Top 5 network security threats businesses need to address today

Thanks to the explosion of embedded devices, ranging from tablets and smartphones to gaming consoles; social media’s impact on the workforce; and other evolving technologies, organisations are being forced to step up the security measures responsible for safeguarding their valuable corporate networks.

Added to this, new IT threats are constantly emerging, and in-between budget cuts IT departments and security professionals are facing the challenge of keeping their networks running securely with fewer resources.

With that in mind there are five key threats most organisations will come up against this year – that is, if they haven’t already experienced them. It is important for businesses to ready themselves for these.

1. Many mobile devices equal increased risks

A large majority of people are not aware of how their mobile devices can compromise network security. For instance, look at the number of iPhones, iPads, feature phones and Android smartphones being launched and used by people these days. They all have different operating systems, which are constantly being upgraded and – as a result – can cause serious damage to the network. Unless they are prevented, it’s only a matter of time before problems occur. Therefore businesses need to understand how to support these devices while maintaining complete device visibility and control.

2. Social media can spread viruses

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube are here to stay. As businesses and consumers, we have come to rely on them more regardless of whether we are at home or at work or if we are using a desktop or mobile device – meaning it will be just about impossible to permanently prevent access to social media across corporate IT environments. Therefore, having the ability to rapidly identify which devices are infected and to protect the network from social media viruses is critical, especially as users become more dependent on these technologies to communicate, both from a personal and professional standpoint.

3. Desktop and server virtualisation

According to Gartner 80 per cent of enterprises have a virtualisation strategy. This is not all that surprising as virtualisation promises companies of all shapes and sizes significant savings on hardware, easier management of desktops and servers, and enables businesses to implement green IT strategies. However, as more companies move to virtualised environments, there is the risk of new threats.

Organisations should remember that hosted virtualised desktops (HVDs) should be viewed in the same way as traditional devices. They pose the same (and new) threats as any other connected device and so businesses need to set the stage now and prepare themselves, before adoption explodes and negatively affects their business. They need to consider investing in network security solutions that support virtualised desktops. Adoption of HVDs is on track to increase rapidly throughout the next 18 months.

From the server side, virtualising infrastructure, by using products such as VMware, can accomplish many objectives, like “going green” and enable savings on hardware and administration costs. But, enterprises should look for network security solutions that are already deployed on virtualised infrastructure, and which can support the move to virtualise.

4. Embedded devices are accepted now more than ever.

As mobile devices and tablets with WAN and Wi-Fi become ubiquitous, the embedded connectivity in nearly every other type of hardware is making tracking, monitoring and managing enterprise productivity easier. Take for example the following technologies: medical equipment that accesses the wireless network and on-campus kiosks that are now connected to the network. These type of devices facilitate collaboration and communication with the network. The consequence of this is that the level of embedded connectivity will result in a host of new “headless” devices that is at a high risk from viruses, meaning they pose more threats to the network than people realise.

5. Consumerisation of IT

A lot of people are talking about this trend. But what is it? Essentially, as users increasingly adopt their own devices for professional use, organisations will experience more network security threats. In fact, the consumerisation of IT is driving the need for network security solutions that can cover multiple devices and infrastructure components, and which can identify consumer-adopted devices, scan for threats and deficiencies and then provision access or automatically remediate problems—regardless of the type of device or location. This so-called ‘consumerisation of IT’ has made the problem of securing the network even more difficult to manage, placing extra pressure on already overwhelmed IT departments.

Technology and consumer trends relating to the use of technology will always change. At the most basic level the sooner organizations accept this and understand the new types of threats out there, the sooner they can secure their networks against traditional and more modern problems.

As CTO at Bradford Networks, Frank oversees strategic technology functions, including evolution of the current product line, new product and services development and setting the future corporate R&D strategy. Frank has over 20 years of experience in developing complex software solutions for enterprise and telecommunication network management applications. Frank's professional background includes assignments as a Senior Architect at Aprisma Management Technologies, where he designed and developed large-scale systems delivering advanced management services for complex multi-vendor networks. He also held senior engineering positions at Cabletron Systems and delivered secure, highly available, network management solutions including patented automated device discovery methodologies.