Most companies are turning to virtual private networks (VPNs) to reduce costs and increase security and performance. By using a public network, VPNs can connect off-site users, such as teleworkers and remote workers, vendors, and customers, to a larger centralized network. A VPN is considered as important as the internet connection itself, therefore choosing the right VPN solution is essential.
There are several different VPN solutions in the market today, therefore extra caution must be taken to ensure that the best possible decision is made when choosing a business VPN solution.
The two main product categories are dedicated VPN hardware appliances, and software VPNs (also called server-based VPNs). In the case of software VPNs, the VPN endpoint is actually software running on the device itself, whereas a hardware VPN is a virtual private network based on a single, stand-alone device.
The following four key points highlight how software VPNs are superior to hardware VPNs:
VPN software is generally considered to be a relatively low-cost way to deploy a VPN; dedicated hardware VPN appliances are more expensive than a software VPN because, generally, the VPN software is installed on an existing device. This means there is virtually no other investment required apart from software upgrades.
- Easy Network Management
A further advantage to the software VPN approach is that the network does not change. No additional devices need to be installed, and management of the network remains the same. In contrast, a VPN appliance involves adding a new piece of equipment to the network, therefore increasing the complexity of the networking environment.
- Less Training
Another benefit is that generally, less training is required in the case of software VPNs. Conversely, in hardware VPNs, the IT staff would require more intensive training since the configuration and management tools will probably be different than the ones used on the corporate routers.
- Performance and Scalability
The performance factor is equally as important. The ability to expand the VPN to support more sites or users should not be underestimated when choosing a VPN. Pure software VPN solutions benefit from high scalability. This is not the case for a hardware VPN. If a company were to start with a VPN appliance designed to support 50 simultaneous VPN sessions, and later experience considerable increases in personnel, the VPN would need to accommodate more users. This would require scaling up the VPN will require the purchase of more appliances. Selecting a VPN that is not scalable can easily double the cost if or when the VPN capacity is outgrown.
When choosing a VPN, special attention should be paid to the merits of the various deployment models (SSL VPN vs. IPsec VPN). Modern, pure software SSL VPNs do not require the installation of specialized client software on the end user’s computer. This translates to high scalability and the ability to support many different platforms (such as Windows®, Mac, Linux/Unix), from virtually any device. SSL VPNs enable secure server-based computing environment with strong SSL encryption and strong authentication.
HOB RD VPN is a very performant software SSL-VPN solution, which was only recently certified by the German Federal Office for Information Security. If you are interested in VPN solutions, don’t hesitate to visit our website www.hobsoft.com and inform yourself about HOB software solutions “Made in Germany”.
In one of our previous blog posts, we started our discussion with cybercrime prevention tips. In the following article, we shall further provide advice on how to prevent cyberattacks, with a more in-depth focus on mobile technology and deployments.
Many cybercrime attacks can be avoided with the implementation of straightforward preventative steps. Cyber criminals prefer to attack easy targets, thus the more difficult you make their job, the more likely it is that they will move on to an easier target.
By implementing the following precautionary measures, you can effectively fight cybercrime:
- Protect your computer with security software
Several necessary security software elements are required for basic online security. Antivirus programs and firewalls are just two examples of security software essentials. Generally, a firewall is the first line of cyber defense, as it controls who and what can communicate with your computer online. Firewalls block connections to unknown or phony sites, and will prohibit certain types of viruses and intruders. Antivirus software monitors all online activities such as e-mail messages and Web browsing, offering protection from viruses, worms and other types of malicious programs. More recent versions of antivirus programs also protect from spyware and potentially damaging unwanted programs, such as adware.
- Secure your mobile device
Mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, are also vulnerable to cyberattacks; these devices are attacked by cyber criminals in a similar way to computers. A more in-depth look into smart phone security can be found here.
When smartphones are used for business purposes, a number of safety practices should be followed, such as not saving any sensitive business data directly on the device, to prevent unauthorized data access.
