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Divided opinions on who poses biggest network security threat.

Sophos : 10 October, 2007  (Technical Article)
Sophos research suggests that employees, remote workers and contractors pose the biggest threats to network security.
IT security and control firm Sophos has revealed new research into the types of users businesses fear most likely to expose their networks to IT threats. The research shows that 31 percent of companies believe remote or mobile users expose their networks to the greatest threat, compared to 25 percent that consider guests or external contractors the greater danger. In contrast, an additional 44 percent of companies believe standard employees are actually more likely to expose the network.

The survey question was as follows:.

Which users expose your company to the greatest threat?
Contractors/outsourced labour - 14%.
Remote and mobile employees - 31%.
Guests - 11%.
Standard employees - 44%.

(208 respondents, Sept 07)

According to Sophos, many businesses struggle to ensure that their mobile workforce adhere to the same security policies as their desktop users. This is because they have insufficient insight into whether these remote machines are equipped with the required software, system patches and up-to-date security applications. Furthermore, Sophos experts note that guests and contractors are often overlooked from this equation and allowed to forgo these security checks entirely, greatly increasing the chances of exposing the company network to attack.

'Remote workers and guests can be a real bugbear for IT administrators trying to safeguard corporate networks, particularly when they're using different devices, different security software and different operating systems or system patches,' said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos. 'These users don't have malicious intentions, but if they're allowed to logon, they can inadvertently expose the network to a myriad of security threats. Without a solution for standardising who and what is allowed network access, these companies are greatly increasing the risk of leaving avenues open for cybercriminals to exploit.'

The research also highlights the large proportion of organisations that hold concerns over their desktop-based employees - workers that are likely to be using similar devices and permanently connected to the network. Whether down to irresponsible online behaviour, utilising peer-to-peer applications or instant messaging programs, or simply because their PC isn't correctly configured, any employee that doesn't adhere to internal security policy could be exposing the network to threats.

'It's concerning how many companies are unaware of non-compliant machines being used on their network, even though they may be permanently connected,' continued Cluley. 'However, irrespective of where the problem lies, the answer is the same. Smart network access control solutions can now help organisations comprehensively enforce their security policies, ensuring that any non-compliant device, whoever it may belong to, is locked down and unable to jeopardise the network.'
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