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May 2003
Internet Attacks May Be the Least of Your Worries!


Internet-based attacks on your company's information technology assets are very real and may already have happened. However, Internet-based attacks may be the least of your worries when it comes to cyber-based attacks!

The reality is that most attacks and, even more importantly, most consequential damage , comes from accidental and intentional attacks by your own employees or people with access to your internal systems. However, for many systems administrators, realization of the insider threat comes after a network failure has informed them of dangerous security gaps.

In these days of providing customers and major suppliers with access to your systems, the number of "trusted" people who could cause damage includes many who are outside of your direct control. To protect against all conceivable threats can be an expensive and very time consuming activity.

At first blush, this seems to create an enormous and intractable problem. However, there is a systematic approach that will allow you invest in the most appropriate ways to deals with these attacks. The basis for determining what to do is the recognition that there are three factors affecting the decision: - The probability (P) that the attack would occur; - The cost (C) of the damage that can be caused by an attack including the cost to recover; and - The expense (E) of prevention.

If E is significantly less than P*C, then the prevention is usually worth implementing. As you can see, very low probability attacks would need a high cost of damage to make them a target for prevention. Highly probable Internet-based attacks such as a DoS (Denial of Service) attack generally cause very little damage and prevention is very expensive. As a result, they are not normally a candidate for a major investment (unless your revenue stream is totally dependent on Internet transactions).

On the other hand, a disgruntled employee can cause a lot of damage and this type of attack happens with alarming regularity. In many cases, the prevention is relatively inexpensive and is based on good processes and a good security policy.

This systematic methodology is a risk-based approach - the same approach that we use for any other good business decision. The only hard part is to accurately assess the probability and the cost of damage. — Brad Friedlander




RESEARCH

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ARTICLES




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