Protecting the Network, Enclosing the Cloud

How Can You Protect an Industrial Network or the Cloud from Any Harm?

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By Jim Montague, Executive Editor

You can't put an industrial network or the cloud in a box. So how can you protect it from harm? Well, prioritized switching and addressing of communications by intelligent Ethernet switches and firewalls are certainly crucial in that they only allow specific data to be sent or received. As part of this effort, Symantec Security Response (www.symantec.com/security_response) encourages all users and administrators to adhere to the following basic security best practices:

  • Use a firewall to block all incoming connections from the Internet to services that should not be publicly available. By default, users should deny all incoming connections and only allow services they explicitly want to offer to the outside world.
  • Enforce a password policy. Complex passwords make it difficult to crack password files on compromised computers. This helps to prevent or limit damage when a computer is compromised.
  • Ensure that programs and users of the computer use the lowest level of privileges necessary to complete a task. When prompted for a root or UAC (user account control) password, ensure that the program asking for administration-level access is a legitimate application.
  • Disable AutoPlay to prevent the automatic launching of executable files on network and removable drives and disconnect the drives when not required. If write access is not required, enable read-only mode if the option is available.
  • Turn off file sharing if not needed. If file sharing is required, use access control lists and password protection to limit access. Disable anonymous access to shared folders. Grant access only to user accounts with strong passwords to folders that must be shared.
  • Turn off and remove unnecessary services. By default, many operating systems install auxiliary services that are not critical. These services are avenues of attack. If they are removed, threats have less avenues of attack.
  • If a threat exploits one or more network services, disable or block access to those services until a patch is applied.
  • Always keep patch levels up to date, especially on computers that host public services and are accessible through the firewall, such as HTTP, FTP, mail and DNS services.
  • Configure your email server to block or remove e-mail that contains file attachments that are commonly used to spread threats, such as .vbs, .bat, .exe, .pif and .scr files.
  • Isolate compromised computers quickly to prevent threats from spreading further. Perform a forensic analysis and restore the computers using trusted media.
  • Train employees not to open attachments unless they are expecting them. Do not execute software that is downloaded from the Internet unless it has been scanned for viruses. Simply visiting a compromised web site can cause infection if certain browser vulnerabilities are not patched.
  • If Bluetooth is not required for mobile devices, it should be turned off. If you require its use, ensure that the device's visibility is set to "Hidden," so that it can't be scanned by other Bluetooth devices. If device pairing must be used, ensure that all devices are set to "Unauthorized," requiring authorization for each connection request. Do not accept applications that are unsigned or sent from unknown sources.
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