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Recently a client of ours asked me “what can I do to make sure I can never be attacked?” The only answer I could think of giving him was “I think that’s a lot like asking me what we can do to make sure we live forever.”

IT folks have come to grips with the realities of security. If someone can build it, someone else can break it. If someone can come up with a network hardening device, someone can counter with a way to soften it. The more clever the device, the more clever the response. A decade and a half after the Internet revolution, as the adage goes, the only safe computer is one that’s not connected to anything. I sometimes wonder if that’s even safe.

This is not to say that we have not risen to the occasion and protected ourselves adequately. It’s an uphill battle, and one that will remain for some time to come. But in the words of an old professor of mine, "don't let perfect get in the way of good".

So where does this leave us? Where do we stand? What are our biggest threats?

The Return of Physical Security Concerns

After years of development of firewalls, anti-virus software, proxy servers, isolation servers, SSL, automatic updates, network monitoring tools, secured email and a host of other security devices we are back where we started from - worrying about tapes, door locks, camera's, location of servers and all the peripheral devices to the actual network (i.e., air conditioning).

“Physical Security is one of the biggest threats, and is an area that is being revisited and will continue to be looked at in the coming period,” says Michael Curry, Director of Operations of Richard Fleischman and Associates, an infrastructure and integration firm in NYC. According to Curry, in a recent event, a fund administrator had their backup tapes stolen en route to their backup facility. The point becomes very clear here– tape media leaving the physical site can be dangerous. RFA, which specializes in financial firms, has been offering options besides tape media. “Not only is the threat of tapes being stolen an issue, but the failure rate of a restore can be as high as 30%.” Curry’s options include using one of the many on-line firms that will accept the data in an encrypted format over a secure VPN. This way, tapes never leave the physical location. When setting up a firm’s network, physical security has become a standard part of the checklist - on par with firewalls, servers and T1 lines.


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