How Secure Are You?

From DDOS attacks to Trojans and physical threats, what can be done to make your business more secure?

April 11, 2005

5 Min Read
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In a statement last year, Betfair, one of Britains largest online gaming companies, admitted that it had been the victim of a major Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS) attack. DDOS attacks are used maliciously to prevent a server from functioning properly by bombarding it with traffic.

Of course Betfair is not alone. Many online gambling companies have recently been targeted with this type of attack by criminals looking to extort money in a high-tech protection racket. These attacks are growing both in their frequency and their indiscriminate nature. The implications of such an attack can be financially catastrophic, resulting in the loss of revenue during the time that the business is out of action. Then there are the lost customers, who, because the system was down, found the competition just a mouse-click away.

Basically, we are all at risk and there is not much we can do about it, other than spend large amounts of money on massively increasing our bandwidth capacity to absorb any such attack before it kills our business.

And of course DDOS attacks are just one of a myriad of threats that IT faces today.

Let’s go back to basics. Firewalls reside between the Local Area Network (LAN) and the Internet. The technology allows certain traffic through but blocks others. However, you need to set the right rules by which your Firewall should play, or it will be next to useless, or even worse, dangerous!Firewalls are designed to block "inappropriate" traffic, but it is up to the user to define what is and is not appropriate. If they are set up in the right way and used in conjunction with other security measures such as antivirus software, firewalls can be very effective.

But companies are also prone to virus and Trojan attacks.

Simple steps to take in the fight against these high-tech terrors include blocking all emails with file types of .COM, .SCR, .VBS, .SHS, .CHM, and .BAT for example, as these are often the vehicles for viruses and Trojans, and are file types that are unlikely to be used within an enterprise environment.

You could also block any files that have a double extension (i.e. ANNAKOURNIKOVA.JPG.VBS), which masquerade as a different file type than they actually are. Any .EXE files from the outside world should pass through the IT department prior to arriving in your inbox. Not only does this serve to protect you from unwanted guests, but it also helps the IT department to confirm that the appropriate licences are being held for all software running on employees’ machines, and that the program is of a suitable nature.

Make sure your antivirus solution is fully maintained and kept up to date; otherwise it is as good as useless each time a new threat is released. You should also take advantage of online automatic software updates from vendors who regularly put out free software patches to fill holes and resolve known security issues.Ok, so now you feel pretty safe, but what about physical threats?

We all need to ensure physical security exists within our businesses to protect both our investments and our people. In general, we can take nothing for granted. There are no certainties, only risks. Terrorists attack indiscriminately, regardless of size or business sector. But it is not only terrorists that we need protection from. As computer equipment gets more sophisticated, the criminal gangs are often carrying out "theft to order" with specific equipment targeted for "removal."

More people are using secure data centers than ever before for purposes relating primarily to physical security, recognizing that the critical database of customers residing on the server beneath the IT manager’s desk is just not safe enough. Also, the cost of creating a secure environment is prohibitive compared to outsourcing the task. Fire and vandalism are other major issues that need to be taken into account -- data centers have bomb-proof and shatter-proof glass and highly sensitive fire suppression systems, which are designed to protect your business.

At the end of the day, nothing is 100 percent fool-proof when it comes to security, and every business can experience a serious incident that can prevent it from continuing normal operations, but there are a few things enterprises of all sizes can do to help the situation:

  • A crisis management plan needs to be developed by a team that represents all areas of the business. It is vital that the organization takes the development and maintenance of this seriously and it is not one of those tasks left until someone has the time to deal with it.

  • A list of all potential incidents needs to be made, regardless of how unlikely they may seem, and their estimated impact on the business should be rated for their severity.

  • The plan needs to contain a number of milestones that progressively move the company from its disrupted state towards a return to normal operations.

  • Critical business operations need to be resumed in order of importance and all individuals who are involved in this rescue need to have clearly defined objectives.

  • Once the plan has been developed, it needs to be tested rigorously and constantly updated. All personnel need to be trained in the plan to understand each and every individual’s role in the rescue.

If you can do all this to an exhaustive level, you will be more or less as ready as you can be for any disruptive situation. Praying regularly is also recommended...— Mike Tobin, Chief Executive Officer, Redbus Interhouse plc

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