- Turn off location settings
Numerous smartphones, tablets and even some digital cameras now come GPS-enabled, allowing geotagging (the addition of GPS coordinates to your online posts or photos) is especially popular with photos. A geotagged photo is the most marked threat for the user’s personal privacy and security.
The problem with such location-based services is not the information they provide, but rather the information they might also provide to other parties. Providing information about your current location is risky, but even more precarious, the data may be permanent and searchable, allowing criminals to build up a clear picture of your activities through time.
To mitigate these risks, the best thing to do is to completely disable the location settings when requested by applications and refrain from using geotagging. Alternatively, in some cases, these may be turned on only when you specifically need it, then turned off again immediately after; even in this scenario, only a restricted number of friends should be able to see the information of where you are and where you have been.
- Secure your offsite workers
Offsite workers, such as teleworkers and remote workers, including vendors and customers, making use of any type of mobile device (e.g., laptops, smartphones and tablets) should be equipped with remote access solutions or other modern solutions, so as to assure a secure access to the corporate network.
- Back up critical dataAlthough this is not strictly a way to prevent cybercrime, backing up critical data is a crucial step in the event of an attack. Recovery of data and return to normal operations is essential for business continuity; any down time to mission-critical systems may be harmful. Details of the backup processes should be part of the business continuity and disaster recovery plans.
The most really effective steps taken by a computer user to avoid being a victim of a crime render the user’s computer somewhat less convenient to use. Every user must balance how much security is considered enough to keep unauthorized intruders at bay. The German software developer HOB offers its customers the perfect balance between user experience and security. The Secure Remote Access Suite HOB RD VPN allows users to remotely access corporate files and servers from anywhere, at anytime. Due to SSL-encryption and modern authentication methods, HOB RD VPN offers its users a maximum of security. The recent Common Criteria (EAL4+) certification is yet another independent proof for the high security level of HOB RD VPN. If you are interested in learning more about HOB products, please visit our website www.hobsoft.com.
The unprecedented amount of media coverage on concerns over global warming, energy conservation, social responsibility and all things “green” is an eye-opener for everyone. For businesses, environmental issues are a consideration of most IT strategies. But what role does cloud computing play in shouldering social responsibility and supporting green IT computing?
What is Green IT?
The objective of Green IT is to use computers and IT resources in a more efficient and environmentally responsible way. In today’s highly technological world, businesses are becoming more and more reliant on staff working on different computing devices – desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones – all day, which are connected to the corporate network. This is compounded by the fact that virtually all organizations are increasingly handling larger amounts of data that is critical to their business.
Social Responsibility in the Business World
At the operational level, enterprises are also striving to adhere to environmental directives. In the United States, Public Law 109-431 is now effective. Its aim is “to study and promote the use of energy efficient computer servers in the United States”.
Access to data anywhere and at any time is important to enhance the usability of the data. Disparate storage is inefficient; from the business perspective, assets are generally underutilized, resulting in waste of capital investment in storage infrastructure. From the environmental perspective, this leads to unnecessary consumption of power, cooling and space resources.
Cloud computing meets both of these requirements, and maximizes efficiency without hindering on productivity. The eco-friendly solution of cloud computing reduces management complexity by reducing the number of storage devices, centralizing administration and policies, and enhances security and control.
Scalable Computing via Pure Software Remote Access
Organizations can save power by using “server-based computing”, or thin-clients to cater to all parts of the business. A pure software VPN solution provides the most scalability, while simultaneously reducing the cost of IT staffing via decreased internal maintenance and upgrade and support costs. A thin-client computer using a simple Web browser with remote desktop virtualization software can save up to approximately double the energy of a standard desktop loaded with its own dedicated applications. In this case, the applications can be accessed on demand from a remote server from any location via the cloud.
By moving sensitive data into the private cloud, organizations can become greener while simultaneously reducing costs. This prevents staffs’ obligation to use inefficient and time-consuming filing cabinets and copying/printing endless paper documents for themselves or for others. Businesses can make such documents available electronically by storing them securely in the cloud; employees can access them from any location at any time. This saves on paper and ink, and decreases printer carbon emissions.
