The issue of viruses, ransomware, spyware and other forms of malware intended to cause harm, has become much more of a hot topic in recent years. However, this has not translated into a comparable increase in vigilance and due diligence when it comes to choosing software vendors and websites. Although many attacks come from vulnerabilities in software, it is far easier for malicious software to find its way into your corporate environment by allowing staff to install software themselves.
Malware is becoming more sophisticated, and the quantity of malicious software is quickly increasing. Technical solutions are evolving to protect against malware, but the concern voiced here is the culture of software installation and usage. When left unchecked, this can easily result in harm, loss of data, loss of reputation and business. Anti-malware solutions are essential but relying on such solutions while allowing any software to be installed by anyone for any reason is a dangerous approach. An extra level of defence is needed.
- Restrict endpoint permissions so that only key members of staff have the authority to install the software. Needing to involve an authorised person or team to have new software installed requires a justification which slows down the process. Whereas, if just one person is involved, they can easily install software on a whim with very little in the way of thought about the implications.
- Have a published white list of software for use within the business, and defined policies in place regarding how to install software, and how new software is selected. Promote awareness of software installation policies throughout the company. Again, this aims to slow down the installation process or, more precisely, increases the time between an end-user deciding they need a piece of software to the software being ready to use on their desktop.
- Remove all unauthorised software. Implementation of software installation controls are often performed at a late stage in business development and seldom implemented during any start-up period. Therefore, it is highly likely that when there is a requirement to enforce control of software within a corporate environment, it is because the business has lost control of its software.
- Identify all executables on desktops and which application they belong to and remove all other executables. This approach can be time-consuming, and a more viable strategy is to define a standard image for endpoints which includes the operating system and all the software applications used by most staff. Applying this standard build will remove all traces of the previous installation and any unauthorised legacy software. The outcome is two-fold, cleanup of all old software, and control of new software.
- Don’t install software from unknown or untrusted sources. The fact is, it is effortless to search for software online, find anything that is needed, and install the software very quickly. Websites giving away malicious software often look very professional, and many sites mimic known websites to capitalise on the credibility of legitimate websites.
Slowing down the process and giving time for appropriate software to be chosen and installed is essential and cannot be over-emphasised.
Robert is an information security consultant with over 20 years of experience across a diverse range of organisations, both in the UK and internationally. Robert graduated in 1997 with an honours degree in software engineering for security and safety-critical systems. Robert is contactable directly through LinkedIn.