Create a data recovery plan and secure your network

 Create a data recovery plan and secure your network
Credit: Victor Cruz, Maunabo, Puerto Rico

Following the Center for Internet Security’s best practices.

We discussed building malware defenses the last time out, but today we’re going to focus on Critical Security Controls 10, 11, and 12 covering data recovery, secure network configuration, and boundary defense.

It’s unrealistic to think that you can completely avoid cyberattacks and data breaches, so it’s vital to have a proper data recovery plan in place. You can also tighten your defenses significantly by ensuring all of your network devices are properly configured, and by putting some thought into all of your potential network borders.

Critical Control 10: Data Recovery Capability

Do you have a proper backup plan in place? Have you ever tested it to see that it works? Disaster recovery is absolutely vital, but an alarming number of companies do not have an adequate system in place. A survey of 400 IT executives by IDG Research revealed that 40% rate their organizations’ ability to recover their operations in the event of disaster or disruption as “fair or poor”. Three out of four companies fail from a disaster recovery standpoint, according to the Disaster Recovery Preparedness Benchmark

A successful malware attack can lead to altered data on all compromised machines and the full effects are often very difficult to determine. The option to roll back to a backup that predates the infection is vital. Backed up data must be encrypted and physically protected. It’s also important that a test team routinely checks a random sampling of system backups by restoring them and verifying data integrity.

Critical Control 11: Secure Configurations for Network Devices such as Firewalls, Routers, and Switches

The default configurations for network devices like firewalls, routers, and switches are all about ease of use and deployment. They aren’t designed with security in mind and they can be exploited by determined attackers. There’s also a risk that companies will create exceptions for business reasons and then fail to properly analyze the potential impact.

The 2015 Information Security Breaches Survey found that failure to keep technical configuration up to date was a factor in 19% of incidents. Attackers are skilled at seeking out vulnerable default settings and exploiting them. Organizations should have standardized secure configuration guidelines applied across devices. Security updates must be applied in a timely fashion.

You need to employ two-factor authentication and encrypted sessions when managing network devices, and engineers should use an isolated, dedicated machine without Internet access. It’s also important to use automated tools to monitor the network and track device configurations. Changes should be flagged and rule sets analyzed to ensure consistency.

Critical Control 12: Boundary Defense

When the French built the Maginot Line in World War II, a series of impregnable fortifications that extended along the border with Germany and beyond, it failed to protect them because the Germans invaded around the North end through neutral Belgium. There’s an important lesson there for security professionals. Attackers will often find weaknesses in perimeter systems and then pivot to get deeper into your territory.

They may gain access through a trusted partner, or possibly an extranet, while your defensive eye is focused on the Internet. Effective defenses are multi-layered systems of firewalls, proxies, and DMZ perimeter networks. You need to filter inbound and outbound traffic and take caution not to blur the boundaries between internal and external networks. Consider network-based IDS sensors and IPS devices to detect attacks and block bad traffic.

Segment your network and protect each sector with a proxy and firewall to limit access as far as possible. If you don’t have internal network protection, then intruders can get their hands on the keys to the kingdom by successfully breaching the outer defenses.

The real cost

A lot of businesses argue that they can’t afford a comprehensive disaster-recovery plan, but they should really consider whether they can afford to lose all their data or be uncertain about its integrity. They may lack the expertise to ensure that network devices are securely configured, but attackers don’t lack the skills to exploit that. It’s understandably common to focus on the outer boundary of your network and forget about threats that come from unexpected directions or multiply internally, but it could prove costly indeed.

Compared to the cost of a data breach, all of these things are cheap and easy to set up.

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of Michelle Drolet and do not necessarily represent those of the IDG Communications, Inc., its parent, subsidiary or affiliated companies.

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