What’s your opinion about Green IT? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments below.
The dependence on mobile browsers to accomplish security sensitive operations is increasing. With this comes an increase in mobile cyber threats, as cybercriminals are now moving beyond computers and shifting to mobile handheld devices.
A phishing survey reported that the number of phishing targets increased from 2012 to 2013, indicating that e-criminals are spending time looking for new opportunities. Mobile phishing occurs when identity thieves collect the user's information, including financial or account information such as user name and password, Social Security Number, date of birth, and credit card information from mobile devices, for the purpose of committing fraud or other illegalities.
Limitations of Mobile Devices
Specific limitations of the mobile platform make mobiles susceptible to phishing attacks:
1. The mobile device’s much smaller screen size constrains the ability of the mobile browser to entirely display any anti-phishing security elements a website may contain. Most mobile browsers in use today simply lack any room to incorporate security indicators and certificate information that alert users of site identity and the presence of strong cryptographic algorithms, as is done with their desktop counterparts. This leaves users unable to verify whether the website they are logging into is legitimate or not; a critical security flaw rendering mobile browsers unsafe.
2. The permanent default browsers preinstalled on certain phones are another limitation. Their ability to automatically start up and display links the user opens makes it less difficult for cybercriminals, who can now focus on only one browser to exploit.
This combination of a radically reduced screen size and absence of security indicators makes it difficult for users to determine the security standing of mobile browsers, and makes mobile browsing more dangerous for average users, since it provides a false sense of security. Research has shown that mobile browser users are three times more likely to access phishing sites than users of desktop browsers.
Advantages of Mobile Devices:
However, the mobile platform also has some benefits that reduce the concern of mobile phishing:
1. The mobile platform allows phishing targets, including online shopping and banking sites, to develop their own apps for customer use. Assuming there are no spoofed apps and there is a mechanism for constant updates, these legitimate apps facilitate more secure exchanges of information between organizations and their customers.
2. Mobile browsers are increasingly becoming more powerful, and are able to process and run complex scripts. Websites that involve login details may take advantage of this fact to implement better security measures.
Protection Against Mobile Phishing
One can prevent mobile phishing from taking place by adopting and following the following best practices:
1. Avoid opening links in emails, especially from suspicious or unknown senders. One should always verify the legitimacy of the email messages received.
2. Utilization of official apps. If the website one is trying to log in to has an official app, one should use it rather than the browser.
3. Checking the permissions of all the downloaded apps. One should exert extreme caution when choosing which apps to download, as some apps may be requesting too much data, which could result in a violation of privacy.
4. The URLs of the websites one visits should be manually typed in and subsequently bookmarked for future visits. This procedure eliminates typographical errors in the URL that can be directed to a phishing website.
5. Installation of a security solution. Modern solutions for mobile devices enable secure access to data located in the corporate network, without the data ever being downloaded to the device. This eliminates the risk of phishing.
The direction of cybercrime is shifting towards the “post-PC” era, as cybercriminals follow where the users and their money go. Cyberattacks on mobile devices can be prevented by adopting mobile computing best practices.
In the mid-1990s, virtual private network (VPN) technology was introduced by Microsoft, such that a secure connection could be created between a computer and a remote server. Since then, remote access technology has evolved to meet modern-day demands and overcome the shortcomings of the early versions of VPNs.
Remote access technology securely connects employees, customers and even partners with the company’s sever using the internet and/or intranets, including local area networks (LANs), as well as wide area networks (WANs).
Although VPN technology is essential in providing comprehensive security, safety and flexibility to businesses, in particular those which opt for the management practice of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and/or work from home, some individuals and companies remain skeptical of this technology.
This article separates fact from fiction.
Fact or Fiction?
1.) VPNs do not affect the performance of the device
Modern remote access solutions do not require any software to be downloaded onto the device, thus it cannot affect the device’s performance. Essentially, the device does not need to be “known” on the company network, as the VPN parameters used to log in these devices are configurable by the IT team.
