Network Security Management: Handling Employee Expectation
Bandwidth-heavy applications and services have changed the face of network security management. The problem? As noted by Venture Beat, new data suggests employees are on board with a world dominated by streaming video, chat services and music, but employers are still reticent.
While 85 percent of staff say new content is part of their everyday lives, just 28 percent of employers are apt to allow this kind of consumption. It makes sense; companies are worried about both bandwidth overruns and the inherent risks of third-party applications or live-streaming video. How do administrators effectively manage employee expectations without neglecting critical security processes?
The New Generation of Network Security Management
Cloud-savvy staff empowered by increasingly robust bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies have created an issue for IT management teams. Network best practices advise that high-bandwidth staff services shouldn’t consume corporate resources. This restriction ensures critical day-to-day tasks and mandatory collaborations have the room they need to succeed, but employees now argue (sometimes successfully) that applications such as Facebook Live, Snapchat or other streaming services can help boost the bottom line.
Challenges arise, however, because staff aren’t used to censoring their own content use, especially on personal devices. This can lead to the same scenario as the idiom “the straw that broke the camel’s back,” wherein it’s not the actions of a single individual but multiple employees all consuming network services simultaneously that suddenly limits bandwidth or creates an opportunity for malicious actors.
No Simple Solution?
So how do companies manage this network expectation against the need for better security and oversight? Three methods are common:
1. Ban Everything
It’s not popular among staff, but companies can curtail the use of all streaming and data-heavy services. This means keeping a close eye on application usage and data transfer and drafting specific policies that mandate consequences for users who aren’t willing to follow the rules. On the plus side? Network security management increases over the near term and total available bandwidth ramps up. Negatives? The creation of dedicated shadow IT users determined to stream their content or access apps without alerting IT. Over time, network security degrades as more invisible app use occurs.
2. Go Managed
Another option? Introduce managed service expertise. According to BetaNews, leveraging a third-party tool or provider to help track app use and determine the root of bandwidth issues goes a long way to securing corporate networks. In addition to providing valuable metrics on the use (and misuse) of company bandwidth, service providers can set up automated tools to restrict app access based on time, location or device ID, in turn providing a balance between staff usability and corporate security.
3. Train Staff
As noted by BizTech Magazine, while technology remains a critical component of effective network security, “investment in the human factor is perhaps an even more critical defense.” The key to successful training is twofold: First, present staff with clear-cut cases of bandwidth usage issues and how they could impact job efficiency or project deadlines. Next, make it clear that the desired outcome is a partnership — monitoring tools will be used to analyze data, restrict some apps, empower others and block a few entirely, but so long as staff are willing to help self-monitor their own usage, it’s possible to retain much of their desired freedom without putting the network at risk.
Corporate networks are now viewed as extensions of private access points by many employees. And while training itself won’t prevent network security management issues, the combination of automated oversight tools and actionable education can make employees part of the solution rather than the problem and effectively address evolving bandwidth expectations.