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Lessons Learned

From looking at the sorts of attacks that are common, we can divine a relatively short list of high-level practices that can help prevent security disasters, and to help control the damage in the event that preventative measures were unsuccessful in warding off an attack.


HOPE YOU HAVE BACKUPS

This isn't just a good idea from a security point of view. Operational requirements should dictate the backup policy, and this should be closely coordinated with a disaster recovery plan, such that if an airplane crashes into your building one night, you'll be able to carry on your business from another location. Similarly, these can be useful in recovering your data in the event of an electronic disaster: a hardware failure, or a breakin that changes or otherwise damages your data.

Don't Put Data Where it Doesn't Need to be

Although this should go without saying, this doesn't occur to lots of folks. As a result, information that doesn't need to be accessible from the outside world sometimes is, and this can needlessly increase the severity of a break-in dramatically.

Avoid Systems with Single Points of Failure

Any security system that can be broken by breaking through any one component isn't really very strong. In security, a degree of redundancy is good, and can help you protect your organization from a minor security breach becoming a catastrophe.


STAY CURRENT WITH RELEVANT OPERATING SYSTEM PATCHES

Be sure that someone who knows what you've got is watching the vendors' security advisories. Exploiting old bugs is still one of the most common (and most effective!) means of breaking into systems.


WATCH FOR RELEVANT SECURITY ADVISORIES

In addition to watching what the vendors are saying, keep a close watch on groups like CERT and CIAC. Make sure that at least one person (preferably more) is subscribed to these mailing lists.


HAVE SOMEONE ON STAFF BE FAMILIAR WITH SECURITY PRACTICES

Having at least one person who is charged with keeping abreast of security developments is a good idea. This need not be a technical wizard, but could be someone who is simply able to read advisories issued by various incident response teams, and keep track of various problems that arise. Such a person would then be a wise one to consult with on security related issues, as he'll be the one who knows if web server software version such-and-such has any known problems, etc.





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