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The importance of network auditing software

Network auditing software is an important security tool.  It provides IT administrators with a two-pronged approach to network security. First, it enables IT Administrators to carry out vulnerability assessments and provide an accurate view of the entire network and subnets, making it easier to spot any open ports, unaccounted for components or other discrepancies. Second, it allows prompt action to protect against any open vulnerability. Network security is not just about protecting an individual computer; it is also about identifying and correcting vulnerability found in the entire network. Network auditing is fast becoming an indispensable tool in the maintenance of a healthy network.

Corporate networks

Occasionally corporate networks are deployed and then left unattended and uncontrolled. While these networks still perform their intended function, they are left open to attack. Consider too the role of the IT department; constantly deploying new services, software and hardware.  Add to the mix any number of staff members, each of whom depend upon the network on a daily basis, and you can quickly see how robust network security and management is paramount to the continued smooth operation of this most important business asset.  The best way, most cost effective way to achieve it is with reliable network auditing software.

An up to the minute snapshot of the network is critical to those who are charged with keeping it running; and maintaining up-to-date records in between physical audits and upgrades will ensure that, when undertaken, those processes go smoothly.

Network auditing reveal vital information

First, an audit confirms the existing topology and device configuration; and second, an audit lists any vulnerability found.

Confirming topology and configuration gives IT administrators assurance that a.) the network itself is configured to maximize efficiency and security and b.) all devices attached to the network are properly configured to the same purpose.

Comprehensive network auditing will also reveal any vulnerability negatively impacting network performance and hampering operations. Network auditing software further identifies devices and components that need to be replaced and any missing software updates.

The component diagram of a network plots all the components found, showing all access routes available on that network.  The accuracy of this diagram is critical. Changes made to the network must be reflected in the overall component diagram. Good network auditing software will ensure that all routes on the network are scanned and accounted for regardless of network size or the location of networked devices.

An audit will further your insight into your network by retrieving hardware information such as memory, processors, display adapters, storage devices, motherboard details, printers, and ports in use. It also provides data about what people have accessed and the actions that were performed.

Compliance

There are steps that organizations must take to become compliant to any number of industry specific regulations.  For a network, one starts with a pre-assessment, where the IT infrastructure of the company is reviewed including application architecture, policies, procedures and processes, and the overall network design. Once this is done there must be efforts to standardize policies and processes across the entire IT domain. Once the policies are set up and in place, staff must be informed and trained for adhering to procedures in order to keep the organization compliant. It would also be beneficial for the organization to invest in network auditing software that monitors the network and system access to maintain management oversight into the network and its users and to improve network security. Regular network audits, assisted by auditing software, help organizations to maintain compliance with the relevant industry standards.

The effectiveness of the administrative, physical and technical controls on the network must be tested.  Process and procedure policies safeguard the administrative security of the network, or that which is controlled by human actions. Physical safeguards meanwhile extend from actual physical card-key access to the data center to any steps taken to protect data and systems from natural disaster or environmental hazards. Technical controls would involve testing the IDS systems, firewalls, encryption and other security technologies deployed.

Technical controls, however, often require a penetration test which examines the network from the outside in, on the network perimeter. This kind of test typically starts with border routers and firewalls, and then moves into the core of the network where sensitive data is stored. From there checks are made to see if any vulnerability exists within the hosts.

Mainframes and the distributed network of servers typically contain the PHI databases that are restricted to particular users.  In this instance it's important to ensure, for example, that restricted accounts cannot obtain escalated privileges gaining unauthorized access to certain areas on the network. Another example is the problem of default system administrator accounts that are often, but never should be, left blank.

A proper network audit will find and report these and other open point of possible attack.  Of course the report will need to be acted upon to ensure that the corporation continues in compliance with its own policies and with outside regulatory requirements.

The value of network auditing

Without proper network auditing, an organization will very likely face a series of seemingly small problems that will quickly become large and unmanageable. Setbacks can include anything from insignificant, but still costly, incidents such as over spending for unneeded or duplicate processing power; all the way through to significant fines for unlicensed or illegal software, lost or stolen data, or a catastrophic collapse and recovery event.

There is, to be sure, an initial cost to purchase and deploy network auditing software. However, the expense must be viewed as a small investment in preventative maintenance, to ward off the large cost of disaster recovery.  The payback is immediate, as network and compliance vulnerabilities are found and fixed; all components located and tested and all open invitations to attack are rescinded. Staff will benefit by having a more responsive system on which they can be more productive; the business will benefit from a faster more efficient and secure network; and IT will benefit from a clear picture from which to manage and plan.

All networks are open to certain vulnerabilities that can result in data theft, network connectivity failure, a device or an entire subnet that is out of compliance, and the possible introduction of viruses through unprotected ports or unsupervised access. Network auditing software allows you to scan your network, devices connected to the network, and ports to detect, assess and correct security vulnerability, software and device upgrades required and compliance; with minimal administrative effort. Tens of thousands of customers use GFI LanGuard™, the premier network auditing software for small and medium-sized business to addresses their network auditing needs.  Give yourself a complete picture of your network, maintain security, and ensure a fast efficient and compliant operating environment for your business.

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