29 Nov 2007

On Sydney and Security

Author: q | Filed under: Conference, SBS, Security

I’m finally getting back in the swing of things following the week I spent in Sydney with my wife and friends. We headed down to Australia for the SMB Security Summit put on my Trend Micro and SBSFAQ.com, and a bit of sightseeing as well. It was a long trip, and I have a renewed respect for the efforts our Australian counterparts to come to the US as often as they do. I certainly couldn’t imagine making another trip like that for quite a while, despite my issues with flying in general.

But I gladly went to the conference, not only to help out my friend Wayne Small, who offered me an opportunity to speak and share my expertise in the forum, but also to learn. Every chance I have to participate in an event like this is more than just an opportunity to give back to the community, but it’s a great chance for me to listen to other experts and either get reminded of issues that have slipped to the back of my mind, or to acquire new information that I didn’t have before. Being able to mix and mingle with the likes of Dana Epp, Amy Babinchak, Susan Bradley, Wayne Small,Dean Calvert,and many, many others and pick their brains about issues I’m facing with my company or my clients was a fabulous opportunity.

There were several common themes that prevailed during the myriad of discussions both in and out of conference that week. Two of the key ones were the importance of least privilege and improving authentication. Clearly, Dana’s AuthAnvil offering from Scorpion Software was a big point of discussion for bringing affordable and easy-to-manage two-factor authentication into the micro and small business arena. But more than just a sales pitch, Dana makes a clear case for the importance of two-factor authentication and how implementation of such a system can significantly improve security for even the smallest operations.

The interesting take on least use privilege, however, was not from the user perspective, but from an administration perspective. Amy and I discussed in our session on security and remote support the importance of realizing that as more and more IT shops begin to provide remote support to their widening client base, those shops cannot and should not increase the security risk to their clients in order to make it easier for them to support those clients.  There was a lot of good discussion during our session stemming from some very insightful questions, and I think we all came away from the day with a good sense of things to think about within our own firms as we move forward.

One practical point that I’m starting to implement in my operation is the use of AuthAnvil to help protect those servers we support who have port 3389 open to the Internet, even temporarily. With a combination of an additional administrator-equivalent account on the network, installation of the AuthAnvil software, and a requirement that access to the server be protected by two-factor authentication, we can significantly reduce the risk of having port 3389 open to the Internet as well as increase the level of documentation when these sites are accessed. That, and it gives us an “in” to discuss two-factor authentication with our clients and work to really help them reduce their own security vulnerabilities.

Thanks to everyone who participated in the conference and helped make it a real benefit to those who were able to attend. Thanks for the insightful questions that got us all thinking, and thanks for the opportunities to not only help others improve their own operations, but to help me bring my own ship in a little tighter as well.

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