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Common Network Security Problems

written by: Radell Hunter•edited by: Bill Bunter•updated: 8/3/2010

When you hear the term "network security" you might only think of viruses, hackers, and malware as threats. But did you know that network security can be severely compromised by unintentional human errors? It can be compromised by human nature too.

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    Network security is as important to a business’ success as taking precautions to guard the company’s financial assets. And while they share common problems in that regard (potential acts of theft), there are differences too: theft of network information can be done "out of sight" and as an anonymous entity, while those who loot the company's inventory can't hide behind an ISP address or store stolen data on a thumbdrive.

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    Employees: A Common Problem

    The most common network security problem isn’t really about outside threats—it has to do with a company’s own employees and their human errors or failures, according to Dr. Michael E. Whitman, CISM, CISSP, the author of the textbook “Principals of Information Security."

    Humans make mistakes; sometimes that is due to inexperience or improper training, and sometimes it is because an incorrect assumption was reached. But regardless of the reason—and the lack of malicious intent—something as simple as a keyboarding error has the potential to cause a worldwide internet outage.

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    Piracy a Problem

    Another common network security problem is the compromise of intellectual property due to piracy or copyright infringement. Fortunately there are some technical mechanisms (copyright codes, digital watermarks) that can aid in enforcing copyright laws.

    Deliberate acts to trespass onto a company’s network system, for purposes of data collection or just unauthorized access, is another common network security problem. This does not include legitimate information gathering like competitive intelligence—it refers more to industrial espionage.

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    Information Extortion and Hackers

    Deliberate information extortion (blackmail, information disclosure), acts of sabotage or vandalism (destroying a network system or its information), or an act of theft (illegally acquiring network information) are all common network security problems.

    Hackers who gain access to network system information sometimes attempt to resell the stolen information back to the company it was taken from or threaten to release it to the world at large, as well as sometimes selling it to a company’s competitor.

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    Software Attacks

    Another common network security problem is of course software attacks (worms, viruses, denial-of-service and macros). These network security problems are targeted to damage or destroy a targeted system and thus deny its users a service. And, unfortunately, as common as such attacks are, they can still manage to disrupt or destroy some network security systems for extensive periods of time and at an astronomical cost financially.

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    A Natural Problem: Nature

    But another common network security problem isn’t the result of human error or intent; it is due to the forces of nature: lightning, flood, fire and earthquake. And surprisingly, some other common network security problems are none other than equipment failure, outdated technology, issues with ISP or WAN service or software failures and errors.

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    Important: Consider all Possible Problems

    So when considering how best to protect network security, company leaders should consider all threat possibilities: those that aren’t intentional, those that are malicious, and those beyond human control.