Here are seven simple, effective steps that network administrators can take to protect their systems.
Implement a firewall — A firewall is a barrier that keeps hackers and viruses out of computer networks. Firewalls intercept network traffic and allow only authorized data to pass through.
Develop a corporate security policy — Establish a corporate security policy that details practices to secure the network. The policy should direct employees to choose unique passwords that are a combination of letters and numbers. Passwords should be changed every 90 days to limit hackers’ ability to gain possession of a functioning password. When someone leaves company, immediately delete the user name and password. The corporate policy should outline consequences for network tampering and unauthorized entry.
Install anti-virus software — All computers should run the most recent version of an anti-virus protection subscription. Ideally a server should be configured to push virus updates out periodically to all client systems. Employees should be educated about viruses and discouraged from opening e-mail attachments or e-mail from unknown senders.
Keep operating systems up to date — Upgrade operating systems frequently and regularly install the latest patches or versions of software, which are often free over the Web.
Don’t run unnecessary network services — When installing systems, any non-essential features should be disabled. If a feature is installed but not actively used, it is less likely to be updated regularly, presenting a larger security threat. Also, allow only the software employees need to do their job effectively.
Conduct a vulnerability test — Conducting a vulnerability test is a cost-effective way to evaluate the current security program. This test highlights flaws and limitations in the program, and experts can offer suggestions for improvement. The best method for conducting a vulnerability test is to contact a computer consulting company and provide access to your system for a day or two. This will provide ample time for network appraisal and follow-up discussion and planning.
Keep informed about network security — Numerous books, magazines and online resources offer information about effective security tools and “lessons learned.” Also, the Web provides ample and very current information about security – type in the key words “network security.”