Security Web seminars: a good training resource

* Review of Network World security Webcast

Readers of this column and others in the Network World Fusion series have no doubt received announcements of a wide variety of recorded lectures available on demand for different topics. However, many of us ignore such invitations, so I thought it would be helpful to review this resource here.

I recently listened with great interest to the first seminar in the series called the “LANDesk Webcast Series” available free from the page at:

The four seminars in the series are:

* Security Within the Management Space (available now).

* Streamlining Patch Testing and Deployment (due in January 2005).

* Spyware and End-node Security (due in February 2005).

* Mobile Security and Real-time Management (due in March 2005).

After a brief registration process, you are brought directly into a slideshow with narration streamed to your browser (it worked fine with Microsoft Internet Explorer v6.0 but did not work with Opera v7.54 - there were no control buttons visible in the latter browser). However, try not to interrupt the stream: I found that the system often locked up if I paused for longer than a few seconds, and I’d have to start over and then move the slider back to the right position to resume from where the stream had stopped or click on a link in the agenda pop-up.

The first seminar, “Security Within the Management Space,” begins with an excellent overview by Mark Nicolett, Research vice president at Gartner Group. Some of Nicolett’s key points:

* In surveys of top-10 business concerns in 2002, 2003 and 2004, security breaches and business disruptions climbed from “off the map” in 2002 to No. 2 in 2003 and No. 1 in 2004 (probably because of malware outbreaks).

* Data protection and privacy concerns in these surveys fluctuated from No. 4 in 2002 down to No. 10 in 2003 and back up to No. 3 in 2004 (probably because of the increasingly strict regulatory environment).

* The time from discovery or disclosure of a vulnerability to appearance of an exploit has been shrinking towards zero over the last few years. Patching is therefore still necessary, but it can no longer be considered a sufficient protective mechanism.

* Sarbanes-Oxley, Gramm-Leach-Bliley and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act have serious implications for IT security; all of them lead auditors to look for clear, defined policies on privacy protection and methods for identifying and tracking breaches of these policies.

* Prime vulnerabilities remain in employee awareness and training for acceptable and safe use of IT resources; HTML and active content coding for Web servers and Web sites; user administration errors on client systems; and missing patches for all layers of the stack.

* The ongoing cycle of security management requires:

- A discovery phase to establish the current status, identify vulnerabilities and define a goal for the more secure state

- Prioritizing actions based on risk assessment and risk management principles

- Shielding the system and reducing potential damage, especially by eliminating root causes for vulnerabilities

- Monitoring compliance and evolving threats to keep our systems up to date.

Nicolett continues with an overview of the threat life cycle; methods for shielding, scanning, blocking and containment; configuration management; defining and maintaining a structured environment; and mitigation and maintenance from an organizational process perspective.

Nicolett speaks clearly and engagingly; one really gets the message that he knows his stuff.

The next section of the seminar is entitled “Today’s IT Security Challenges Need a Proactive Patch Management Solution” and is presented by Barbara Crane, vice president of IT for Aramark. She speaks from an industry perspective - from a company with 200,000 employees in 18 countries for 6,000 client sites and $6.5 billion in sales. At its headquarters, Aramark has 1,500 end users, with another 500 users in regional offices who are connected via a WAN. Remote offices communicate their weekly data through broadband links. The company has a long lifetime for its PC hardware, causing a complex situation for patching. Crane discusses why her firm chose LANDesk for managing patches in this heterogeneous environment.

LANDesk Software’s Director of Product Management, Steve Workman, reviews his company’s perspective on the market for security management products to meet the growing demands for device discovery, audit and compliance, network access controls, patch management, spyware controls, and monitoring and denial tools.

I recommend this overview to anyone, but it will be especially useful in internal training as an interesting module to bring newcomers into the network and system security management team. I will certainly be referring my students to this valuable resource.

Disclaimer: I have no financial involvement whatever with the companies named in this article, am not involved in the Webinar series in any way and do not benefit from its success.

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