Top 10 Network Vulnerabilities Inside the Network

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5. Inside connections: Internal company employees can also inadvertently or intentionally access areas of the network that they wouldn't or shouldn't otherwise have access to and compromise endpoints using any of the means outlined in this article. Maybe the employee "borrows" a co-worker's machine while he's away at lunch. Maybe the employee asks a fellow worker for help accessing an area of the network that he doesn't have access to.

What to do: Passwords should be changed regularly. Authentication and access levels are a must for any employee -- he should only have access to systems, file shares, etc. that are needed to fulfill his duties. Any special requests should always be escalated to a team (not a single user with authority) who can authorize the request.

6. The Trojan human: Like the Trojan horse, the Trojan human comes into a business in some type of disguise. He could be in business attire or dressed like legitimate repairman (appliance, telecom, HVAC). These types of tricksters have been known to penetrate some pretty secure environments, including server rooms. Through our own social conditioning, we have the tendency to not stop and question an appropriately attired person we don't recognize in our office environment. An employee may not think twice about swiping their access card to allow a uniformed worker into their environment for servicing. It can take less than a minute for an unsupervised person in a server room to infect the network.

What to do: Reminders should be sent to employees about authorizing third parties. Identify the source by asking questions, not making assumptions.

7. Optical media: In June 2010, an Army intelligence analyst was arrested after being charged with stealing and leaking confidential data to public networks. Sources claim the analyst did so by bringing in music CDs labeled with popular recording artists, using this medium only as a guise. Once he had access to a networked workstation, he would access the classified information he had authorized credentials for and store the data on the "music" CDs in encrypted archives. To help cover his tracks, the analyst would lip sync to the music that was supposedly stored on the CDs while at his workstation. Recordable media that appear to be legitimate can and has been used to piggyback data in and out of networks. And, like the thumb drives mentioned above, they can be used as a source for network infection.

What to do: As with the USB tip, it's important to implement and enforce asset control and policies around what devices can enter the environment and when. And then follow that up with frequent policy reminders.

8. Hindsight is 20/20: While much of this list focuses on mitigating threats that capitalize on digital technology, we shouldn't forget that the human mind is also very effective at storing information. Who is watching you when you log into your desktop? Where are your hard copies stored? What confidential documents are you reading on your laptop at the coffee shop, airplane, etc.?

What to do: The best safeguard is being conscious and alert about this threat whenever working on sensitive material -- even if it means stopping what you're doing momentarily to observe your surroundings.

9. Smartphones and other digital devices: Today, phones do more than just allow you to call anyone in the world from anywhere; they're full-functioning computers, complete with Wi-Fi connectivity, multithreaded operating systems, high storage capacity, high-resolution cameras and vast application support. And they, along with other portable tablet-like devices, are starting to be given the green light in business environments. These new devices have the potential to pose the same threats we've seen with notebooks and thumb drives. What's more, these devices also have the potential to elude traditional data-leak prevention solutions. What's to stop a user from taking a high-resolution picture of a computer screen, and then e-mailing it over a phone's 3G network?

What to do: The same rules for USB devices and optical media apply here. Implement and enforce asset control and policies around what devices can enter the environment and when.

10. E-mail: E-mail is frequently used within businesses to send and receive data; however, it's often misused. Messages with confidential information can easily be forwarded to any external target. In addition, the e-mails themselves can carry nasty viruses. One targeted e-mail could phish for access credentials from an employee. These stolen credentials would then be leveraged in a second-stage attack.

What to do: With e-mail security, source identification is key. Identify the sender using technology such as PGP, or a simple array of questions before sending sensitive information. Access control to broad alias-based e-mail addresses should be enforced. And policy and reminders should be sent out to employees.

Read more about wide area network in Network World's Wide Area Network section.

This story, "Top 10 Network Vulnerabilities Inside the Network" was originally published by Network World.

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