Be Safe On The Cyber Road

November, 2002

Working in Hawaii certainly has its challenges, especially when it comes to business-related travel. Companies need to protect vital pieces of information that leave the office. There are a slew of products and services aimed at small businesses or enterprise-level companies.

Take, for instance, the VPN or Virtual Private Network. VPNs have become the most popular and sensible way to link remote workers to the home office. They provide secure access at an affordable cost. A VPN encrypts data from a remote site and creates a “tunnel” that will make it extremely tough to hack into.

Rob Kay, a Honolulu-based public relations professional, uses a VPN-enabled firewall from SonicWall to provide secure access from his Kaimuki home office to his main office in Manoa Valley. The price of the SonicWall box: $500. He also has deployed a (software) VPN client for his laptop, for when he is on the road. The extra VPN client has a price tag of around $75. Larger companies might consider 128-bit encryption with VPNs from companies, such as Cisco, Watchguard, Gauntlet, and others.

A VPN is a bit more complicated from a security standpoint, especially if employees tap into an enterprise-level network. An unguarded VPN tunnel can provide an open “back door” into an enterprise network. And VPNs that are connected to home PCs, especially those with “always on” Internet connections, can become risky gateways for virus attacks.

Don Mangiarelli, a network professional in Honolulu, suggests using a combined firewall-router appliance that is available from companies, such as SMC, NetGear and Linksys. The appliance insulates a remote worker’s home network from the broadband connection. Mangiarelli likes firewalls (such as SonicWall’s) that can be equipped with VPN, antivirus software and content filtering.

VPNs are not the only security issue to consider for remote access applications. Password security is always a consideration. One device that protects resources from prying eyes is the SecurID, created by a California-based security company called RSA. This unit authenticates your access to VPNs, network operating systems, intranets and extranets, Web servers or applications by generating a new, unpredictable code every 60 seconds. The user combines this number with a secret PIN to log into protected resources.

Says Mangiarelli: “The problem with always-on Internet connections is that administrators don’t have the physical control over an employee’s security environment. An always-on DSL or cable connection that’s not secure is an invitation to trouble.” That lack of oversight might pose risks that technology alone can’t begin tackle.

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