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Enterprise Systems

First, what do we mean by an enterprise system? This term refers to systems that

integrate data across an enterprise (organization) to support the business processes

related to a variety of business functions—from basic functions like human and financial

resource management to managing the supply chain and customer relationships. The same

system is used by employees performing a specific function from anywhere in the

organization. Some business functions for which enterprise-wide solutions are often used

include the following:

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)

Supply Chain Management (SCM)

Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

Enterprise Messaging Systems (to include email)

Human Resources Management

Financial Management

Billing and Payment Processing

Call Center and Customer Support

Enterprise Content/Document Management

These functions can be done by one large-scale, enterprise-wide system that integrates

several major functions, or through linking (or integrating) individual systems through a

type of middleware—usually referred to as enterprise application integration (EAI).

Generally, it is much more effective to use a single integrated platform rather than

multiple applications that were not designed to work together.

Enterprise systems can be developed in-house or acquired as a commercial off-the-shelf

(COTS) product. COTS products can be purchased and implemented on internal servers or

acquired as a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) from a cloud service provider. To attract more

customers, the COTS/SaaS vendors implement features that all their customers can

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benefit from, such as heightened security protections, support for new industry standards

and legislation, and increased ability to separate system access and update by job


The focus in this section will be on COTS systems developed to manage one or more

business functions across the organization. The three most common types of enterprise

systems will be covered: Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Supply Chain Management

(SCM) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM).

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Systems

An ERP system is built to support an integrated approach to managing some or all of the

core processes involved in running a company: human resources management, financial

management, procurement, etc. ERP systems were originally developed to handle these

“back office” functions. ERP is actually the business process of integrating the core

functions across an organization; the term by itself is not defined as a “system,” although

many people refer to an ERP systems as an “ERP.”

ERP software was developed to implement the ERP process; such software integrates,

standardizes and streamlines (or optimizes) the business processes across departments.

Users of the various functions of ERP system are presented with common screens and

system functions to allow them to move easily between functional components, and to

reduce training costs. Generally, the ERP system operates as a single system with a

common database employing common data definitions. Using one database saves

organizations from updating several systems with the same data, and provides greater

accuracy and collaboration between departments. Transactions are processed against the

database immediately, and the updated information is available across the organization

immediately. This is in contrast to an organization using multiple “stovepipe” systems with

redundant (and often not synchronized) data. For example, employee data (name, address,

SSN, etc.) is stored once and can be accessed for payroll, timekeeping, travel expense

reimbursement, facilities access, etc., and if the employee makes a change, it is changed in

one place for all to access.

In summary, the characteristics of an ERP include:

enterprise-wide integration,

a common database,

real-time operation and processing of data and transactions, and

consistent look and feel.

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Business Benefits of ERPs

ERPs improve the efficiency and effectiveness of business operations by providing:

Integrated information that is consistent across the enterprise and provides a “single

truth” in areas such as

Financial information—There is one set of financial figures that everyone can


HR information—Employees can enter updates directly into the system, and

their skills and experience can be viewed by managers across the organization.

Order information—Orders affect inventory, accounting, distribution, and

manufacturing, all of which can be updated in the single system when an order

is placed.

Customer information—The same customer information is available to all


Best practices—The systems are designed to implement best business practices for

each of the functional areas and streamline the steps in the process, reducing the

time required to complete each process.

Standardized business processes—All users of the system perform the function in

the same way, and every process is supported by the system with a similar look and

feel for all users, regardless of their department.

Lower IT costs—The use of a single system for multiple functions reduces total costs

associated with acquiring, operating, and maintaining multiple systems; however, if

the ERP is significantly modified to fit the organization, the cost advantage may


Reduced training costs—Employees use a similar interface for all major business


Consolidated procurements—The use of a single system for purchasing products

provides opportunities to consolidate similar orders from various departments to

receive volume discounts.

Improved compliance—Time and effort are reduced in responding to the wide

variety of government reporting requirements, including financial reporting, human

resources and wage reporting, environmental reporting, etc. Compliance is also

enforced through the standardized business processes implemented in the ERP.

