The multi-faceted onion of computer security

As most are probably aware, corporate and home networks are typically connected to the Internet 24/7, which exposes them to a variety of malicious software circulating on the Internet.

Because of this, organizations are continually designing and improving network/IT security architectures that use a multi-layered approach to provide security for their networks and computing environments.

To paraphrase (OK…plagiarize) the immortal dialogue between Shrek and Donkey:

Shrek: FYI IT SECURITY is a lot more than meets the eye.

donkey: example?

Shrek: Example? Okay, uh… IT SECURITY… is… like an onion.

Donkey: It stinks?

Shrek: Yes… NO!

Donkey: Or it makes you cry.

Shrek: NO! LAYERS! Onions have layers. IT security has layers. Onions have layers…you get it? Both have layers!

Donkey: Oh, both have layers… You know, not everyone likes onions… CAKE!

Everyone loves cake! Cakes have layers!

So make your choice. Whether you go for the onion or pie analogy, a well-designed IT security architecture consists of multiple layers to frustrate and prevent hackers from entering the network, wreaking havoc and compromising sensitive data.

To mitigate potential risks to the health of corporate networks and IT environments, most organizations use multiple layers of security to protect against known and unknown viruses and denial-of-service attacks.

Some of these layers include:

• Firewalls to restrict access to/from the Internet

• Intrusion detection/prevention system to protect against potential network attacks and distribute alerts

• Vulnerability scanning of critical servers for known vulnerabilities

• File Attachment Blocking – Certain attachment types are blocked from delivery to end users based on best practices established by antivirus vendors.

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• Bi-directional scanning of e-mails for known viruses

• Scanning of workstations and file servers for known viruses – both in real time when files are opened or saved and periodically through a full disk scan

• Scans websites for potential malware and denies access if found

• Regular penetration testing to ensure perimeter controls are effective

• Black Hole DNS – websites known to be “malicious” cannot be accessed

There’s always a window of time between the time a misguided techie releases their creation and the time it takes antivirus vendors to identify them and release new sample files to their subscribers. Because of this, most companies block the automatic delivery of certain file types to recipients.

Contrary to what some people believe, most IT departments don’t try to stop users from doing their jobs! However, they try to take appropriate measures to minimize the risk to their entire network and therefore all users by leveraging the different layers of the security onion.

Finally, the end users provide the final layer of protection. Each user is the “heart of the onion”. Regardless of the measures taken to protect corporate IT infrastructure, IT departments ultimately rely on informed and informed users who are aware of the dangers posed by unwanted emails, file attachments, embedded links and websites emanate from which they access.

Without an informed/enlightened end-user population, the confidential/personal information of organizations and individual users is at risk.

Does your company have a security awareness campaign in place to inform and enlighten the heart of your security onion? It should!