2.) SSL VPNs support web and browser applications only
Early SSL VPNs began as HTTP proxies, enabling user access to web applications through a VPN gateway using an ordinary browser. Today, VPNs offer a variety of access methods, ranging from thin-client SSL tunneling to clientless browser interfaces. Today’s high-quality VPNs also offer browser-launched thin clients which can support virtually any application by tunneling non-web protocols over SSL. Moreover, VPNs also enable users to access Windows Terminal Servers and applications residing there, and further resources, such as file servers, desktop PCs or the company’s intranet.
3.) VPNs only allow access to the organization’s data
Advanced VPN technology provides various services which help users maintain access to critical information. For instance, modern VPN technology includes remote VoIP capabilities, enabling employees to use the same work telephone number outside of the office.
4.) VPNs are different from other portals
VPNs can supply highly-personalized portal views that are a function of each user’s individual access rights. Today’s VPNs provide dynamic access portals, whereby network managers can define server access with application publishing in such a way that the user only sees his or her personal, customized portal.
Remote access technology has come a long way. In an era where businesses are concerned with security breaches and unauthorized data access, VPNs continue to offer a highly reliable, fast and consistent approach to securely access data and applications stored in the company’s network, anytime and anywhere.
Readers, what are your thoughts on remote access technology? Please share in the comments below.
If you would like to explore more benefits of remote access technologies and learn useful tips for VPN solutions, download our free e-book: Debunking Myths about Remote Access Technology
Author: Hazel Farrugia
In our previous post on IT security, we discussed four key findings from a data breach study conducted by Ponemon Institute. In this article, we will further discuss these four key findings and outline preventative measures to avoid security breaches.
Key Findings (Continued)
5. Cybercrime Costs Differ by Company Size, but Smaller Organizations Sustain a Significantly Higher Cost than Larger Organizations
While everyone is vulnerable to cyber-attacks, smaller organizations are more at risk. A common cyber-attack is the theft of sensitive data, and for a small organization, the loss of project files or customer databases can put them out of business.
Smaller companies (employees<20) should implement a VPN for secure connectivity anytime, anywhere. Due to their ease of use and versatility, SSL VPNs are well-suited for small companies allowing users to only access specific applications and services, and providing access to Web applications, Windows Terminal Servers and their applications or internal network connections.
6. Information Theft, Followed by the Costs Associated with Business Disruption, Represent the Highest External Costs
Annually, information loss and business disruption (or lost productivity) account for 43% and 36% of external costs, respectively. (In the context of this study, an external cost is one that is created by external factors, including fines, marketability of stolen intellectual properties and litigation)
Setting up strong network security is therefore crucial. Increasingly, more organizations are adopting SSL VPNs, which ensure a secure network connection through the use of encryption, single-sign on options, and firewalls.
In order to minimize costs associated with business disruption, it is imperative that all organizations have a contingency plan in place that outlines how to contain and recover from a substantial security breach. The IT staff must quickly solve the issue, hopefully restoring data from backup files, and returning systems to service without any significant downtime. Nonetheless, any downtime can be disastrous in the case of mission critical systems.
7. Recovery and Detection are the Most Costly Internal Activities
Combined, recovery and detection account for 49% of the total internal activity cost per year; cash outlays and labor account for most of these costs. This highlights the importance of back-ups. A data-backup policy is especially important if the organization has several laptops or other mobile devices that can be lost or stolen. To avoid data theft from loss or stolen mobile devices, no data should be downloaded to the device, but rather all data is completely and securely located in the central corporate network.
8. A Strong Security Policy Minimizes the Cost of Cyber Attacks
As expected, businesses that invest in a strong security policy and system are better off than their counterparts. This stresses the importance of a strong security policy, which provides the plan for the overall security program adopted by the organization.
As cybercriminals have become more sophisticated in their tactics, fighting cybercrime has become increasingly challenging for organizations worldwide. Although sustaining an organization’s security posture or compliance with standards, policies and regulations also comes at a cost, the benefits of strong security measures outweigh the plausible costs incurred by cyber-attacks.
