In our previous cybersecurity post, we discussed internal threats and what you can do to avoid them. This post will focus on external threats, and how the College of Nursing IT department is working to keep our network safe.
An external threat is an attack or attempted attack by an outsider trying to gain access to a network. There are several levels of external threats, including:
- Basic: These usually take the form of scripts that automatically search the internet for vulnerabilities. They are not usually aimed at specific people or networks.
- Advanced: These are attackers actively trying to access a network from the outside.
- Advanced Persistent: These are often hackers who are state-sponsored or may even come from inside foreign governments. They have the time, money, resources, and motivation to get into a network and they will continue trying new attacks. Attacks of this nature are often the ones you hear about on the evening news.
We asked Erik Yarberry, network administrator for the College of Nursing, what we are doing to mitigate threats from both external and internal attacks. Here are a few things our network is equipped with:
- A Firewall, or a system that uses certain rules to control traffic into and out of the network. The CON has two firewalls– one that protects all networks inside the CON (including Nursing_WiFi) from the outside, and then another one that keeps Nursing_WiFi separate from the wired network.
- A Virtual Private Network (VPN) which encrypts internet connections to network resources that are not available to the public
- Splunk, a program which exports all of the network’s system logs and allows network administrators to search those logs using sophisticated techniques
- Data Loss Prevention (DLP) Software which protects all of the network’s data from exposure or being compromised.
- Various alerts about possible “ransomware” attacks, compromised accounts, too many login attempts, etc
With all of these programs and defense mechanisms in place, our network runs every day while fending off potential attacks from the outside. In our next and final entry for this series, we will discuss more ways that you can protect your information and keep the CON network secure.