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Why You Need a Network Risk Assessment

Anything that's on the Internet is at risk. Large or small, every device is the target of probes looking for exploitable weaknesses. This doesn't mean, though, that you have to slap on military-grade security. It can cause more trouble than it justifies, and it might not even help very much. To make security measures effective, you have to apply them intelligently.

The dangers may lurk in places that you haven't thought of. An all-out effort to protect workstations isn't that helpful if attacks are getting through from smartphones. Effective protection needs to start with a risk assessment of the whole network. Experienced security specialists can recommend priorities and identify weak spots. This lets you focus on the resources that need protection most urgently.

Networks are complicated

Even small networks are more complex than ever. In addition to desktops, laptops, and servers, other components are computing devices that have full operating systems and need protection. Routers, printers, and Wi-Fi access points can have security holes.

The modern network extends beyond the office. It can include cloud services, WANs, and smartphones. They're all potential access paths for malware. Public Web servers extend the network to the whole world, and they're prime targets. Some sites have Web servers that were set up by default, and the owners don't even know they're there.

Just getting an inventory of a network takes diligence. A managed services provider with experience in performing risk assessments can identify all the devices on a network and note likely points of vulnerability.

Data needs protection

It isn't safe to assume that a breach will never happen. The protection strategy needs to make it hard for an intruder to grab valuable information. A risk assessment will determine where the most critical assets are and recommend ways of protecting them. Passwords and personal information in databases should be encrypted. Services that provide sensitive information need especially strict access control.

A lot of networks are internally wide open, letting anyone view and change anything. That's a dangerous practice. Even if every employee is completely trustworthy, an outsider could break into an account and have free rein from there.

Human factors need consideration

A risk assessment will look at security policies — or their lack — and the way they're communicated. Human error is a factor in most breaches. Are employees required to have strong passwords? If not, it's a safe bet that some of them have easily guessed ones like "123456."

If employees can access the network from their smartphones under a BYOD policy, the policy's details need careful consideration. Letting them use any kind of phone without restriction means infected phones could have access and lost ones might contain unprotected company files.

A risk assessment will look at areas where policies could use improvement. The strictness of the policy needs to depend on what's at stake so that there's a balance between security requirements and employee convenience.

What a risk assessment involves

There's no one right way to conduct risk assessments for everyone. A restaurant has different needs from a company that processes medical records. The assessment has to start by looking at the company's general security profile. If its risks are low, then the focus will be on preventing disruptions and making sure botnets don't get a foothold. If sensitive information is involved, then it's necessary to look at all the ways it might be targeted.

An outside company with expertise in security issues can do a better job than even a skilled IT manager. It has more experience at the task, and it has enough detachment to avoid overlooking the obvious. A review by a qualified managed services company will help any business to apply its security resources where they will do the most good. Contact us to get started on your business's risk assessment.

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