Nine Security Tips That Go Outside the Box

The great challenge of security is that you are not only battling Murphy’s Law — the universal tendency of things to go wrong — but also shrewd and malicious attackers who are looking for an edge. Rather than constantly changing strategies to match these evolving threats, many security pros could benefit from finding a few simple methods that can stand the test of time and help prevent a breach.

Nine Simple Yet Effective Security Tips

InfoWorld recently published a report titled, “18 Surprising Tips for Security Pros.” Many of the recommendations included are often ignored as old-fashioned or simplistic, but they can go a long way toward thwarting the efforts of cybercriminals trying to break into your network. Here are nine of the security tips the report named as the most effective for solidifying your defenses against those malicious actors.

1. Rename Administrator Accounts

On Windows systems and many others, accounts with admin privileges are, by default, named Administrator. Renaming them might sound like a simple gimmick — security by obscurity — but it can be surprisingly effective. Intruders can’t attack your administrator accounts if they can’t find them.

2. Eliminate Administrator Accounts

The next step should be to do away with broadly privileged admin accounts entirely. Admin functions can be divided among accounts that are narrowly restricted in roles. This means attackers will not find a master key to let them manipulate your network.

3. Set Up Honeypots

A honeypot is a computer asset that exists solely to provide attackers with an inviting-looking target. The beauty of a honeypot is that you can monitor it: If there is activity in your honeypot, you know you are being attacked.

4. Don’t Use Default Communications Ports

This is another deceptively simple yet effective security tip that resembles the principle of security by obscurity. Most malware is designed to attack default ports, and most fraudsters are simply looking for easy victims. If their malware is foxed by an unusual configuration, they may move on to another potential victim.

5. Install Applications to Non-Default Directories

This is yet another basic but crucial tip. Installing applications to non-default directories is not as potent as it used to be because so many attacks today are launched at the application file level. However, placing your applications in less-than-obvious locations is still a good way to throw off many attacks.

6. Install Tarpits to Ensnare Attackers

A tarpit is a variation on the honeypot theme. It draws in attackers, then entangles them in protocol slowdowns, continual reconnection and other ways of wasting malware’s time. Just make sure the tarpit does not kick in prematurely — if it does, it will stall legitimate users instead of attackers.

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7. Analyze Network Traffic Flow

Cybercrime has gone global, meaning that the location of data calls can be a key tipoff. If vast amounts of your data are being sent to somewhere in Eastern Europe when you don’t conduct business there, things might be amiss. Traffic flow analysis can determine the normal flows of your network so that abnormal trends stick out like a sore thumb.

8. Disable Internet Browsing on Servers

Disabling internet browsing on servers exploits two facts of life: first, that most servers don’t actually need to go online; and second, that most security breaches are due to human blunders. Your admins can do their web surfing on their own devices and take their own risks with potentially malicious websites without compromising your servers.

9. Build In Security Upfront

Most of the security tips above are simple but effective. This one is a way of thinking about development. Security should be built in, not bolted on as an afterthought. If your organization develops its own custom code, best practices such as using secure languages, code review and penetration testing will make your applications far less vulnerable to attacks.

These are just nine of the security tips included in the InfoWorld report, but they could prove to be tremendously important for organizations across industries. Although some may feel too basic — at least for the advanced security team — they are solid reminders of best practices that should be disseminated throughout an enterprise.

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Rick Robinson is a writer and blogger, with a current 'day job' focus on the tech industry and a particular interest in the interplay of tech-driven factors and business considerations - think of the relationship between virtualization and cloud computing. Rick also blogs at Rocketpunk Manifesto on outer space, possible futures, speculative technology, and speculative literature. He has also had print articles published on aviation and military history.