Hackers aren't as sneaky as you think

Basic security measures can protect your company from even the most elite malicious hackers

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Implementing host-based and network-based intrusion detection systems (IDS) is also worthwhile. Each is capable of catching what the other might miss. I'm a huge believer in setting up a few juicy honeypots as early-warning systems. Just take a few old PCs that you're getting ready to throw away and set them out on the network. Turn on logging or install honeypot software. My favorite software is Kfsensor and Honeyd. Spend a few hours or a day filtering out the legitimate traffic. After that, any logon to the fake systems deserves to be investigated. Hackers may be good, but they have to touch a machine to hack it.  If they touch your honeypots, you got 'em.

Preventing successful hacks
I've covered this topic plenty over the last year, but I'll repeat the most useful advice here for continuity. The No. 1 way to prevent hacking is to stop end-users from accidentally executing Trojan horse programs. There are several ways to accomplish this goal: You can remove their elevated rights, use application control programs, or simply provide improved education around today's sophisticated threats.

Second, make sure all software, both OS and applications are patched, especially your browser add-ons. Most software comes with auto-updating routines, but not all. Secunia, one of my favorite companies, just announced free software for home consumers that will help keep them update on patches.

Third, use anti-malware software, including a host-based firewall, antivirus, antiphishing, and antispam. Fourth, learn where your data is so that you can protect it. Fifth, make sure you have good security controls and policies, and that people follow them, and are disincentivized for not following them. Everything else you can do to provide better defense-in-depth should be considered, but don't let the extraordinary efforts and products stop you from better focusing on the simple things that will return tangible results.

There are no silver bullets that will defeat all hackers. But it doesn't take some extraordinary rocket-scientist defender to defeat most hackers. It just takes good effort on the few defense items that are mostly likely to provide the best bang-for-the-buck defenses.

The Verizon report said it best: "87 percent [of successful hacking attacks] were considered avoidable through reasonable controls."

This story, "Hackers aren't as sneaky as you think," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in security and read more of Roger Grimes's Security Adviser blog at InfoWorld.com.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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