Online Holiday Sales Have Begun: Have You Secured Your Enterprise Network?
Do employees really need access to the corporate network via their smartphones?
Nov. 14, 2012 10:40 AM
It's that time of the year again. The flood of email alerts showcasing online holiday shopping deals fill the inbox at your office PC, laptops and wireless devices as merchants attempt to lure online shoppers to "click and save" while supplies last. In fact, reports show that this year's "holiday shopping" deals have already started as retailers attempt to stretch the holiday shopping season - to begin even earlier than Black Friday.
According to a recent report in Time, Booz & Co. chief retail strategist, Thom Blischok states. "We're not going to see a huge increase in sales growth for Black Friday this year....What we do expect is a lot of ‘showcasing' on Black Friday. Shoppers will check things out in stores, electronics especially, but then purchase online on the Monday after. Cyber Monday sales will explode this year."
While this is good news for merchants, it can become a virtual nightmare for corporate network administrators. With millions of online shoppers turning their office PCs, laptops, and wireless devices into online shopping carts, they hog valuable network bandwidth meant for corporate applications such as e-mail, SAP, Salesforce, and other business-critical applications.
The onslaught of personal smartphones and tablets connecting to corporate networks fully capable of performing browser-based shopping are further affecting normal business operations. According to ABI Research, more than 36 percent of consumers own at least three wireless devices. eCommerce merchants now alert wired consumers with daily deals almost instantly via mobile marketing. This surge has placed greater demands on network monitoring solutions as the mobile device market continues to grow at an astounding rate of five billion subscribers worldwide.
Most organizations allowing employee-owned devices onto their corporate networks (73% according to Aberdeen) find it not only drains their bandwidth, but also opens up severe internal security threats to proprietary information stored on the network. Employers assume this as increased productivity for employees armed with mobile devices and cost savings for hardware not purchased by the corporate office as most employees (54 percent, according to Yankee Group) demand to use their own devices at work.
According to IDC Research, however, 30-40 percent of Internet use in the workplace is non-business related. Vault.com found 37 percent of workers admit to surfing the Web constantly at work for personal interests. This underscores the need for mobile device traffic monitoring. How can network admins monitor employee internet usage and take corrective action?
Companies can easily set guidelines for network traffic monitoring to safeguard against employees armed with BYOD - especially during high traffic holiday shopping/sale months - in a few easy steps.
MAC Addresses and Mobile Devices
A 48-bit Ethernet MAC address has two components, each of which is 24 bits:
*24-bit Organizational Unique Identifier (OUIIEEE regulates the assignment of OUI numbers. Within the OUI, the two following bits have meaning only when used in the destination address:
Generally, the MAC address is not changed by the end user, thus dynamic IP addresses are often not used to track or report on mobile phone devices. Organizations using NetFlow and IPIX can in fact track these MAC addresses.
MAC Addresses and NetFlow
A reliable Network Traffic Analyzer can be used to report to report on NetFlow and IPFIX. The NetFlow Analyzer should offer a filtering architecture to allow traffic analysts to include or exclude portions of MAC addresses. If the administrator wants to narrow a particular vendor (e.g., 00.00.0c) or the iPhone (e.g., 60:33:4b, 64.b9.38, etc.), a reporting tool can filter on these vendor IDs. Once vendor IDs are added to the report, the type can be changed to view different reports. For example, the top domains these mobile devices are visiting can be obtained if the router, switch, or firewall exporting the NetFlow or IPFIX includes URL information. The IT manager can often click on the domain (e.g. facebook.com) and look at URLs visited with mobile device.
Smartphones: Network Security Challenge
Smartphones are an ideal tool for cybercriminals to push their malware, viruses, worms and other threats onto corporate networks. With many important titles, email addresses and phone numbers sitting on just about every network-capable mobile phone, stealing confidential emails or pushing botnets onto the company network is easier with traditional security measures put aside in favor of easy remote access. With smartphone synchronization, infection can easily migrate onto a PC - a Trojan horse method that infects the PC could provide access to the corporate network. On the other hand, the data carried on smartphones can be targeted through malware on PCs.
Direct Attacks on the Mobile Phone
Cybercriminals do care about sensitive information stored on smartphones, but they don't need physical access to the phone to retrieve it. Rather, they will exploit any vulnerability - for instance in the phone's Web browser (such as the WebKit vulnerabilities on Android phones) - or use social engineering tricks to install malware on the phone. Once the phone is infected, it's easy for the cybercriminal to access any data on the device. In those cases, the locks are useless and the memory card is dynamically decrypted when used.
Businesses must add employees to the corporate network easily and cost-effectively while maintaining desired security levels and remote management capabilities. Traditionally, the RIM BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) has been the gold standard among organizations with corporate-liable policies, providing sophisticated security and management capabilities.
However, smartphones like Androids and iPhones are becoming more popular, and some organizations feel obligated to embrace these as part of the employee-owned smartphone strategy. These are also supporting minimum security requirements, like timed-lock and remote wipe in the case of a lost or stolen handset. Some mobile apps, like Touchdown for Android, provide Exchange ActiveSync capabilities that support security policies to ensure security of the corporate data on the smartphone. Clearly, organizations need to rethink their mobile Smartphone strategies and take into account the proliferation of employee-owned smartphones.
Setting up single sign-on is another strategy that could be implemented on corporate networks. However, as of today, it's not supported on the iPhone. Whatever the decision, a careful evaluation of mobile devices accessing the network needs to be executed.
Ultimately, the question is: Do employees really need access to the corporate network via their smartphones? If they are provided access, then IT must secure the network to make sure the onslaught of online holiday shopping and sales offerings don't turn the season to "nightmare" before Christmas for the network bandwidth.
So, this holiday season, stay safe out there and don't forget to drive safe - on the road and in cyberspace.
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