Corporate Security and IT Policies

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Corporations need to protect their physical and soft assets in today’s world of thieves and hackers. To do so, they implement IT and Security Policies, which protect their corporations against such attacks. These prevention mechanisms can be split up into three main categories: physical, software, and social (employees). The ultimate goal is to convince a potential attacker that sufficient security measures are in place such that the attack will not be worth while.[1]


Physical Security

Tech-savvy companies rarely forget software security, or the importance of it. However, physical security is sometimes lowered in priority, given the movement towards a paperless work environment. Physical security is an important security layer, because a decreased guard in this layer could allow for easier software attacks. This could allow physical access to internal computers and therefore increasing probability of software attacks from computers within the organization, which is considered very dangerous.

Typical security camera used for recording physical perimeter of building.[3]
Monitor mirrors are used to allow workers to see if there are any wandering eyes behind them trying to see confidential information.[2]

Security Cards (or access badges) are a common security feature, typically used on all entrances to secured buildings. Usually a public lobby-area with a receptionist is open for visitors, however, access to the remaining parts of the building are secured with a locked system which requires authorized employees to swipe security passes to gain access.

Miniature mirrors can be used on monitors to allow workers using a computer screen to see what’s behind them. The main purpose of these mirrors is to allow the user to see when unwanted eyes from behind are trying to view confidential information on their screen.

Other relatively self-explanatory physical security features include:

  • Door locks - lock offices and rooms of higher importance such as the server room
  • Cabinet locks - safe-keep confidential documents
  • Security cameras - monitor internal and external activities; typically recorded and monitored 24 hours a day
  • Shredders - shredding machines are frequently located in offices to prevent dumpster diving; a shredding service is sometimes used where a company performs paper shredding for a fee
  • Fingerprint authentication - secure method of gaining access to rooms and computers

If these security measures are breached, and an attack does take place, a good security measure to have is an intrusion detection system. A safe system would consist of an alarm, combined with an automated notification system. [4]

Software Security

Software security refers to the protection of digital data; this topic also includes hardware necessary to implement software security, such as a computer running the corporate firewall.

A user password policy change window shown in Windows XP.[5]

A designated team of network administrator or security administrators typically handles security from a software perspective. They are responsible for setting the IT Policies that govern employees of the corporation, such that all corporate computer systems are safe from attack.

The first-line of defense is a corporate firewall, which sits between the outside world and the corporate network. This gives the security team a lot of customized control on what packets enter and what packets leave the company.

A second standard security practice is to enforce passwords upon users. For further protection, some companies force their users to change passwords at a set interval - such as every 2 months. A password policy is complementary and can enforce users to create passwords consisting of:

  • A minimum number of characters
  • A minimum number of letters
  • A minimum number of numbers
  • A minimum number of upper case characters
  • A minimum number of non-alphanumeric symbols

In some organizations, users do not have rights to install new software or modify components of the operating system. This is to prevent opening ports and installing unauthorized software, which could be open to malicious attack. Software updates are also typically enforced, to keep computers up-to-date with the latest software - decreasing the risk of known attacks.

Local data that is stored on hard drives is often encrypted, and security teams attempt to monitor which data leaves the corporation via the Internet or CD/removable media. However, this is one of the weakest points and typically the point of failure, since it is difficult for the security team to know of which of the thousands of emailed or uploaded documents are confidential. [6]

Security teams also prevent attackers from stealing data wirelessly through sophisticated encryption algorithms (e.g. 128-bit WEP).

Social Employee Security

Although smaller companies sometime omit discussing social engineering within their security practices, it is strikingly one of the most important areas to cover. Essentially, this type of security mechanism aims to prevent social engineering.

Companies typically have a statement in their security policy manual such as [7]:

    Don't reveal a password to the boss  
    Don't talk about a password in front of others  
    Don't hint at the format of a password (e.g., "my family name")
    Don't reveal a password over the phone to ANYONE
    Don't reveal a password to co-workers while on vacation 
    If someone demands a password, refer them to this document or have them call someone in the Information Security Department.  

The above is most frequently directed at protecting employees from being manipulated by social engineers. It aims to prevent employees from unknowingly giving out important information to an attacker.

IT Administrators typically do not have direct access to view account passwords, either. Instead, passwords are almost always encrypted while stored. Should a user forget his or her password, the administrator must reset the password, rather than being able to view the user’s former password and give it out. Furthermore, if a password is forgotten, another method to prevent social engineering is to ensure the new password is given to the correct individual. In this case, the password is emailed to a password secured account, rather than given over the phone.


  1. Wikipedia, Physical Security, 2009.
  2. Grand Illusions, Monitor Mirror, 2009.
  3. Reliable Security Systems, CCTV Camera, 2009.
  4. Wikipedia, Physical Security, 2009.
  5. Cornell University, Cornell Information Technologies, 2009:
  6. Device Lock, Corporate Security: Risks of Insider Attack, 2009.
  7. SANS Institute, Password Policy, 2006.

See Also

Network Firewall

Email Security

Fingerprint Authentication

Social Engineering

External Links

Wikipedia: Corporate Security

Sample Password Policy

Wikipedia: Physical Security

Sample Security Policy Statement

--Ivanoa 22:36, 12 April 2009 (EDT)

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