There are a lot of great lessons consumers can learn from the world of enterprise IT. In fact, many of the methods used by these large-scale IT departments really aren’t that much different from the ones these tech-savvy professionals use on their computers at home. To make it even easier, a lot of these methods are as simple as adjusting a few of your usage habits.
Before you go whole-hog on your home network and invest in a rack full of networking equipment and hardware firewall units, let’s get one thing clear. I’m not saying you should use the same tools as your IT department. Many powerful security tools are made for the consumer market and are simple for anyone to use. Add to that their general inexpensiveness, and there are really no reasons why you couldn’t follow these guidelines.
Use a Firewall
Corporate networks are generally guarded like Fort Knox by IT administrators. If someone gains access to the right network, it’s big news because sensitive information related to the business and/or its customers may be accessible to the unwanted intruder. It’s for this reason that these networks are often secured by a closely watched firewall.
Corporate networks are very big. This usually means hardware firewall solutions in the chain between the users and the Internet. These firewalls can be really expensive, but thankfully this expense doesn’t extend to the consumer market.
There was a time a few years ago when I would recommend someone invest in a software firewall such as Zone Alarm. Today, firewalls are often built right in to the cable or DSL modem and on by default. Take a moment to check your router to see if the firewall is active. If it isn’t, turn it on. With a little scouting, you can set up any exceptions that need to be made (usually not).
This firewall will keep unwanted information from invading your network. If your router doesn’t have a firewall, or you’d like to double-up on protection, fire up your Windows or OS X firewall.
Be Protective of Your Network Password
Just because you’re allowed in the building doesn’t mean you should be allowed in the network. This is the mentality of IT departments in small and large companies. Access to your network at home shouldn’t be given out to just anyone. If you must offer Internet access to your friends and neighbors, do so on an access point separate from your network. Otherwise, keep your passwords long and strong.
I regularly check the Mac Addresses and access logs of devices on my wireless network. These logs are often available on your router by heading to the router’s default home page. It’s usually located at a 192.160.0.x IP address. It may be in the owner’s manual or printed on the router itself.
This page also allows you to change the password and update security information.
Keep Systems Updated
Take a moment out of each month to run updates on your computers, phones, and router. Firmware and software updates are essential to keeping things secure. Even with firewalls and locked-down router settings, malicious software can find its way past your defenses and directly on your computer. Keeping software updated (especially the operating system) is a must.
Microsoft tends to release Windows security updates on Tuesdays. If there is a zero day exploit out there, you may see an update outside of that range. Set up automatic update checks every night. It couldn’t hurt.
Your router also has firmware that needs periodic updating. Browse to the router’s home page and click the update option to initiate this. It’ll take you offline for a few seconds, but it’s worth the added security.
What about you? What are some of the lessons of IT you would pass along to other readers? Leave a comment and let us know!