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Is any place connectivity our biggest threat?

With better networking technologies, we are now able to actually access anything anywhere. An increasing number of public areas are now Wi-Fi friendly, and in some ways, this seems like a boon. There is no reason to be out of touch, no time is wasted, and our twenty-four hours connected lifestyle has never had it so good.

However, in enterprise context, is this safe? This connectivity comes at a massive price; most of it is about ease of security outages, in unprotected conditions.

In public places like airports, where Wi-Fi is available freely, the threats are enormous. Just a month ago, Sourcefire, (now part of Cisco), commissioned a ‘Beach to Breach’ research that threw up some seriously noteworthy observations:

From the surveyed workforce in UK, 77% usually carry their work devices even on holiday. Almost the same percentage of those who did, checked a couple of hours a day on office activities they might be missing- logging into the office mail from external networks. Not many realize that staying connected to their workplace with their work devices (which may have security apps in place), but using unsecured connections, poses a huge threat to enterprise security.

Here are a few of them:

  • All email traffic over unsecured networks can be captured. Since most e-mails are in clear-text, and IMs in HTML, it does not require very high end coding knowledge to capture the traffic specifics. These can then be mined offline for information that a hacker or someone with vested interests may need.
  • Not everyone realises that there are some apps that share the account details including password in clear text over a network, when a login happens. For instance, every time a POP3 mail account has a new email login and check, the used account name and password are a part of the data transfer- in clear text. Accounts details are, hence, extremely vulnerable for anyone who wants to create a breach, and access data, communications and everything that the user can share over mail. The extent of damage is unimaginable.
  • With freely available hacking tools on the net, any hacker can use unsecured networks as an entry point to launch spam or virus attacks on large mail communities, including enterprise locations. One system being compromised is all it takes for the virus to become an epidemic in the organisation.

These are just a few cases in points of the kind of risk a device faces when connecting to enterprise network on insecure Wi Fi networks.

Although strict end point security is a must, it has also a lot to do with the security status and vulnerability weaknesses of the enterprise as a whole. Frequent vulnerability or threat assessments and device security updates can help detect vulnerabilities and breach points. This may just be the only solution to fight security compromises of the entire enterprise infrastructure – brought on merely due to a SINGLE insecure login.

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