Deploying and Managing Web Filtering
and Network Monitoring Software
A Primer on Threat Mitigation for IT Professionals
Almost every business today deals with information systems, security issues and Internet communications. Protecting your system from threats, both internal and external, has become an increasingly essential part of any IT manager's duties. Monitoring employee behavior, filtering incoming and outgoing information, and learning how to identify malware, persistent threats and risky practices has become a necessity. And the worst part? Firewalls alone won't solve your security problems no matter how sophisticated the firewalls might be. The good news is you can make your life easier and get better results by using the right network monitoring software.
Benefits of Web Filtering and Network Monitoring
Companies today face conflicting imperatives. Employees need access to the Internet to communicate with customers, vendors and stakeholders, but open access allows security breaches, legal liabilities and ways for workers to waste time on distractions like playing games, networking on social media sites, watching videos and listening to music. You need only look at the facts to see how much of an impact internet distractions can have on companies.
Internet access helps employees work smarter but also costs U.S. businesses $63 billion a year in lost profits. These costs don't include the expenses generated by malware, theft and criminal scams. Smart managers and well-managed companies use monitoring and filtering to achieve the following business objectives:
Blocking applications to prevent malware attacks
Restrict employees from downloading copyrighted files, offensive materials or information that might expose the company to a lawsuit
Increase processing speeds
Identify patterns of inappropriate Web activity
Monitor activity on employee-owned mobile devices to detect threats and breaches
Efficiently control access, authorizations and passwords
Channel employee ingenuity into productive online activities
Save the money spent on payroll for unproductive hours spent on Internet diversions
Network monitoring software also facilitates better customer service because the insights that monitoring provides allow you to correct problems before customers experience them. You can discover linking errors faster to prevent damage to the company's reputation and SEO ranking among search engines. You can even use your company's monitoring policies to reassure important clients that their confidential information is protected from employee malfeasance.
Compliance Issues to Consider
Some companies face extreme regulatory environments from all levels of government, and other businesses face customer demands to stay on top of the latest trends and practices. Conducting targeted compliance and performance audits is easier with modern network monitoring software and filtering software. The tools allow you to prove that your client's data is secure at every level of operations and promotes transparency in industries like health care where your employees' reputations and work habits are considered critical.
Cloud Network Monitoring Systems v. Firewalls
Using only firewalls to prevent breaches and intrusions simply can't work in today's collaborative atmosphere where even some government agencies encourage workers to bring their own devices to work to boost morale, increase productivity and lower technology costs. Firewalls can't do anything about breaches that are caused by employee carelessness or malfeasance. If malware is chauffeured across the firewall instead of crashing through, it's just as dangerous. If you grant access to a person or application that's concealing malware, your systems, data and security are compromised. That's why cloud monitoring systems and filtering software have become increasingly popular among savvy IT managers.
In addition, having a number of devices in the field, from phones to tablets and laptops, undermines the entire existence of a strong firewall. Client-side network monitoring software can not only keep track of roving devices, but in the event of theft or loss can remotely wipe potentially sensitive data.
Too many administrators think that firewalls are permanent solutions, but firewalls actually need auditing and maintenance to keep networks secure from fast-evolving threats. Firewalls make decisions based on business intelligence like source address, destination address, packet size and which port is used. Configurations change quickly, and firewalls require continuous fine-tuning to stay effective. In a perfect world, all IT managers would have every tool at their disposal, from the strongest firewalls to supplemental software to help them manage and track all on and off-network devices and activity.
Monitoring and filtering helps decision-makers keep current with market-moving events, best business practices, Internet trends, social awareness and evolving security threats. The insights can be used for predictive analyses to identify business risks and threats, strengthen editorial and managerial awareness, fine-tune keyword research and capitalize on time-sensitive trends.
How Implementation Works in Network Monitoring Systems
Implementing a network filtering or monitoring solution often requires as much planning and troubleshooting as changing your CMS. Some cloud-based solutions, however, only take minutes to deploy. All a manager needs to do is download the software onto the domain controller and deploy the .MSI over the air. Within minutes the client devices will have the monitoring software silently installed, without the client ever noticing, all without disabling the firewall.
Though they can be simple, it's always important to consider how difficult any solution is to implement before signing off on it. Typical implementation tasks for employee monitoring include:
Determining where monitoring is needed
Deciding what to monitor and why
Avoiding irrelevant monitoring and finding predictive behavioral benchmarks
Setting alert and notification criteria
Monitoring physical supplies and hardware
Keeping current on installations
Once monitoring software is installed, management and reporting is whatever the manager wants it to be. With custom notifications, dashboards and permissions, IT managers can not only delegate their time better, but additional stakeholders such as CEOs and directors can bear some of the burden of monitoring. Cloud-based software also alleviates some of the time and effort it takes to maintain in-house servers or data centers.
The best monitoring and filtering solutions focus on virtually all Web activity because limited monitoring is like a limited leak—everything will eventually pass through the breach. A strong system complies with local laws and regulations, lets you know what employees are doing on their computers at work and tracks app usage, smartphone calls, text messages and social media activity.
The Internet offers many threats and opportunities in the digital age, but advanced communications generate openings for hacking, identity theft, malware deployment, spyware and advanced persistent threats. Your first and most important line of defense is securing your borders. In modern terms, network monitoring software and filtering software provide the ammunition for your ongoing security battles. The most important benefit of monitoring and filtering is that your employees know exactly where they stand and what's expected, so you're never taking anyone by surprise.