ERPs lead to better decision-making.

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Common data that is shared across the organization is used for analysis and


Better data improves planning and reporting.

ERPs promote collaboration across departments and levels of the organization since

all involved have the same version of the facts.

ERPs support distributed decision-making, as participants can act locally in

accordance with the guidance provided and the results of their actions are available

throughout the organization.

ERPs lead to increased organizational agility.

The standardization and simplification of the business processes and the use of a

common system allows the organization to adapt quickly when necessary.

ERPs provide enhanced security for corporate data.

Data that is stored in one location can be better secured than data that is stored in

multiple locations, especially since corporate data may be stored on hundreds of

servers and personal computers anywhere and its existence may even be unknown

to the security specialists.

Vendors serving multiple customers can provide better and more extensive security

for systems and data than individual organizations are able to provide.

Industry-specific ERPs are designed to support the unique business processes of the

industry, such as those required by financial institutions, service industries, government,

health care, higher education, and hospitality. The way that processes are carried out in

each of those can be quite different. ERPs are also designed specifically for small, small-

to-medium size, large, and very large international organizations. The size and type of

organization are taken into account when selecting an ERP.

Major Disadvantages of Implementing ERPs

The time it takes to implement them: Since ERPs are used throughout the

organization, many departments are affected and much coordination is required.

Further, since the ERP may be replacing a myriad of systems implemented

throughout the organization (including on individual desktop PCs), it takes a

considerable amount of time to discover all those legacy systems and determine if

and how to incorporate the data into the new system.

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The cost of the system: There are initial purchase costs, which can be quite high, and

significant implementation costs to coordinate the implementation across the

enterprise. Depending on the amount of customization needed, the ongoing

maintenance costs can be very high, since each new release from the vendor needs

to be thoroughly tested, and any modifications already made need to be applied to

the upgraded system.

Change management is required before, during and after implementation to align

business practices with the way the system works.

There have been some very well publicized ERP implementation failures, and you may

have witnessed one where you work(ed). Among the causes of failure are:

Selecting the wrong ERP. As mentioned above, ERPs are designed for various sizes

of organizations. Choosing an ERP with too many features may overwhelm a small

organization; conversely, not having enough features to support a very large and

diverse organization can lead to failure. Although ERP systems were originally

designed for large organizations, there are now many products available for small to

mid-sized businesses.

Customizing the ERP. When organizations implement an ERP, their business

processes must be adapted to the way the system is designed. If an enterprise

determines that they will modify the software to match their process, many issues

are introduced. The time to implement and the costs go up significantly, as does the

risk. Future upgrades from the vendor may not function without significant code

changes due to the customization.

Employee resistance. People resist change, but employee resistance seems much

more common with ERPs, where the changes are more pervasive and obvious. The

process changes that an ERP requires may remove flexibility formerly enjoyed by the

staff, who might perceive a loss of autonomy and control.

Lack of common data definitions. When an ERP is implemented, data from multiple

stovepipe systems must be migrated to the single database. Most often those

legacy systems each have their own definitions and formats for the data – and the

same data item stored in different systems may be called by a different name and/or

may be formatted differently. Before the data can be loaded into the ERP, a

common set of definitions and formats is needed. For some organizations, this is an

insurmountable problem, and they end up abandoning their ERP implementation.

ERP Summary

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ERP systems have been extended in many organizations to include seamless integration of

supply chain management (SCM) and customer relationship management (CRM) processes

and data across the organization. Linked with ERPs, SCM and CRM systems provide the

end-to-end visibility of a company’s information; the ERP provides the “glue” to allow all

the systems of an enterprise to work together to get the right information to the right

people at the right time.

By now two things should be clear:

1. Effective ERPs can provide great strategic advantage to an organization and help

break down the stovepipes of information aligned to specific functions (like human

resources, finance, etc.).

2. ERPs require significant investment of time and money and can be very expensive to

effectively select and implement.

