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Are Your Employees Undermining Your Network Security?

by VPNHaus | 05/29/2014 |Industry Commentary, IT policy, VPN

Enterprises are constantly fighting to stay one step ahead of hackers, from upgrading endpoints using the now vulnerable Windows XP to Windows 8 or implementing more secure remote access technologies in light of the Target breach. Then came Heartbleed, which necessitated another immediate response for countless enterprises.

Creating and executing a network security plan can feel like fighting the Hydra, famous from Greek mythology – as soon as one threat is neutralized, another two spring up in its place. The best strategy for enterprises trying to stay ahead of the next threat is to take a preventative approach by implementing technologies that can quickly adjust to threats and ensure that employees comply with network security best practices.

Given the ubiquity of threats that can affect networks, it would seem as though one of a company's best defenses would be its own employees. After all, they care about their company and genuinely do not want to expose sensitive information. However, in many cases, employees are just as likely to unknowingly help tear down the castle gates as they are to protect them.

Transforming Employees from Vulnerability to Asset

Because of the increasing Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend, employee endpoints are now a major threat to network security. Think about all the vulnerabilities your employees could create. They could log on to the corporate network on an insecure mobile hotspot at a café, or they could misplace their device, which could then fall into the wrong hands.

The Ponemon Institute found in its recent "Cost of Data Breach" study that this sort of exposure is all too common. Thirty percent of all data breaches were traced back to human error, which trailed only malicious or criminal attacks (42 percent) as the most common cause of breaches. And, if a lost or stolen device is involved, the per capita cost of a data breach increases by $16. Ponemon found that a lost or stolen device – a very common human error – increased the per capita cost of a data breach more than any other factor.

Even though employees could thrust your company's network security into peril, if they are properly educated about potential threats, they may actually be the best defense to guard against malicious software entering the corporate network. In fact, in the UK, only 60 percent of retailers and financial institutions say their systems are sufficiently hardened to prevent the kind of data loss seen in recent, prominent breaches.

A Comprehensive Approach

Adoption of a comprehensive, defense in depth security framework, including a VPN and other security components, such as a firewall, intrusion prevention system (IPS), anti-malware, etc., along with a robust employee education program will protect an organization against a broad range of threats. By adopting such a framework, all network and security components can work together to become more than the sum of their parts.

VPNs in particular are a crucial component to ensure the corporate network stays secure. Not only are they a proven, secure way for enterprises to enable secure communications with the corporate network by encrypting all data transmissions, those with central management capabilities give network administrators a single point of administration to ensure every employee and endpoint is always in compliance with network security policies.

A VPN effectively transforms a public, geographically dispersed network into a private and controlled one, thus reducing the risk of would-be cyber criminals from infiltrating an enterprise’s defenses and stopping a breach in its tracks. When used with a defense-in-depth strategy, a VPN just might prevent your enterprise from becoming breaking news.

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