Internet Security: Use Wisely

The recent WannaCry and variant Petya outbreaks should be more than a wake-up call for network administrators, especially those who aren't being proactive and managing Internet links and instead adopt wait-and-see attitudes.

An over reliance on technology may be failing us here in that we forget that some decisions may not be automated. For example, one company ordered all employees to stop connecting to company resources via smartphones. This isn't necessarily wrong, but it might not be the best way to fend off bad guys -- it speaks about the process in place in that particular enterprise.

Server Message Block version 2 (SMB 2) was involved in the WannaCry ransomware attacks, according to Kaspersky Labs analysis. While the flaw actually resides in SMB 1, the attackers used SMB 2 as part of the exploit. That's regrettable, especially since Microsoft issued a stern "Stop using SMB 1" warning in September 2016.

Unfortunately, the multifunction copiers (MFCs) many organizations use to let workers scan documents to shared drives can be a source of vulnerability. Some of them work on SMB 1, and results are mixed when using SMB 2 or SMB 3. Administrators need to know what's on their networks -- and if you'd had adhered to this best practice then you'd already have disabled SMB 1 if it had been in use and you' had ferreted out any MFC that didn't work using SMB 3.

The second area of concern that keeps rearing its ugly head is software updates. The necessity of patching trumps reliability and convenience. To be fair, updating patches and firmware may prove to be disruptive to workers, and this is an uncomfortable position for any network manager. The message from management may be "we want speed, reliability, and security," but the reality is you may get two out of three while one area will degrade.

During the Petya outbreak, I saw in motion two tools that I liked. First was the McAfee endpoint security client that offers optional scanning of files on shares. The choice is to activate the scanning; note, if workstations are low on RAM and or processors, users will notice latency. Still this is a proactive defense that is easily deployed to desktops. The second really cool feature I saw is within Avast's antivirus cloud console, which lets administrators change security policy to "hardened mode." The change isn't automatic, however. Again, user experience may be impacted.

Patching software and updating firmware just isn't optional, and doing nothing isn't acceptable. In fact, that's the worst option of all.

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