Supply Chain Management (SCM) Systems

If you think of the basic model of a business, it is: input/process/output. Resources

(human, financial or supply resources) come in, and then the work of the company is to

transform them some way into something that customers want (process), and then

provide it to the customers (output)—the output could be to wholesalers, retailers, or

individual customers. A simplistic overview of the input/process/output supply business

model is provided in the table below:

Input/Process/Output Supply Business Model

Industry Input Process Output

Manufacturing Raw materials Combine raw

materials to make

a product


Consulting Information;

human capital


Analysis Report

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Industry Input Process Output

Restaurant Fresh or frozen





SCM can be thought of as “the management of the chain of supplies.” It encompasses the

range of activities needed to plan, manage, and execute the development of the product,

from the acquisition of raw materials, through production and distribution, all the way to

the final customer. The objective is to do so in the most cost-effective manner possible.

In the example of a simplified manufacturing supply chain, we might start with several

suppliers of raw materials—all the things needed to make the product. Each of these items

may come from a different supplier, in different quantities, and on different schedules. All

of the necessary items need to be assembled at the manufacturing plant and then they

are put together to make the product. The product then is shipped to a warehouse where

it is stored. At the appropriate time, product is moved from the warehouse to a retail

store, where it is put on a shelf to be sold. The supply chain does not stop there. After

the product is sold, it may need service, or the customer may wish to return it. Every one

of these steps have costs and complexity associated with them. Through SCM, both

management and employees can view what’s happening along the supply chain to make

better decisions. Each step in the supply chain provides an opportunity to impact

profitability, quality, etc.

In today’s world, it is impossible to have an effective supply chain without the use of

technology, including the right technology solution to implement the business strategy.

Companies compete on the basis of who has the right product, in the right place, at the

right time. Once again, getting the right information to the right people at the right time is

critical to successful SCM, and that is exactly what good SCM systems do. Businesses use

SCM to plan, source, make, deliver, and return their products. SCM helps them develop a

plan for managing all the resources needed; choose reliable suppliers; manufacture their

products or services; implement their logistics processes (receive and fulfill orders and

receive payment); and provide for returns, excess product, and customer support. This is

an iterative process that goes on continuously as companies monitor, evaluate, and

modify their supply chains. SCM is a clear example of the relationship between people,

information, business processes, and information technology.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Systems

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CRM, like ERP and SCM, is a business philosophy, not a technology, although many

people use the term to represent a system. CRM is based on the idea that a strong

competitive advantage can be achieved by understanding customer needs. Companies

that recognize that their customers are not just generators of revenue but are valued

assets are moving quickly from a focus on their product to a focus on the customers. As

companies deal with customers around the world and expanding competition, they find

that adopting a CRM strategy is essential. It costs much less to make a repeat sale to an

existing customer than it costs to make a sale to a new customer.

CRM helps organizations of all sizes, but the larger the company, the more complex the

problems become. Here’s where an information system can provide immense value—

allowing the company to capture information, make it available to all functions that need

to know something about the customers, and provide superior customer service. In

addition, the availability of this data enables companies to analyze the information to

determine patterns and trends in customer habits, analyze demographic profiles of

customers to target marketing campaigns, and identify ways to build customer loyalty.

CRM systems can link customer information from a variety of sources, including social

media. While they are designed for use by marketing, sales, and support organizations, the

information they contain can inform a wide variety of business decisions, such as

production levels, geographic distribution of their products, markets for new products,


ERP, SCM, or CRM System?

