While making every effort to ensure your applications are easily accessible to your staff (and increasing their productivity), it’s equally, if not more important to ensure that the information on your network is safe and secure. This is why securing wireless networks is vital.
Nothing is more precious to your Los Angeles accounting firm than its reputation. The last thing you need to worry about is what your clients will think of you if someone got access to their information because of your approach (or lack thereof) to security.
You can’t be too careful when it comes to locking down your Wireless Local Area Network, or WLAN. Hardware, such as Wireless Intrusion Prevention Systems (WIPS) and encryption application software are just a couple of the safeguards you can put in place when securing wireless networks.
Regardless of the counter-measures you put in place, a wired connection is always the most secure connection. If you have a wireless access point, or set of them in your office, and need to have some users accessing the network via Wi-Fi, at a minimum make sure you have a secure password in place.
Having a wireless network which is separate from the corporate network is an ideal situation. A guest wireless network is a good practice, and hiding any corporate wireless network from rogue scanning hardware is a great idea as well.
If you are a wireless technology newbie, you might look at the litany of acronyms and want to keep your network PCs hardwired forever. But fear not! There are security experts to help your accounting firm stay safe from the bad guys. Here are but a few of the acronyms:
- WEP – Wired Equivalent Privacy
- 802.11 and EAP – A wireless protocol (standard) and Extensible Authentication Protocol
- WWANs – Wireless Wide Area Networks
- WPANs – Wireless Personal Area Networks
- WPA and WPA2 – Wi-Fi Protected Access and Wi-Fi Protected Access 2, the current standard
Regardless of the wireless security alphabet soup, you’ll want to make sure that your company has policies in place to be more secure. If a wired connection is available, it should be used. Wireless security devices and encryption apps are a start, however workstations should be configured for Anti-Virus and Anti-Malware software, and employees should continue be vigilant against opening attachments or responding to emails which are suspicious and might be possible phishing attempts (especially during tax season).
If your accounting firm deals with credit card information, the Payment Card Industry (PCI) Council has strict rules about ensuring you have security systems in place, especially on Wireless Endpoints such as card scanners.
Wireless Intrusion Prevention Systems (WIPS) are ideal defences to implement, and available from companies like:
- Airtight Networks
- Aruba Networks
WIPS systems can identify rogue devices accessing your network and shut their access down.
Regardless of the technology, it often comes down to the uniqueness of your Wi-Fi password which can’t be guessed. Leaving post-it notes lying around with your Wi-Fi password is beyond a bad idea. If you close down your office over the weekend, you might want to consider turning off your gateway over the weekend, or as mentioned before, hiding the network entirely.
Passphrases, instead of passwords are ideal. Two factor authentication (something you know, like a password, as well as something you have, like a cellphone/SMS message) is becoming a popular way of accessing Wireless Networks instead of a password.
Accounting firm managers should remember, it’s not just the data on your network, but the usage of your network in general which can leave your company at risk. A rogue user can surf to sites which are not what you’d want showing up on your ISP logs, to put it mildly.
What systems or policies has your firm put in place for securing wireless networks? Have you experienced a loss of client data or been exposed to malware on your wireless local area network? When was the last time you had a security assessment performed on your WLAN? Tell us about it in the Comments section below.
And to follow-through on the tips introduced in this short article, be sure to download your free guide, 12 Ways for CPA Firms in LA to Utilize Technology More Efficiently.