Feel free to use whatever open Wi-Fi network you want without the worry of a cyber-creep stealing all of your organisation’s secrets. And a lack of network security cost UK small businesses a collective, but nevertheless horrific, £11bn in 2016. So, how do you take care of your Frankenstein Monster?

If your network is Frankenstein Monster’s stitching, then a healthy network security policy is the age-defying, pollution-barrier moisturiser that keeps everything supple. A clear, simple and comprehensive network policy makes everything work smoothly. All it takes is a written document that outlines user policies; who is allowed to access the network, what privileges and limitations do they have, etc. There’s no point letting just anyone who happens to be working for the organisation into every file; unless you’re sending her paper airplanes, Stacy from HR shouldn’t be included in the notes of the main board meeting. A good risk assessment test, identifying important data sets and creating a disaster recovery plan is all that is needed to make sure your network security policy is ready to go! It’s also a good idea to organise drills within your IT department to make sure that the new implementations have been well received by your users, and to identify if they need further training.

A lot of organisations do well to make sure that their network is safe, by investing in the most expensive, most sophisticated and most snazzy infrastructure to keep the outside out. However, where they fail is usually keeping the ‘snazzy’ up to date. We already know that loopholes from unpatched networks can cause some serious security breaches (WannaCry, anyone?), so it’s crucial that your IT department acts on whatever updates may come about. If, for example, Frankenstein’s Monster were to lose a finger or nose, you wouldn’t leave it be, right? So, patch, patch, patch. Speaking of, bad passwords are like skin erosion. Let that fester and it won’t take long until the bad outside germs (cyber threats, in this example) pierce through and infect the entire body. In the age of Gen-V cyber-attacks, it’s important that your password policy is up to the security demands of your organisation. Maybe think about multi-factor authentication? I’ve already written loads on that, but to make it brief, think about making passwords expire every 60 to 90 days, just to be safe.

It’s time to don your favourite lab coat and get into your Dr Frankenstein head space, because now we’re talking about auditing and mapping. Place your monster on the slab and open him up! Know everything about your entire network’s infrastructure; what servers, printers, computers, devices and users are connected? How to they connect, and how do they maintain their connectivity throughout the network? Look for vulnerabilities that could end up causing you trouble in the long run. Keep an eye out for ways you could improve security, performance and reliability. Basically, see if you can replace a few weakened patches of skin with some robust tin and give it a zap to bring it to life.

Last but not least, Dr Frankenstein would hardly have created his monster without making sure he had plenty of backup arms and legs, just in case. And neither should you. Chances are, a hacker will find their way into your system. Which sounds a whole lot less scary if you’ve already read all about micro-segmentation and you’re compartmentalising your network. Regardless, it would be best to make sure you’ll never be caught out if it were to happen. As always, we’ve got you sorted, since we always take backup seriously.

IT’S ALIVE! Now that we have all of that sorted (that wasn’t as torturous as you’d thought, was it?), we’d love to hear what you think. Is Frankenstein’s Monster the best monster comparison of your network? Have you suddenly realised that maybe you need to take another quick look into your security? Have a Halloweeny chat with our experts to see what we can do for you, and decide what you’re going to dress up as this year.

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Speaking of, I’ve finally decided on my costume for the office party; Cyber-Dracula. Sorted.

Directors-9619Missy Beaudelot – Digital Marketing Executive
With a background in journalism and an interest in all things tech, Missy keeps our social media in check while monitoring our websites and developing our digital presence.

 

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