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9 Steps To Enabling Remote Access, Safely

Security goes beyond encryption, authentication, and monitoring employees. We also need to ensure privileged users aren't betraying trust. Here's how.
As remote workers become more commonplace, their connections represent an increasingly vexing risk factor. For respondents to our InformationWeek Analytics 2010 Strategic Security Survey who said their companies are more vulnerable now than in 2009, 66% cited as the reason more ways to attack corporate networks, including wireless. Yet IT must ensure mobile workers have the access they need to be productive.

Here's one angle CIOs often overlook: Providing this level of 24/7 support translates to a lot of people with high access privileges working remotely--not just business users, but IT support staff as well.

Most of us have no choice but to open systems to the outside world. The challenge is to do so in a measured fashion, and in a way that allows you to track and audit access while protecting data. Here's our hit list of the top nine dangers that come with unfettered remote access, along with mitigation tips for each.

1| Danger: Running afoul of regulations Mitigation: Document the corporate data and intellectual property that you must protect

This exercise is basic--and vital. You can't even begin to audit and protect your organization's data until you know where all the important stuff resides. The results of a data discovery process can be leveraged across many different projects, including compliance, risk assessment, and data loss prevention (DLP) initiatives.

2| Danger: You can't easily correlate account activity and usage Mitigation: Rein in your account and password policy

Want an eye opener? Ask for a report on the number of general accounts in your directory services infrastructure. We're talking about those accounts called "Support" or "Payroll"--you know, the ones all 5,000 company employees seem to know the passwords to. If you're using general-purpose accounts for any authentication activities without carefully controlling access rights, you're playing Russian roulette. To the degree you can, eliminate them.

And while you're cracking down on anonymous accounts, give some thought to your password policy. Implementing strong passwords is arguably the easiest mitigation task on our list to execute. Sure, it might also be the one that generates the most hate mail to IT, but there's no getting around the fact that you can't let users select "password."

InformationWeek: September 6, 2010 Issue To read the rest of the article, download a free PDF of InformationWeek magazine
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