Author: Hazel Farrugia
Recently, the sophistication of cyber-attacks has grown significantly. Cybercriminals are specializing and sharing intelligence so as to steal sensitive data and disrupt critical business functions. Consequently, the topic of cybercrime has been kept top of mind as the repercussions of a cyberattack are costly and potentially very damaging.
The study, 2013 Cost of Cyber Crime Study: United States, was conducted by the Ponemon Institute and sponsored by HP Enterprise Security Products.
1. Cybercrimes are Still Costly for Organizations
The average annual cost of cybercrime per organization was $11.6 million, an increase of 26% over the average cost reported in 2012. Considering this increase in cost, IT security should be a top priority for all organizations, as there is no single failsafe solution to protect against cybercrime.
2. All Industries are Susceptible to Cybercrime
The average annual cost of cybercrime appears to differ according to industry segment; organizations in financial services, defense, and energy and utilities experience markedly higher crime costs than organizations in retail, hospitality and consumer products. The organizations facing higher security threats are not only at risk for financial loss due to cyber-attack, but are also more vulnerable to phishing attacks that could compromise sensitive customer data such as credit card, bank account and social security numbers.
3. Denial of Service Attacks, Malicious Code and Web-based Attacks are the Most Costly Cybercrimes
These are responsible for more than 55% of all cybercrime costs to organizations. Denial of Service (DoS) is an attack which renders information or data unavailable to its intended recipients. Organizations using VPNs can mitigate such risks by configuring access control lists, a method of defining access rights according to user (such as a file directory or individual file).
Malicious code is a piece of executable code designed to harm a computer or its information, or prevent normal computer operations. Malicious code can come from various sources, such as the Internet, infected diskettes, files received via electronic mail, and worms that exploit several system vulnerabilities. It could also be introduced via a disgruntled insider, who has physical access to a computer or network.
A multilevel strategy is required to effectively defend against malicious code, including physical security, password management, product selection, configuration and maintenance, user awareness and education, up-to-date anti-virus software for servers, clients, and electronic mail and adequate system backups. Web-based attacks focus on an application itself, as application vulnerabilities could provide the means for malicious end users to breach a system's protection mechanisms. Generally, such attacks take advantage or gain access to private information or system resources. To mitigate Web-based attacks, firewalls, reverse proxies, and intrusion detection and prevention systems (IDPS) should be used, which actively monitor for attacks and attempt to block or change the environment, thus preventing further attacks from reaching the protected application or system.
4. Cyber-attacks Can Be Costly if Not Resolved Rapidly
The results show a direct and positive relationship between the time required to contain an attack and the organizational cost. The results also demonstrate that both the cost and the time taken to resolve an attack increased from the previous year. Failure to resolve the problem quickly leads to prolonged business disruption and gives competitors a distinct advantage.
The results of the study reveal that no one is immune cyber-attacks, which have the potential to inflict significant financial and reputational damage to the targeted organization. Stay tuned for Part 2 where we shall further discuss the findings of this data breach study and how organizations should protect themselves from becoming a victim of cyber-attacks.
Author: Hazel Farrugia
Remote access solutions are gaining prevalence as organizations are adopting the mobile workforce strategy, benefitting from increased productivity and reduced expenses. When evaluating and planning a VPN solution, it is essential to understand the security risks that are associated with this technology.
Top 3 Remote Access Security Concerns
In fall of 2013, HOB conducted a research survey on the state of remote access in the US. Over 200 CTOs and CIOs were polled, and findings revealed three main concerns regarding remote access security issues.
1. Hackers gaining access to the Network during Employee Remote Access Solutions
Hackers have succeeded in breaking through two-factor authentication and identifying and exploiting vulnerability in a Web application to access an enterprise’s network. Therefore, it is not surprising that 66% of the polled respondents are concerned with hackers gaining access to the network during employee remote access sessions.
Organizations should implement safe and reliable VPNs which provide an adequate level of security, without compromising performance.
2. Employees accessing the Network through their Personal Devices
Today, mobile devices such as smartphones, laptops and tablets have become an integral part of everyday life. As more organizations implement remote working policies, IT managers have less control over enterprise data from numerous devices. Furthermore, determining which devices are accessing which systems and data has become increasingly difficult.
