In-depth

Level up your security offering with these simple tips

Attacks are inevitable, but a layered approach to security ensures a strong defence

Cyber attacks can have a significant impact when targeted at a business, but when that business is responsible for the security of its clients, a hack can be devastating.

Taking a layered approach to security is critical as a strong defence against the impact of a cyber attack. While the concept is as old as IT security thinking itself, that doesn't make applying layers of security any less relevant today.

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Attacks themselves are almost inevitable, but there are steps organisations can take to buy the time needed to respond effectively and mitigate a potential breach.

1: Enhance your network visibility

Network visibility enables IT departments to scan, count, spot anomalies and apply policy accordingly. Security event monitoring of this kind can actually be very cost effective in providing meaningful analysis that leads to proactive protection of infrastructure and the data within it.

It's straightforward to gain a degree of network visibility for free - tools such as Alien Vault's ThreatFinder is powered by the Open Threat Exchange (OTX) and will check for compromised systems and malicious communication. Knowing what's connected to a network is also part of the visibility layer, and TripWire offers a free tool called SecureScan that will scan up to 100 IPs on an internal network and reveal lost or hidden devices.

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Quite simply, the more internet-facing devices there are on a network, the greater the opportunity for compromise, so having as much visibility as possible is a crucial first step.

2: Enforce a central web policy

Web protection is another essential layer of security, providing a window into controlling, monitoring and enforcing client web policies through a single front end. It should be thought of as a policy-driven approach to security. Multiple devices should point to a single policy that can be edited and scaled to suit a range of devices rather than having device-level settings across the board.

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Doing this makes it easier to apply website filtering by time or content, perform bandwidth checking to prevent network throttling, and ultimately help protect the business against legal liability.

3: Patch relentlessly

IT departments can scan for attack patterns and apply all the possible policies, but with new vulnerabilities being exposed on a daily basis, it is impossible to keep up with them all. Patch management isn't a silver bullet and will not prevent all exploits, but it will help keep up with the cyber criminals.

It is wise to subscribe to vendor notifications, keep a close eye on security news sites and patch as soon as it's safe to do so - not just when the patch is available, but when it's stable. Applying an unstable patch to a live working environment without testing could do more damage to the business bottom line than the exploit it's trying to prevent.

4: Remove files securely

Secure file deletion is often the last thing on the mind of security-savvy professionals, but hitting delete doesn't delete data securely. It is possible to retrieve data quickly and easily, even from formatted drives.

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Organisations have a responsibility to make that as hard as possible. At the very least, data should be encrypted then erased with a secure deletion tool such as Eraser, on individual files and folders. At the top end of the scale there are costly hard drive shredder services to completely destroy legacy drives.

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