Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Keeping your network free from malware

One of my hats that I wear at work is that of a network security professional. I’m in charge of making sure that all our systems are secure from outside threats and also from internal threats. When you have just one or two computers to worry about, network security is pretty simple. You just make sure that you have adequate anti-virus software, perhaps a firewall or just be behind a router and your set. Network security in the workplace is much more involved than that. Anti-virus is a good start but unless it is always up-to-date on all the systems on the network, it won’t provide you with enough of a defense. A good network firewall is also essential to have. I prefer to use a firewall appliance but a software firewall on your gateways will suffice. The firewall appliance also has to be kept up-to-date with the latest firmware. You also have to make sure that all your workstations are up-to-date with the latest patches. Then you need to insure that there are no security holes in any other software you’re running. You also need security software running on your email server to cut-down on the number of threats that make it into a user’s inbox. If your users need have to access the network remotely you need to secure that too. The most common method is setup a good VPN solution.

Every network administrator should have on hand a security toolkit that can work independently of a workstation’s OS to find malware. Some anti-virus solutions can scan systems over the network. There are a variety of tools out there but there are also some malware programs in disguise as anti-spyware. Just make sure you know that what you are using is going to work for what you need it to do.

If you’re a programmer, the development/testing environment should be separate from the rest of the network, especially if what you’re working on is experimental. You never want to chance breaking working systems with untested code.

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