How SysAdmins Can Secure Networks the Right Way

15/09/2020

Networks are a complex web of data and systems, all linked to collaborate, share, and work together. But the biggest risk to any network is the people who use it.

SysAdmins (or System Administrators) and other cybersecurity professionals are the ones who stand at the frontline of the battle to secure networks every day. More than anyone, they know just how many “fires” are caused by network users.

In fact, 15% of data breaches are caused by the mistake of an authorized user. Clearly, it’s not just hackers that System Administrators need to watch out for.

User management is a key responsibility for SysAdmins. It involves monitoring and checking all users’ activities on a specific network. For instance, a new employee needs access to the network, so the SysAdmin creates a user ID for them. The user ID and profile are unique, so the SysAdmin can track the specific user’s activity as needed.

When the time comes for the employee to leave the company, the user’s account is disabled by the SysAdmin. The individual no longer has access to the organization’s network and its data.

In other instances, certain employees may not be granted access to certain parts of the network. The Network Admin’s job here is to control the permissions of users so that only authorized individuals can get into restricted network areas.

Managing network users is a big chunk of any SysAdmin’s role. But why is it so important to control user access? Why must Network Admins work so hard to stay on top of user activities?

More Access Means Higher Risk

access granted

Trust is an important part of teamwork; however, trusting network users is far from simple. Although employees access their company’s networks every day, most don’t properly understand the severity of the damage that even innocent actions can cause.

Some common mistakes include accidentally entering a restricted area on the network or providing unauthorized access to a third party. These kinds of breaches—though unintentional—can easily make the user’s account vulnerable, if not the whole network.

The more users there are on a network, the more opportunities there are for mistakes. This only increases the risks. Universities, municipalities, hospitals, and federal government agencies are all examples of large networks with thousands of users who have access at any given time.

If they can’t put all their trust in the users, cybersecurity managers need to be able to trust the systems in place to prevent breaches. They also need to remain vigilant at all times, constantly monitoring and checking the strength of cyber defense systems against threats and attacks.

Bottom line: SysAdmins are the first defenders and first responders for network protection.

Gaining Access from Multiple Points

In a new era of remote working, employees are often not even at the office. Instead, they are logging in to the organization’s networks from a range of sources, such as mobile, on-site, and VPN.

Today’s cyber defense professionals must have the ability to respond fast in situations where there are multiple access points. SysAdmins must make sure they are continually monitoring and testing access control systems and user activities across several devices and networks. This makes the task of protecting the network even more complicated, but it must be done.

The Secret Weapon: Passwords

By now, everyone knows how important a strong password really is. You can’t even create a password these days without being prompted by the system to add another symbol or more numbers.

There’s a good reason for this: a strong password is critical to making a network robust and impenetrable. But simply adding a few more numbers is not enough. To create a truly strong password, you’ve got to get inside the mind of a hacker.

Best practice for network user management requires employees to create passwords that are non-intuitive and hard to guess. Also, the system prompts users to replace passwords regularly, usually every three to four months. Weak passwords pose a risk to the entire network, so it is important to continually emphasize the necessity for strong passwords to all employees.

Another tactic is to ensure that employees have different passwords for specific parts of the network. This tightens up the wall of defense and minimizes the potential access points for hackers.

Social Media Loophole

social media

It’s a fact of the modern workplace—many employees spend time on social media during the workday. And it’s not always for fun. According to Pew Research, 20% of employees use social media to help them solve problems at work. In comparison, a further 24% ask questions about work to people both inside and outside their organizations.

In addition, employee advocacy is a hot new trend in digital marketing. Employee advocacy programs with over 1,000 participants can generate close to $2 million in advertising value. Many organizations now encourage employees to use social media to promote their business.

Unfortunately, social media is one of the ways that hackers try to access secure networks. When employees use social media at work, they are increasing the risk.

It can often be difficult to tell whether a new follower on a company’s social media page is genuine or a hacker in disguise. That’s why network users and Network Admins must be on alert at all times for signs of hacking via social media.

Monitoring Goes On and On

Computer networks are active and busy all day, every day. For SysAdmins, managing the users is a job that never lets up.

Imagine this scenario: a company has 600 employees across nine offices in three different countries and time zones, with a team of sales managers and executives who travel frequently.

This complex organizational setup demands much more than spot-checking of system security. It must have powerful cyber defenses in place.

But even that is not enough. Staff members and network users must always stay on their toes, monitor suspicious activity, and report any anomalies to properly secure the system.

It All Comes Down to People

The security of a network is highly complex and becoming more so every day. Together with the vigilance of employees, it requires Network Admins and SysAdmins to make sure the data is kept safe and secure.

This has led to increasing demand for trained cybersecurity professionals and growth in career opportunities in the field of cybersecurity.

Are you a prime candidate for a career in cybersecurity? Does the idea of defending network security pique your interest? Click here to find out more about cybersecurity training and our professional certificate program. Our admissions advisors are ready to answer your questions.

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