SCM and CRM systems bring similar advantages and disadvantages to those discussed

above for an ERP. Organizations determine which type of enterprise system is

appropriate based on analysis of the requirements of the organization, just as for any

other system. If the organization simply wishes to automate its “back office” functions,

then an ERP (focused on accounting or finance) may suffice. If the organization can take

advantage of an industry-specific ERP to perform those functions in a way that is uniquely

suited to the industry, then that is the category of ERP that should be researched. If the

organization needs supply chain or customer relationship management tools, and already

has an ERP in place, it might look for additional modules from the ERP vendor to perform

those functions. Such solutions should come with built-in integration with the ERP, which

could greatly benefit the organization. If an SCM or a CRM is needed and there is no ERP

in place, the organization should consider the totality of its requirements and determine

whether a combined capability is needed or a point solution (just SCM or CRM) is what is

needed. Certainly an SCM or a CRM can be implemented on its own, but as the

organization looks forward, it may wish to select such a system that has the ability to be

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expanded to include other modules as may be needed in the future. The selection should,

therefore, be based on a combination of what the needs are, what systems are already in

place, and what future needs should be considered.

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All links to external sites were verified at the time of publication. UMGC is not responsible for the validity or integrity

of information located at external sites.

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Information Systems Security


As computers and other digital devices have become essential to business and commerce,

they have also increasingly become a target for attacks. In order for a company or an

individual to use a computing device with confidence, they must first be assured that the

device is not compromised in any way and that all communications will be secure. In this

reading, we will review the fundamental concepts of information systems security and

discuss some of the measures that can be taken to mitigate security threats. We will begin

with an overview focusing on how organizations can stay secure. Several different

measures that a company can take to improve security will be discussed. We will then

follow up by reviewing security precautions that individuals can take in order to secure

their personal computing environment.

The Information Security Triad: Confidentiality, Integrity, Availability



When protecting information, we want to be able to restrict access to those who are

allowed to see it; everyone else should be disallowed from learning anything about its

contents. This is the essence of confidentiality. For example, federal law requires that

universities restrict access to private student information. The university must be sure

that only those who are authorized have access to view the grade records.

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The Information Security Triad


Integrity is the assurance that the information being accessed has not been altered and

truly represents what is intended. Just as a person with integrity means what he or she

says and can be trusted to consistently represent the truth, information integrity means

information truly represents its intended meaning. Information can lose its integrity

through malicious intent, such as when someone who is not authorized makes a change to

intentionally misrepresent something. An example of this would be when a hacker is hired

to go into the university’s system and change a grade.

Integrity can also be lost unintentionally, such as when a computer power surge corrupts a

file or someone authorized to make a change accidentally deletes a file or enters incorrect



Information availability is the third part of the CIA triad. Availability means that

information can be accessed and modified by anyone authorized to do so in an

appropriate time frame. Depending on the type of information, appropriate time frame

can mean different things. For example, a stock trader needs information to be available

immediately, while a salesperson may be happy to get sales numbers for the day in a

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report the next morning. Companies such as Amazon.com will require their servers to be

available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Other companies may not suffer if their web

servers are down for a few minutes once in a while.

Tools for Information Security

In order to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of information,

organizations can choose from a variety of tools. Each of these tools can be utilized as

part of an overall information-security policy, which will be discussed in “Security



The most common way to identify someone is through their physical appearance, but how

do we identify someone sitting behind a computer screen or at the ATM? Tools for

authentication are used to ensure that the person accessing the information is, indeed,

who they present themselves to be.

Authentication can be accomplished by identifying someone through one or more of

three factors: something they know, something they have, or something they are. For

example, the most common form of authentication today is the user ID and password. In

this case, the authentication is done by confirming something that the user knows (their

ID and password). But this form of authentication is easy to compromise (see “Password

Security” below) and stronger forms of authentication are sometimes needed. Identifying

someone only by something they have, such as a key or a card, can also be problematic.

When that identifying token is lost or stolen, the identity can be easily stolen. The final

factor, something you are, is much harder to compromise. This factor identifies a user

through the use of a physical characteristic, such as an eye-scan or fingerprint. Identifying

someone through their physical characteristics is called biometrics.

A more secure way to authenticate a user is to do multi-factor authentication. By

combining two or more of the factors listed above, it becomes much more difficult for

someone to misrepresent themselves. An example of this would be the use of an RSA

SecurID token. The RSA device is something you have and will generate a new access

code every 60 seconds. To log in to an information resource using the RSA device, you

combine something you know, a four-digit PIN, with the code generated by the device.