The repercussions of data breaches resulting from lost or stolen devices can be severe. In addition, IT managers generally lose data access visibility when multiple personal, unmanaged devices are connecting to the network simultaneously.
This highlights the importance of a comprehensive mobile workforce security policy, which should also include who is responsible for device maintenance and support, and which security measures should be implemented.
3. Errors by the IT Team leaving the Network open to Intruders
Cyber-attacks are increasing in sophistication and frequency; the costs associated with cyber-attacks are not limited to monetary costs, but also encompass reputational loss and diminished competitive advantage. Security holes unintendedly created by the IT team may potentially lead to the exposure of sensitive enterprise data, financial fraud or even bankruptcy.
The results indicate that enterprises require new strategies in order to combat and prevent advanced cyber-attacks; IT teams should be wary of software and systems use and investigate any suspicious behaviors that are known to be associated with malicious activity.
As organizations make use of remote access to satisfy various business needs, securing the corporate network becomes priority. The findings of this study stress the importance of a robust mobile workforce strategy.
If you would like to learn about the state of remote access in the USA, please download our free eBook “The State of Remote Access in the US”.
Author: Hazel Farrugia
Businesses and individuals are increasingly relying on computers and Internet-based networking. They experience several benefits, but also potential risks. When staff or business partners have constant access to internal networks from insecure locations, security is a major concern.
The Rise of Cybercrime
Cyberattacks generally refer to criminal activity involving the use of a computer network, normally conducted via the Internet. Internet users and organizations face increased risk of becoming targets of cyberattacks. An independent research report conducted by Ponemon Institute on organizations located in the United States in 2013 found that the U.S. experienced an increase of 18 percent in successful attacks from the previous year.
Today, criminals have more advanced technology and greater knowledge of cyber security. Attacks may include financial scams, computer hacking, virus attacks and distribution, denial-of-service, theft of an organization’s information assets, posting of sensitive business data on the Internet, and malware.
Risks of Cybercrime
For businesses and corporations, the cost associated with cyberattacks is large. Stolen or deleted corporate data can inflict financial damage on the victim, damage the company’s reputation, and negatively affect people’s livelihoods. The risks are even higher for small companies, since their businesses may rely solely on project files or customer data bases. The same Ponemon Institute study reported that in 2013, the average cost of cybercrime in the U.S. was $11.6 million annually - an increase in cost by 26 percent from the previous year.
Organizations should follow basic guidelines in order to reduce the security threat to their data and devices. To prevent cyberattacks, companies should:
1. Use a Secure Connection to the Corporate Data
This generally involves implementing a Virtual Private Network (VPN). VPN technology provides protection for information that is being transmitted over the Internet by allowing users to form a virtual “tunnel” to securely enter an internal network to access resources, data and communications.
2. Store Data Centrally
Centralized storage of data offers protection and increases speed, convenience and efficiency for accessing files. Sharing of files enables rapid and easy access to important data from virtually anywhere in the world. The relative mobility and control of data improves effectiveness of workflow. Another crucial advantage of centralized data is cost. Although it is possible to store and backup data on multiple machines, it is considerably more cost effective to use central storage. For instance, data can be stored on a server within the corporate LAN behind the firewall.
3. Use Modern Authentication Methods
Authentication is the process by which the parties at either end of a network connection can verify the identity of the other party. Verification is typically based upon something you know (such as passwords), something you have (smart card or tokens), or something you are (biometric techniques, including fingerprint and eye scans). Deployment of modern authentication methods, such as Kerberos authentication protocol, ensures confidentiality through encryption that ensures no one can tamper with data in a Kerberos message.
4. Use Reliable, Strong Encryption Technology
Encryption is the process of changing information in a manner that cannot be deciphered by anyone except those holding special knowledge (generally referred to as a "key") that enables them to alter the information back to its original, readable form. A VPN turns the Internet (an unsecure environment) into a secure private network, by providing heavy encryption. In particular, an SSL VPN is best-suited for mobile apps.
