Security advice for small to medium enterprises

Matthew Hackling

Matthew has over ten years experience operating solely in the area of information security, holds a Bachelors degree in security management from ECU and is also a CISSP. He is a former Account Director in Deloitte’s Security & Privacy Services practice. Matthew has led security testing teams on assessments of large core systems replacement projects for banking institutions. He operates more in the area of information security governance these days, despite his urges still stay a bit technical. Hence he plays with backtrack linux, metasploit and new web application security assessment tools in his rare free time. Currently he runs his own consultancy called Ronin Security Consulting and holds the title of General Manager of Security Testing at Enex TestLab. He is an active member of the Australian Information Security Association, and held the office of Melbourne Branch Executive for a number of years. Matt’s security blog is called Infamous Agenda and he is an active twitter user with the handle @mhackling

I've been engaging by some smaller companies recently and it has given me some insight into what the "best bang for buck" information security activities they should be doing. Here’s a list of some of the fundamental security controls they should consider.

1. Download a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) template from the web and back up your systems, put in mitigations for your critical systems that support your critical business processes.

2. Perform pre-employment screening and criminal background checks on new employees and subcontractors.

3. Require compliance with your security policy as part of new employment contracts and introduce a disciplinary process for non-compliance.

4. Download a copy of an ISO 27002 compliant security policy template from the web and customise it to your business.

5. Refresh job descriptions to include compliance with relevant aspects of the security policy.

6. Develop an information classification scheme (eg. a table with relevant examples of what is to be classified as what) and label the most important data in the company (eg. salary information, trade secrets, customer lists).

7. Develop an information asset handling procedure (ie. don't put HIGHLY CONFIDENTAL data on USB sticks and laptops).

8. Conduct security awareness training and require staff to acknowledge an acceptable use policy afterwards.

9. Ensure anti malware software is on all systems and centrally managed so it is always up to date and running.

10. Ensure all users are subject to email and web content management to stop the ingress of malware at the network border.

11. Ensure a firewall is in place, internet facing systems are in a De-Militarized Zone, outbound internet access is restricted to only through the web content management system and the firewall configuration is documented.

12. Ensure administrative and privileged accounts are not shared between staff and service accounts for applications are documented and have strong passwords set. Also avoid sharing of passwords for administrative accounts.

13. Implement identity management processes for user access provisioning, de-provisioning and regular review.

14. Implement a security incident management process.

15. Find out all of the free security features available in your applications, databases and operating systems - and configure them. You will be amazed what is possible with WSUS, Group Policy and Office's Information Rights Management in a typical Microsoft centric network environment.

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