Enterprises should always take sensible precautions against hackers, but they can do with fewer apocalyptic warnings from U.S. government security agencies and vendors.
A number of security vendors issued such warnings in the wake of last week's alert by the FBI's National Infrastructure Protection Center about increased activity from Chinese hackers.
Although "hactivism" poses a real threat, security vendors or government agencies looking to grow market share in infrastructure protection have driven most of the publicity about increased threats of hacking from China. World events do increase the level of Internet attacks with political motivations, but those attacks are generally no more sophisticated than the Internet attacks that occur every day. No part of the world has a monopoly on hacking smarts--any politicized incident can drive hactivism from either side.
Enterprises should maintain standard levels of protection, regardless of world events, including the following:
Server-side antiviral protection
Regular vulnerability assessment
In addition, enterprises should take unusual precautions when they might be affected by breaking events. Government agencies, defense contractors and other companies associated with U.S. surveillance programs should have raised their level of vigilance as soon as the spy plane incident occurred. Enterprises with no direct connection to the event will likely see attacks increase only as much as they do on Halloween or in early September, when a new batch of college students get their free Internet accounts.
See news story:
Defacements rise in China hacker war
Indeed, it sometimes is difficult to tell whether these vendors and agencies try to prevent damage or to cause it so as to drive new business. Even if these periodic warnings of an electronic sneak attack do temporarily increase enterprises' focus on information security, in the long term, they submerge legitimate threat warnings under a sea of meaningless press releases and breathless sound bites.
Gartner has noticed that category leaders in the security industry very rarely indulge in this public relations practice. Therefore, Gartner urges enterprises to emphasize relationships with security industry leaders that do not resort to such tactics. Security managers should provide upper management with filtered, realistic threat information and not rely on the hype spread by vendors that take the "sky is falling" approach.
(For related commentary on how to audit your Internet security policy, see TechRepublic.com--free registration required.)
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