5. Enforce Strong Passwords
Implementation of strong passwords is a basic security procedure, however it is often overlooked. Complex, hard-to-crack passwords are a simple line of defense against a security breach. Password policies, which offer advice on proper password management, should be in place. Password best practices include:
• Avoid using dictionary words or common sequences, such as numbers or letters in sequential order or repetitive numbers or letters.
• Do not use personal information.
• Use special characters, such as * and #. The majority of passwords are case sensitive, therefore, a mixture of both upper case and lower case letters, as well as numbers, should be used.
• Choose a long password, as passwords become harder to crack with each added character.
• Create different passwords for different accounts and applications. Therefore, if one password is breached, the security of other accounts is not at risk.
• Never write down passwords and leave them unattended in a desk drawer or any other obvious place.
• Never communicate a password by telephone, e-mail or instant messaging
• Never disclose a password to others, including people who claim to be from customer service.
• Change passwords whenever there is any doubt that a password may have been compromised.
The growing popularity and convenience of digital networks has led to an increase in cyberattacks; consequently, keeping up to date with the most recent and important concerns facing the organization is in itself a challenge. Organizations can protect their highly sensitive information by following a safety plan and adopting reasonable security practices.
If you would like to learn more about VPN technology, and review some tips on critical security aspects, download our free e-book: How Do I Find the Best VPN Solution for My Company?
Controls are a mode of living. Whether it’s the workplace that requires a key fob or an identification badge, a password to log into the company network, or an access permission to use a copier, there are numerous controls/safeguards that we encounter during the normal course of our everyday lives.
Defining Control Activities
Control activities are actions taken to minimize risk. A risk is the probability of an event or action having adverse consequences on an organization, such as information assets that are not adequately safeguarded against loss.
Control activities occur throughout the organization and include diverse activities, including approvals, authorizations, verifications, reviews of operating performance, and security of assets.
Internal controls are a fundamental part of any organization’s financial and business policies and procedures. The advantages of internal controls are:
- Prevention of errors and irregularities; if these do occur, the inaccuracies will be detected in a timely method
- Protection of employees from being accused of misappropriations, errors or irregularities by clearly outlining responsibilities and tasks
IT controls are a subdivision of internal controls, and refer to policies, procedures and techniques on computer-based systems. IT controls are essential to protect assets, highly sensitive information and customers. IT controls support business management and governance; they also offer general and technical controls over IT infrastructures.
Subdivisions of IT Controls
Generally, IT controls are divided into two main categories:
1. General Controls
These apply to all system components, processes and data for a specific organization. General control activities are conducted within the IT organization or the technology they support, which can be applied to each system that the organization depends upon. These controls facilitate confidentiality, integrity and availability, contribute to the safeguarding of data, and promote regulatory compliance. General controls make safe reliance on IT systems possible. Examples of such controls include access controls (physical security and logical access) and business continuity controls (disaster recovery and back-up).
2. Application Controls
These controls are business process controls, and contribute to the efficiency of individual business processes or application systems. Examples of application controls include access authorization, which is essential for security of the corporate network. This prevents users from downloading illegal material or viruses, and may also block unproductive or inappropriate applications. Other examples of application controls include segregation of duties and concurrent update control.
Modern IT Solutions
Virtual private network (VPN) technology enables a secure connection to the organization’s data to be made over insecure connections, such as the Internet, and is essential to providing comprehensive security, safety and flexibility to businesses. Furthermore, advanced VPN technology offers several services which help users maintain access to critical information. VPNs facilitate the implementation of IT controls. For instance, VPNs provide dynamic access portals, whereby network managers can define server access with application publishing in such a way that the user only sees his or her personal, customized portal.
Control activities occur throughout the organization, and IT controls are fundamental to protect information assets and mitigate business risks. Deployment of a modern virtual private network (VPN) technology facilitates the implementation and management of IT controls.
If you would like to learn more about VPN technology, and review some helpful tips on critical security aspects, download our free e-book: How Do I Find the Best VPN Solution for My Company?