The only way to properly authenticate is by both knowing the code and having the RSA


Access Control

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Once a user has been authenticated, the next step is to ensure that they can only access

the information resources that are appropriate. This is done through the use of access

control. Access control determines which users are authorized to read, modify, add,

and/or delete information. Several different access control models exist. Here we will

discuss two: the access control list (ACL) and role-based access control (RBAC).

For each information resource that an organization wishes to manage, a list of users who

have the ability to take specific actions can be created. This is an access control list, or

ACL. For each user, specific capabilities are assigned, such as read, write, delete, or add.

Only users with those capabilities are allowed to perform those functions. If a user is not

on the list, they have no ability to even know that the information resource exists.

ACLs are simple to understand and maintain. However, they have several drawbacks. The

primary drawback is that each information resource is managed separately, so if a security

administrator wanted to add or remove a user to a large set of information resources, it

would be quite difficult. And as the number of users and resources increase, ACLs become

harder to maintain. This has led to an improved method of access control, called role-

based access control, or RBAC. With RBAC, instead of giving specific users access rights

to an information resource, users are assigned to roles and then those roles are assigned

the access. This allows the administrators to manage users and roles separately,

simplifying administration and, by extension, improving security.

Comparison of ACL and RBAC

Access control list (ACL) and role-based access control (RBAC)


Many times, an organization needs to transmit information over the Internet or transfer it

on external media such as a CD or flash drive. In these cases, even with proper

authentication and access control, it is possible for an unauthorized person to get access

to the data. Encryption is a process of encoding data upon its transmission or storage so

that only authorized individuals can read it. This encoding is accomplished by a computer

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program, which encodes the plain text that needs to be transmitted; then the recipient

receives the cipher text and decodes it (decryption). In order for this to work, the sender

and receiver need to agree on the method of encoding so that both parties can

communicate properly. Both parties share the encryption key, enabling them to encode

and decode each other’s messages. This is called symmetric key encryption. This type of

encryption is problematic because the key is available in two different places.

An alternative to symmetric key encryption is public key encryption. In public key

encryption, two keys are used: a public key and a private key. To send an encrypted

message, you obtain the public key, encode the message, and send it. The recipient then

uses the private key to decode it. The public key can be given to anyone who wishes to

send the recipient a message. Each user simply needs one private key and one public key

in order to secure messages. The private key is necessary in order to decrypt something

sent with the public key.

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Public Key Encryption

Sender uses public key to encode, and reader uses private key to decode

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Password Security

So why is using just a simple user ID/password not considered a secure method of

authentication? It turns out that this single-factor authentication is extremely easy

to compromise. Good password policies must be put in place in order to ensure that

passwords cannot be compromised. Below are some of the more common policies

that organizations should put in place.

Require complex passwords. One reason passwords are compromised is that

they can be easily guessed. A study found that the top three passwords people

used in 2012 were “password,” 123456 and 12345678 (Gallagher, 2012). A

password should not be simple, or a word that can be found in a dictionary.

One of the first things a hacker will do is try to crack a password by testing

every term in the dictionary. Instead, a good password policy is one that

requires the use of a minimum of eight characters, and at least one uppercase

letter, one special character, and one number.

Change passwords regularly. It is essential that users change their passwords

on a regular basis. Users should change their passwords every 60 to 90 days,

ensuring that any passwords that might have been stolen or guessed will not

be able to be used against the company.

Train employees not to give away passwords. One of the primary methods that

is used to steal passwords is to simply figure them out by asking the users or

administrators. Pretexting occurs when an attacker calls a helpdesk or security

administrator and pretends to be a particular authorized user having trouble

logging in. Then, by providing some personal information about the authorized

user, the attacker convinces the security person to reset the password and tell

him what it is. Another way that employees may be tricked into giving away

passwords is through email phishing. Phishing occurs when a user receives an

email that looks as if it is from a trusted source, such as their bank, or their

employer. In the email, the user is asked to click a link and log in to a website

that mimics the genuine website and enter their ID and password, which are

then captured by the attacker.


