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Hackers naturally gravitate toward the most vulnerable points on an enterprise to breach. The network, which by its nature requires a degree of openness to allow traffic to traverse it, is one of most attractive targets, with ample hardware vulnerabilities to exploit. This makes it critical to identify and correct those vulnerabilities before they become a problem.
Though application-related vulnerabilities attract much of the attention, hardware vulnerabilities are too often overlooked. Customers have had success in pressing vendors to close these gaps. But when hardware vulnerabilities are detected, it requires the supplier to write special code to the firmware, which by its very nature is more difficult to do than patching software.
Elements like wireless access points, for example, are notoriously susceptible to attacks, even when encryption is used. As with any area of the enterprise, having multiple security layers in place is essential. Also, businesses should have access points that can authenticate devices accessing the network. Effective password policies are also necessary.
Edge devices and other SNMP-managed gear can also become points of exposure for hackers looking to exploit security holes that may exist in network components. Cybercriminals can hack into devices to determine the configuration, and then change it to penetrate the network. IT professionals need to be vigilant about consistent network vulnerability testing on a regular basis, rather than looking at it as a checklist item that's merely part of a compliance exercise.
Similarly, hackers often exploit vulnerabilities affiliated with frequently used network ports. Fortunately, a number of tools and services are available that can help IT find and fix these gaps.
Distressingly, even security devices such as firewalls and security event and incident management systems can themselves be hacked. When a vendor issues a fix for an appliance, hackers can attempt to reverse-engineer that patch to exploit it. As a result, IT needs to be especially cognizant of network activity following a patch or configuration change.
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