Weaknesses in Open Network Security

The open nature of today's enterprise promotes information exchange and collaboration on an unprecedented level. However, the very nature of open networks makes it more difficult for organizations to protect valuable network resources and business information.

In a recent Computer Security Institute survey, 64 percent of the 520 respondents reported computer security breaches in a 12-month period — an alarming 16 percent increase over the previous year. Yet, perhaps even more alarming, 241 respondents disclosed corporate losses that totaled $136 million — a 36 percent increase over the previous year. There is clearly a need for stronger security on intranets and on the Internet.

Although Internet Protocol (IP) networks such as private intranets and the public Internet provide for open communication between users and computers, they are vulnerable to compromised security and malicious attack by intruders. Information sent over IP networks is open to anyone who can gain access to the network. Authorized network users, as well as intruders, can view, modify, and disrupt IP network communications easily by using software tools that are readily available on the Internet. Both internal users and external intruders can exploit the open nature of IP networks to do any of the following:

  • Steal proprietary information and eavesdrop on private communications.

  • Impersonate users, clients, or servers on the network.

  • Intercept and modify information before it arrives at its destination.

  • Intercept and redirect information to other destinations.

  • Cause denial-of-service attacks that exploit the inherent weakness of IP networks or bugs in protocol implementation and cause harm to organizations and users on the networks.

Both the software industry and the Internet community have developed a wide range of new technologies and standards to address these problems and improve the security and privacy of information on open networks.