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Another essential tool for information security is a comprehensive backup plan for the

entire organization. Not only should the data on the corporate servers be backed up, but

individual computers used throughout the organization should also be backed up. A good

backup plan should consist of several components.

A full understanding of the organizational information resources. What information

does the organization actually have? Where is it stored? Some data may be stored

on the organization’s servers, other data on users’ hard drives, some in the cloud,

and some on third-party sites. An organization should make a full inventory of all of

the information that needs to be backed up and determine the best way to back it


Regular backups of all data. The frequency of backups should be based on how

important the data is to the company, combined with the ability of the company to

replace any data that is lost. Critical data should be backed up daily, while less

critical data could be backed up weekly.

Off-site storage of backup data sets. If all of the backup data is being stored in the

same facility as the original copies of the data, then a single event, such as an

earthquake, fire, or tornado, would take out both the original data and the backup! It

is essential that part of the backup plan is to store the data in an off-site location.

Test of data restoration. On a regular basis, the backups should be put to the test by

having some of the data restored. This will ensure that the process is working and

will give the organization confidence in the backup plan.

Besides these considerations, organizations should also examine their operations to

determine what effect downtime would have on their business. If their information

technology were to be unavailable for any sustained period of time, how would it impact

the business?

Additional concepts related to backup include the following:

Universal Power Supply (UPS). A UPS is a device that provides battery backup to

critical components of the system, allowing them to stay online longer and/or

allowing the IT staff to shut them down using proper procedures in order to prevent

the data loss that might occur from a power failure.

Alternate, or “hot” sites. Some organizations choose to have an alternate site where

an exact replica of their critical data is always kept up to date. When the primary site

goes down, the alternate site is immediately brought online so that there is little or

no downtime.

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As information has become a strategic asset, a whole industry has sprung up around the

technologies necessary for implementing a proper backup strategy. A company can

contract with a service provider to back up all of their data or they can purchase large

amounts of online storage space and do it themselves. Technologies such as storage area

networks and archival systems are now used by most large businesses.


Another method that an organization should use to increase security on its network is a

firewall. A firewall can exist as hardware or software (or both). A hardware firewall is a

device that is connected to the network and filters the packets based on a set of rules. A

software firewall runs on the operating system and intercepts packets as they arrive to a

computer. A firewall protects all company servers and computers by stopping packets

from outside the organization’s network that do not meet a strict set of criteria. A firewall

may also be configured to restrict the flow of packets leaving the organization. This may

be done to eliminate the possibility of employees watching YouTube videos or using

Facebook from a company computer.

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Network Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)

Partially secured section of a network

Some organizations may choose to implement multiple firewalls as part of their network

security configuration, creating one or more sections of their network that are partially

secured. This segment of the network is referred to as a DMZ, borrowing the term

demilitarized zone from the military, and it is where an organization may place resources

that need broader access, but still need to be secured.

Intrusion Detection Systems

Another device that can be placed on the network for security purposes is an intrusion

detection system, or IDS. An IDS does not add any additional security; instead, it provides

the functionality to identify if the network is being attacked. An IDS can be configured to

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watch for specific types of activities and then alert security personnel if that activity

occurs. An IDS also can log various types of traffic on the network for analysis later. An

IDS is an essential part of any good security setup.

Virtual Private Networks

Using firewalls and other security technologies, organizations can effectively protect

many of their information resources by making them invisible to the outside world.

But what if an employee working from home requires access to some of these

resources? What if a consultant is hired who needs to do work on the internal

corporate network from a remote location? In these cases, a virtual private network

(VPN) is called for.

A VPN allows a user who is outside of a corporate network to take a detour around

the firewall and access the internal network from the outside. Through a

combination of software and security measures, this lets an organization allow

limited access to its networks while at the same time ensuring overall security.

