E-Mail security survival tips

Holiday greetings equal holiday nightmares for today's IT and security professional. Security breaches and virus threats are at an all-time high and the holiday season compounds this problem even further.
Written by ZDNet Staff, Contributor
Holiday greetings equal holiday nightmares for today's IT and security professional.

In an era when security breaches and virus threats are at an all-time high, the holiday season compounds this problem even further. The holiday season brings an influx of personal e-mails and large files that also mean more potential for security breaches.

These security problems plague corporations of all sizes. In a recent survey sponsored by the International Computer Security Association, the number of companies spending more than $1 million annually on security jumped 92 percent from 1999 to 2000.

Destructive e-mail viruses, such as the I Love You bug, and network down time, continue to be leading concerns for security professionals.

Following are some key survival tips from Content Technologies Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Baltimore Technologies, to help IT managers and security professionals keep their e-mail networks secure, stable and safe throughout the holiday season.

  • Secure the gateway - No matter how small or large an organization, having a firewall and installing virus software on the desktop is not enough.

    To better protect the entire network from viruses and down time, companies should have a policy-based e-mail security software solution installed on the gateways that transmit and receive corporate e-mail. This enables companies to set standards for how e-mail is sent and delivered through the system, monitor for malicious attacks on a 24x7 basis and be better prepared to correct problems.

  • Keep security policies up-to-date - A security system is only as good as the policies in place. As companies change and as new systems are added to the network, security policies must also be updated on a regular basis.

  • Keep virus signatures updated - Malicious viruses, such as the I Love You bug and other worms, contain signatures that can be detected by sophisticated e-mail security systems. IT managers need to make sure these signatures are updated on a regular basis to prevent further attacks to the system.

  • Remain on full alert - Intruders and malicious attackers tend to target companies more during the holiday season than any other time because they know this is a down time. During this vacation and down time season, companies need to make sure they remain staffed and on full alert.

  • Scan all attachments - To help prevent malicious attacks, a company's e-mail security system should be able to scan all attachments prior to being delivered to staff members.

  • Set file size rules - Large files tend to slow a network down during transmission. Companies should consider parking large files so they don't slow the network during business hours. These large files can then be delivered during the slower, evening hours. This also includes video files, which tend to increase during the holiday period.

  • Establish a security task force - IT managers and security officers cannot manage and enforce a security policy alone. Managers from legal and human resources departments and other departmental managers should be selected for a task force in conjunction with the IT department to help determine, educate and enforce a company's security policy for maximum results.

  • Educate your staff - During the holidays, employees receive more personal mail than any other time. It's important to educate your staff on key words, file types and company policies to prevent malicious attacks on the network.
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