September 19 2013

Network Security Almost Fun with Fortinet 05:38 pm

What a pleasure it is to read about Fortinet’s continuing technical and market leadership.   First off was the 17% year over year sales growth in Q1 2013.  They were also recognized as the Market Leader once again in 2013 by Gartner.  This makes it several years consecutively where they have maintained product leadership from Gartner’s perspective.  Numbers and recognition like this mean both the industry and industry consultants see Fortinet as a leader in providing network security and network solutions.  They are selling a lot of stuff because people know the product is good. 

One of the most valuable aspects to the FortiGate series of routers or UTM (Universal Threat Management) appliances was a smaller lower cost device has identical services to the high end units that School Boards and large enterprises need.  The only difference is in the amount of processing power the units have.  In effect, our customers had security configurations and features that were similar to what large organizations had without having to spend large sums of money to get it.  It is not uncommon to see Fortinet offer companies with 20-50 staff a solution that is better than the competition and thousands of dollars less. 

Some of most valuable features of FortGate to our customers are website filtering managed by user accounts, website usage reporting, identical security features for Wi-Fi users as wired devices, and high levels of network security from gateway antivirus and Intrusion Prevention services.

Network Security can be one thankless job.  With a good product it can be a little better almost approaching fun.  We chose FortiGate as our primary solution over 4 years ago and it is good to know they have maintained their position as technical leader consistently over that time.

July 2 2012

Whose on Patrol for the Electronic Assets? 10:19 am

Data and network equipment need a regular security patrol by humans to help keep the bad guys out.
When the chance of theft is high nothing beats a regular security patrol. We see security companies at special events, public buildings, construction sites and on regular nightly patrols. Not being a security expert this is presumably on the basis that a human can do far more than a security camera. Even the presence of security personnel can act as a deterrent. How much easier is a target when no one with authority is watching? I once worked at a place where the owner strung wire on the edge of their property and hung up wooden boxes that sort of looked like security camera’s from a distance. Presumably this was to scare off the drunken thief on a dark night otherwise this security layer was more of an amusement than real protection.
Effective security for computers and networks works on similar principles. It may not matter how good the security device is that is installed. Neither does it help long term to have a few ‘scarecrows’ so to speak that aren’t alive hung up. (These scarecrows could be physical or electronic). To keep a network secure and free from being compromised requires both an investment in infrastructure and discipline. A recent meeting of the 23 year old Information Security Forum came to the same conclusion. Their findings state that good cyber-threat management is a process versus an expensive electronic gadget. In other words, in the same fashion that regular security patrols identify that the gates are locked, the doors are locked, the windows are secured, the alarm system is turned on etc, a good IT security practice has a similar checklist. To protect electronic assets some of the items to check are:
• Is the antivirus software current on all clients?
• Are the passwords to computers and folders managed in a secure way?
• Has someone recently reviewed who has access to the folders and files on the network?
• Is the Firewall logging Intrusion attempts?
• Is internet traffic to known malicious sites being blocked?
• If malware is installed is the Intrusion Prevention system blocking it from calling ‘home’?
• Are the important hard drives and servers kept under lock and key?
• Are security certificates used to manage remote access?
Keeping a good network management security checklist can serve a number of purposes. It acts as a security patrol to help keep honest people from being tempted. It also locks down the electronic assets from the real bad guys more effectively.
We believe a simple checklist is a great way to ensure there is a process behind whatever security technology is deployed. This tupe of security ‘patrol’ should be conducted at least once per quarter.
Compiling the data from the checklists to produce a scorecard can demonstrate how security has been managed over time.

September 14 2011

Controlling Facebook Usage and Preventing Data Loss 03:26 pm

Anyone who manages staff  that use a computer should watch the video posted at YouTube simulating a day in the life of Joe.    The video describes how Joe, part of the marketing department has been authorized to do certain things on the internet that may be of benefit to the company and is restricted from doing other things.  It also highlights a lot of the technology pcit puts in place for offices in the region.

Part 1 – Signing In

Joe starts off his day by signing in to his computer and automatically he is asked to confirm he is aware of the companies Acceptable Use Policy. The Policy itself is loaded onto Joe’s computer screen with a little button asking him to agree before being able to proceed.   After clicking ‘I Agree’ to the Corporate Policy Joe proceeds to start off his day by clicking to Facebook.

Part 2 – Facebook For Company Yes – Facebook For Joe NO

As Joe is in the marketing department he is given access to Facebook with the goal that any corporate activity or communication can use Facebook to help leverage results.  However Joe decides that before checking out the company site a little chatting with friends is important.  Facebook chat however shows zero friends are available.  This is because the Fortinet guarding the company’s network will allow the marketing department access to Facebook but not the Facebook chat application.  Next up is an attempt to start up Farmville on Facebook.  In this case Farmville simply never starts.  So Joe browses over to the new games section of Facebook and notices some interesting titles.  Again, they don’t start. 

With no games or chat to get the day going a quick update on Justin Bieber and a link to check out his latest video is the next step.  This time the text is available but the new video won’t play.  Trying the same thing on YouTube Joe still can’t get the video to play. 

