If you can't beat 'em, join 'em
The line between work systems and home PCs has blurred to invisibility.
By Keith Shaw, Network World | Published: 08:00, 06 December 2004
With all of the measures you've instituted over the years, you probably presume your corporate network is secure. Firewalls, intrusion-detection systems and anti-virus scanners have helped prevent hackers and malicious threats from damaging company systems.
But all of that goes down the drain if an employee connects to your network through a compromised home PC. Evidence suggests that more hackers are using these backdoors to get into networks instead of trying to sneak by firewalls, IDS and all the other security gear guarding the ramparts. Employees who might be well trained in protecting their work laptops are not spending the money or time on equal protection for their home systems.
Sure, you could try to ban home PCs and other devices from your network but that is a stopgap measure at best. With the holidays around the corner, you know that employees are going to be trying to connect a range of new devices to your network.
The fact is the line between equipment used for work and that used at home has been blurring for years. With telecommuting and flexible work schedules, employees use whatever it takes to get the job done, whether it's a PC at home at 5am, their own PDA from an airport at noon, or a work-owned laptop in a hotel room that evening. But for some reason work policies haven't kept pace. Many companies continue to operate under the mistaken belief that there is a clear line between work equipment and that used for personal use.
It's time to concede a battle you cannot win. Instead of banning employees' personal devices, allow them - but with the same protections you offer for company-issued equipment. Negotiate with your anti-virus vendor to provide low-cost or free copies of anti-virus software for employees' home PCs. Give personal firewalls to everyone who wants one. Spend time training employees on proper security practices for all their computers - not just the company-issued system.
AOL recently offered free anti-virus software for all of its members - we applaud this effort by a service provider willing to protect its members and educate them about security issues. If AOL can protect its members, corporations can do the same for employees.
It might represent more work and money, but the long-term benefits will be greater. A network that is more secure will mean less time spent cleaning up messes caused by attacks launched from compromised personal systems.