Keeping networks up and running is a critical job of any company’s IT department. Problems with the network can lead to down time, which in turn may mean lost revenue.
And network problems are often related to security vulnerabilities that could put sensitive company data in the hands of cyber criminals.
The top threat facing most small and mid-sized business networks? Unpatched software vulnerabilities, says Leigh Dworkin, product manager at network monitoring vendor GFI Software. Vulnerable software often includes operating systems, as well as other applications.
In particular, browsers, Java and Adobe software are most likely to need patching, but device firmware and hardware drivers can also be vulnerable, Dworkin says.
Organizations must make sure they have an effective patch management plan in place, including a list of all software that’s running on the network so IT can check and see what is and isn’t up to date.
One challenge with doing so: IT isn’t always aware of all the software that’s running on their company’s network. That can be the result of users installing software on their own, Dworkin says, or due to accidental software installations or servers that are still running and have been forgotten about by IT.
In addition to those rogue and unpatched applications, network issues also arise due to applications that are configured in unexpected ways. That may include rogue users, unknown groups, open ports or unexpected shares.
Effective network monitoring is key
Keeping the network running smoothly and protecting sensitive data requires effectively monitoring traffic for signs of suspicious or problematic activity. Key indicators of a problem include unexpected access to sensitive data, unexpected bandwidth usage and an increase in calls to the help desk complaining of performance dips and other issues.
Dworkin recommends using a networking monitoring tool that supports all the devices the company uses, including servers, desktops, laptops, smartphones, tablets, routers, printers and switches. The tool should also be able to automatically fix vulnerabilities whenever possible, or provide step-by-step instructions when automation isn’t an option.