Don't neglect intranets when securing servers

Peter McKay, president and CEO of Watchfire, a security software and services vendor, has a piece in the Federal Times reminding agencies not to neglect the intranet when working on security plans for external web sites. Peter writes: "Given their size and scope, [intranets] present challenges that are similar to those common in external sites. There has also been a tendency for intranets to become dumping grounds for obsolete and irrelevant content. The result can be unforeseen privacy and security risks, wasted employee productivity and unnecessary cost burdens."

Peter McKay, president and CEO of Watchfire, a security software and services vendor, has a piece in the Federal Times reminding agencies not to neglect the intranet when working on security plans for external web sites. Peter writes: "Given their size and scope, [intranets] present challenges that are similar to those common in external sites. There has also been a tendency for intranets to become dumping grounds for obsolete and irrelevant content. The result can be unforeseen privacy and security risks, wasted employee productivity and unnecessary cost burdens."

Agencies should also evaluate precisely what sensitive and insecure content is available on their intranets. Intranets host many applications that house confidential information on employees, agencies and citizens. These sites need to be monitored regularly for vulnerabilities. It is also essential that agencies evaluate their intranet operations for regulatory compliance with relevant federal regulations.

• Conduct an inventory of internal Web properties to better understand the Web environment. Knowing how many sites and servers you have, the technologies in use, and the technology policies and standards your agency employs will create a more secure and productive intranet environment.

• Scan your intranet with an automated solution to identify vulnerable areas, including forms that may be inconsistent with internal privacy policies or may lead to information leaks.

• Understand what employee and citizen information is being collected and published on the Internet and intranet. The intranet is used to publish sensitive information, including human resources forms and employee health care information. Full knowledge of all online data-collection methods is critical to effectively managing Web privacy.

• Understand exactly who has access to this sensitive information. Proper technology and security controls will allow employees to see only the information required to do their jobs. Often, contractors are granted access without careful consideration for all the information they may have access to.

• Consider applicable security, privacy and accessibility legislation such as the 2002 Federal Information Security Management Act, the 2002 E-Government Act and the 1998 Rehabilitation Act amendments.