Education and Mitigation: Improving IT Security Through User Education

School IT Security

Unless your network consists of a room full of users connecting to an unsecured consumer-grade router, the most vulnerable part of your network are your users. Technology is good at following rules consistently, while people are not. You can trust a computer not to install viruses on itself, it can be infected, but that’s not how it was designed to function. Technology may not always work the way it’s supposed to, but it’s not like the technology itself has any control over its actions. People on the other hand…Well, you just can’t trust people not to make bad decisions…

Even the Romans knew it. To err is human: Errare humanum est. -Seneca

Trusting in your users to do everything right is foolhardy; however, it’s quite possible to teach them not to trust themselves! In the field of IT security you should trust no one. Think about how much risk would be mitigated if you could pass that notion on to your users.

Would your average users stop opening random links people send them to featuring “10 cute kitten videos you have to see?” Probably not, but if we change the question a little and ask, “Would your users engage in that sort of risky behavior less often?” Then the answer becomes a definitive “yes.”

When it comes to educating your users about IT security, there are a lot of wrong ways to connect the dots. Simplistic training sessions can make your users feel ignorant, gullible, or even unintelligent. From my experience, the best practices tend to be those which are honest, informative, and relevant. Try having a brownbag lunch and discussing IT security issues that have recently received media coverage. People remember large events like when Sony was hacked, so you could work that into a lesson about why it’s dangerous to recycle passwords across websites. Make your lessons relatable and you will improve the amount of knowledge your employees retain. It’s just that simple.

Maybe this doesn’t apply to your business. Perhaps you work at an MSP where the most computer illiterate employee you have is the janitor from Elbonia who has his CIS degree printed on what looks to be a cereal box. Well, even then there’s still plenty to learn.

Work can be hectic and busy. There are always new patches to install, and break-fix work to do. After a certain point, it gets really easy to just become apathetic to the process. Well, no surprises here but, not embracing life-long learning is one of the worst possible things you can do. IT security isn’t something you can just learn and be done with, it’s a constantly changing and evolving field! You can memorize your ABCs, but the closest things to that I have seen in IT are the four cardinal rules of IT security.

Have you heard of the four cardinal rules? Probably not, because I’m sure my instructor was improvising when he taught us. That would explain why they’re pretty much the same as the four cardinal rules of gun safety. Well, here are those four rules, so read them and see if you pick up anything new!

  1. All guns are always loaded.

    Connecting things to a network is a lot like picking up a gun. It could be loaded (with malware), or be poorly manufactured, which adds the risk of it blowing up in your face. You might want to trust the ergonomic keyboards your techs brought from home, but even that can be risky.

    In short: Assume nothing, and check everything.

  2. Always point the muzzle in a safe direction.

    Patches, updates, hardware installations, this applies to everything. If you’re going to change anything on your network, don’t just plow ahead and do it. Aim those changes in a safe direction (like a test server, or non-critical system) and try things out there first. If things work well on the test server, then safely implement the changes across all systems. You wouldn’t play Russian-Roulette with your life on the line, so why would you do it with your network?

    In short: Test everything before it goes live.

  3. Keep your finger off the trigger until you are on target and ready to shoot.

    It’s good to stay on top of the most recent updates, but there’s a fine line between updating appropriately and excessively. Just because you can update to the newest beta version of Java doesn’t mean you should, and just because there’s a newer version of an OS, that doesn’t mean you need it.

    In short: Don’t change anything on the fly and don’t install anything without considering the results.

  4. Know your target, and what lies beyond.

    When changing anything, make sure you are fully aware of what it is, what it does, and what needs it. Consider what happened with the release of Windows Vista. Many businesses updated to Vista because their hardware supported it; unfortunately, a number of devices which relied on XP’s resources no longer functioned as a result. Users were scrambling to figure out why their printers, webcams, and other gadgets no longer worked, and it caused quite a headache for the people who supported those systems.

    In short: Do your research. Nothing is as modular as it seems, and updating something as innocuous as a printer could bring your network to its knees.

Above all else, always remember that you can never know too much. Keep on learning, keep reading those blogs, and keep reading those forums. You’ll never know if something you learned is relevant until you have to do it yourself.

Now, before you go looking for random lessons to train your coworkers on, let me throw one more factor into the mix. If you’re reading this blog at blog.kaseya.com, there’s a good chance that you’re likely a Kaseya customer. If you are, or you’re interested in becoming one, why not take a look at Kaseya University.

Kaseya University is a state-of-the-art training platform for Kaseya users. It utilizes an innovative blended learning approach to provide both structured and flexible access to technical product training. The Learning Center allows students to build a truly customized learning experience unique to their needs. Kaseya University is kept current with Kaseya product releases, and refreshed multiple times a year. To learn more about Kaseya University: Click here

With that knowledge you can accomplish even more from a single pane of glass.

If you want more information on IT security or just want some topic starters: Click Here

If you want a more direct approach for improving your IT Security: Click Here

Author: Harrison Depner

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