Part 3 – Card Games Used to Be After Work Was Over

Since Facebook was not working like it does at home Joe decides that a little online gaming is needed to get the adrenalin going before work starts.  Searching on Google produces zero links that work.  In fact, most of his favourite sites don’t even show up in the Google Search.  Maybe Google is just having a bad day…. 

Part 4 – Show me the deals

Looking for the best deals can be addictive and today Joe is feeling the need for some sports equipment.  As a member of the marketing department the corporate FortiGate Firewall allows staff 30 minutes on Ebay each day.  Joe is just about to swoop down and get the best deal when…..time’s up and access to the site isn’t available any more.  Bad luck, maybe tomorrow will be better.

Part 5 – A Few Questions

The next morning Joe’s manager meets with Joe and asks if he is aware of the company’s Acceptable Use Policy.  The IT department just sent to management all of the time staff spend on different websites using the corporate network.  This includes all of the buttons and Google Searches that were attempted for each staff member.  Joe’s report is pretty long and involved. ….

To see what ever happened to Joe be sure to search You Tube for – Controlling Web 2.0 Applications and Preventing Data Loss with FortiGate.  If you’re concerned that there may be some ‘Joe’s’ using your network give us a call.


June 3 2011

What Is Wardriving And Why Should Your Grande Prairie Business Be Concerned? 07:30 am

If you happen to run a small business, beware! At one time, making sure our computers were locked to our desks and we had the right passwords were just enough to secure confidential corporate data.  Maybe having your server locked in a secure room gave you the peace of mind that everything was secure.  Times have changed especially since the invention of wireless networks.  Today, crooks simply need a WI-FI connection to break into your office.

These Wardrivers drive around cruising neighbourhoods, shopping centers and office buildings looking for open or WI-FI networks that can be easily hacked into.  All businesses are at risk!  Small Business right through to large corporations can fall victim to a compromise of their WI-FI network.  There are almost daily stories of corporations having their WI-FI networks hacked into and customer data compromised.  A few years ago it was TJ Maxx; tomorrow it could be your business.

Right now, these wardrivers might make you a target. Here is how they will typically do it…

Wardrivers cruise around in vehicles, usually the ones with tinted windows to make sure no one outside sees what is happening inside the vehicle. Inside the vehicle will be laptops connected with long-range antennas that collect the list and locations of wireless networks. When they come across a vulnerable wireless network, they tap into it and steal credit card numbers and even personal information.

And if you are using an unsecure Wi-Fi standard called Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP), you may be at risk.  Consumer-grade WI-Fi routers (normally sold at your local office supply store) are often the targets of these wardriving attempts to hack into your business network.  Your business might be using one of them. But the point here is that WEP’s encryption can be easily cracked with a little help from sophisticated tools by unsophisticated hackers, so it is time you reviewed your network security and our team of Grande Prairie IT security specialists can help you.

Just over a year ago, a hacker named Albert Gonzalez was convicted of stealing more than 130 million credit card numbers, most of which were robbed using wardriving.

What does your business need to be secure?

It starts with having a review of your overall business security systems, physical and virtual.  It is great to have alarms on your building, controlled access to your business but what about your employees who connect from home via remote access or your WI-FI connection that is broadcasting to the world that your business is “open for business”.  Having a trusted Grande Prairie IT support team like ours will ensure your network is completely secure, all possible gaps are filled and you can rest assured knowing that the right team is on the job.

Wireless networks are great and they are convenient.  But what are the risks?  Contact pcit today to learn more about how to secure your business network.

May 12 2011

Security Breaches In The Cloud Equals Risk 08:45 am

Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Best Buy, Sony and many more Fortune 500 customers have all had significant outages or security breaches related to their cloud services in the last 6 months.

US online banking is so insecure that a website maps out the locations across the country where organizations have lost tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars from fraudulent activity.  Online fraud and theft is happening at such an alarming rate the site has difficulty trying to keep up.

Many of the users affected have been Small to Medium sized organizations.  These are the very organizations who are expected to benefit the most from cloud services according to most industry analysts.  Yet these are typically the organizations who can least afford a huge risk exposure that many cloud technologies represent.

Two ways that any organization can protect themselves are to look at the following aspects of their operations.

Is there more than anti-virus software and a firewall in place as protection.

Antivirus software is very helpful in removing or blocking infections AFTER they occur or get past the initial defense layers.  Since malware has to get past the initial layers of defense 1st this is not an ideal strategy.  It can be compared to only catching thieves after they break into the property.  Deterrents to keep thieves out in the first place is generally a preferred strategy.

A typical firewall or router that blocks some ports and allows others such as internet traffic unlimited access into the company network are a very weak threat deterrent.  Comparing a regular firewall to physical security it could be said that a regular router is like having a locking door knob and a picket fence around the property.  This may work on the quiet streets of Grande Prairie but the internet can not be likened to a quiet street.  It is not uncommon for a small 3-15 person offices in Grande Prairie to have hackers from overseas try over 100x in a single night to get into the company network.  Why they would want access is anyone’s guess but if there is private data behind the firewall we would recommend better security measures be taken.

The second method has more of an overall impact on data security. We’ll look at the second method in more detail in a future post.