Dec 062011

Even the smallest of small businesses will generally have some type of network so it is imperative you take steps to secure your network.  I covered network administration data security procedures in my 5 Step Data Security Plan for Small Businesses article, but in this blog post I am going to dive a little deeper.  Depending on the size of your small business, you may find all or just a few of these tips helpful, and even if you use a third party to administer your network, you can review these security procedures with them.

  • Network Design – In order to ensure you are properly securing your network, the first step you should take is to create a network design.  There are an abundant amount of software programs on the market that will automatically crawl your LAN or WAN and generate a network map.  Just do a search for network mapping software, and find a package that fits your budget.  Some key things to look for are mapping of Layer 2 and 3 topology data, automatic detection of network changes, and the ability to inventory and manage your hardware and software assets. 
  • Network firewall and vulnerability scanning – You should ensure your network connection points are protected via a firewall, and you should routinely scan your firewall for vulnerabilities.  OpenVAS is a free scanning software.  In addition you should make sure your firewall is updated with security patches and upgrades.
  • Network Access Rights and Controls – I covered network access rights and controls in this blog post.
  • Monitoring of Logs – Your network admin (either internal or third party) should monitor your network logs at least on a monthly basis to look for any unusual events such as intrustion attempts or abnormal employee usage.
  • Network Backup – One of the most important steps you take to secure your small business network is to back it up on a regular basis (at least weekly and depending on the volume of data you generate possibly daily).  Depending on the size of your data backup, there are several backup options available to you such as flash drives, hard drive, cloud backup, redundant server, tape, etc.  The most important things to remember are to setup a regular backup schedule, move your backup offsite to a safe location, and periodically check your backups to ensure you can restore the data. 
  • Remote access and mobile computing – Do you have employees that access your network remotely?  If so you should ensure they connect to your network via a secure connection such as VPN.  The connection should also have a time-out period if there is any inactivity.  Devices used to connect remotely to your network should have firewalls, up-to-date anti-virus software, are password protected, and offer you the ability to remotely disable data devices, like mobile phones, if they are lost or stolen. 
  • Antivirus – All devices used to connect to the network should have up-to-date antivirus software installed.
  • Disposal of IT equipment – Whenever you replace IT equipment that holds data, you should ensure the devices are forensically wiped.  There are several data wiping options available on the market, and you can also physically destroy the device if you are not recycling it. 

Follow these steps that apply to your small business, and you will be well on your way to protecting your network.  And if you have any questions, please fell free to post in the comments below.