Secure expansion

While many organisations have slashed spending on network and IT infrastructure over the past year, security is one area that should remain a priority.

Tags: GSM
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By  Roger Field Published  January 6, 2010

News that the encryption algorithm used to protect the privacy of calls made under the GSM standard had been cracked came as a sobering reminder to the networking community that there are many often unforeseen potential weak links in an organisation's network.

With many individuals and businesses relying on the GSM standard for remote email and wireless internet access, the apparent cracking of the GSM code could mean many firms need to re-appraise this aspect of their security policies.

Just as most organisations most likely assumed that the GSM standard was watertight, some companies may also have overlooked inherent security weaknesses of another fast-growing means of transferring voice traffic - Voice over Internet Protocol.

Concerns about security have certainly deterred many enterprises from embracing VoIP, a technology which can lead to significant cost savings and efficiency gains.

The reason is that, as Antoine Abi Antoun of Patton Electronics explains (see Securing industrial voip networks), VoIP gateways compromise communication security by transporting VoIP and data traffic without encryption.

But companies can now benefit from VoIP thanks to VoIP-over VPN technology, which combines VoIP with Virtual Private Network technologies to offer a secure means of transferring VoIP traffic.

In this issue, we also look at another often-overlooked source of potential security weaknesses - geographic expansion (see Security check). Whether a company expands by opening new offices in distant countries, or acquires another company with distant bases, expanding firms must keep a tight-reign on security issues.

As Nigel Hawthorn, VP EMEA of marketing at Blue Coat Systems says, an organisation is only as secure as its least protected branch office. "Threats are the same and the interconnected organisation needs to ensure that all assets are safeguarded."

Worryingly, this is a message that has not yet been fully acknowledged in the Middle East, with many expanding companies taking an ad-hoc approach to security, with different branch offices working with different security software and standards.

As the experts that NME spoke to for this month's issue made clear, this is a dangerous situation for any company, and one that can lead to a security breach that can have repercussions across an entire network.

With businesses continuing to scrimp in many areas of their network and IT infrastructure, security represents an area that should always remain a priority.

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