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NIST Updates Computer Security Guides

Guidelines focus on wireless security and protecting mobile devices from intrusion.

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The National Institute of Standards and Technology has released updated guidance on how federal agencies and businesses can deal with network attacks and malware.

The advice comes in the form of two publications that have been revised to reflect the latest in security best practices: NIST's Guide to Intrusion Detection and Prevention Systems and Guide to Malware Incident Prevention and Handling for Desktop and Laptops. The agency is seeking public comments on the draft publications before releasing them in final form.

This is the first revision to the intrusion detection and prevention system (IDPS) guide since its original release in February 2007. The most substantive changes are in the areas of mobile devices and wireless networking, including the emergence of the 802.11n wireless standard.

"Wireless technology is used so much more than it used to be, and there are many more wireless threats now," said Karen Scarfone, a guest researcher at NIST and co-author of the revised Guide to Intrusion Detection and Prevention Systems.

[ For more on NIST's updated security guidelines, see Uncle Sam Wants To Secure Your Smartphone. ]

In other areas, intrusion detection hasn't changed much, according to Scarfone. In her research, she said, some sources said IDPSs aren't "quite as valuable as they used to be," raising questions of whether they need to improve or are the right tools at all.

The guide covers wireless, network-based, and host-based intrusion detection, as well as network behavior analysis, architecture, detection methodologies, and security capabilities. "They'll monitor IP addresses, protocols--it could even be a geographic location--to try to assess whether activity is benign or malicious," Scarfone said. The deadline for filing comments on the draft IDPS guide is August 31.

NIST also revised its Guide to Malware Incident Prevention and Handling for Desktops and Laptops, which has been updated to correspond with a refreshed version of its Computer Security Incident Handling Guide, expected to be issued in final form later this summer.

Scarfone, who co-authored both guides, said the malware incident guide was updated "to take today's threats into account." Whereas malware in the past tended to be fast-spreading and easy to spot, it now spreads more slowly, eventually leading to exfiltration of sensitive data, she said.

Earlier this month, NIST issued new guidelines for securing mobile devices.

The Office of Management and Budget demands that federal agencies tap into a more efficient IT delivery model. The new Shared Services Mandate issue of InformationWeek Government explains how they're doing it. Also in this issue: Uncle Sam should develop an IT savings dashboard that shows the returns on its multibillion-dollar IT investment. (Free registration required.)

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