Physical Security

An organization can implement the best authentication scheme in the world, develop the

best access control, and install firewalls and intrusion prevention, but its security cannot

be complete without implementation of physical security. Physical security is the

protection of the actual hardware and networking components that store and transmit

information resources. To implement physical security, an organization must identify all of

the vulnerable resources and take measures to ensure that these resources cannot be

physically tampered with or stolen. These measures include the following.

Locked doors. It may seem obvious, but all the security in the world is useless if an

intruder can simply walk in and physically remove a computing device. High-value

information assets should be secured in a location with limited access.

Physical intrusion detection. High-value information assets should be monitored

through the use of security cameras and other means to detect unauthorized access

to the physical locations where they exist.

Secured equipment. Devices should be locked down to prevent them from being

stolen. One employee’s hard drive could contain all of your customer information, so

it is essential that it be secured.

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Environmental monitoring. An organization’s servers and other high-value

equipment should always be kept in a room that is monitored for temperature,

humidity, and airflow. The risk of a server failure rises when these factors go out of a

specified range.

Employee training. One of the most common ways thieves steal corporate

information is to steal employee laptops while employees are traveling. Employees

should be trained to secure their equipment whenever they are away from the


Security Policies

Besides the technical controls listed above, organizations also need to implement security

policies as a form of administrative control. In fact, these policies should really be a

starting point in developing an overall security plan. A good information-security policy

lays out the guidelines for employee use of the information resources of the company and

provides the company recourse in case an employee violates a policy.

According to the SANS Institute, a good policy is “a formal, brief, and high-level statement

or plan that embraces an organization’s general beliefs, goals, objectives, and acceptable

procedures for a specified subject area.” Policies require compliance; failure to comply

with a policy will result in disciplinary action. A policy does not lay out the specific

technical details, instead it focuses on the desired results. A security policy should be

based on the guiding principles of confidentiality, integrity, and availability (SANS

Institute, n.d.).

A good example of a security policy that many will be familiar with is a web use policy. A

web use policy lays out the responsibilities of company employees as they use company

resources to access the Internet.

A security policy should also address any governmental or industry regulations that apply

to the organization. For example, if the organization is a university, it must be aware of

the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), which restricts who has access to

student information. Health care organizations are obligated to follow several regulations,

such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

A good resource for learning more about security policies is the SANS Institute’s

Information Security Policy Page.

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Mobile Security

As the use of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets proliferates,

organizations must be ready to address the unique security concerns that the use of

these devices bring. One of the first questions an organization must consider is

whether to allow mobile devices in the workplace at all. Many employees already

have these devices, so the question becomes: Should we allow employees to bring

their own devices and use them as part of their employment activities? Or should

we provide the devices to our employees? Creating a BYOD (“Bring Your Own

Device”) policy allows employees to integrate themselves more fully into their job

and can bring higher employee satisfaction and productivity. In many cases, it may

be virtually impossible to prevent employees from having their own smartphones or

iPads in the workplace. If the organization provides the devices to its employees, it

gains more control over use of the devices, but it also exposes itself to the

possibility of an administrative (and costly) mess.

Mobile devices can pose many unique security challenges to an organization.

Probably one of the biggest concerns is theft of intellectual property. For an

employee with malicious intent, it would be a very simple process to connect a

mobile device either to a computer via the USB port, or wirelessly to the corporate

network, and download confidential data. It would also be easy to secretly take a

high-quality picture using a built-in camera.

When an employee does have permission to access and save company data on his

or her device, a different security threat emerges: that device now becomes a target

for thieves. Theft of mobile devices (in this case, including laptops) is one of the

primary methods that data thieves use.

So what can be done to secure mobile devices? It will start with a good policy

regarding their use. According to a 2013 SANS study, organizations should consider

developing a mobile device policy that addresses the following issues: use of the

camera, use of voice recording, application purchases, encryption at rest, Wi-Fi

autoconnect settings, bluetooth settings, VPN use, password settings, lost or stolen

device reporting, and backup (SANS Institute, n.d.).

Besides policies, there are several different tools that an organization can use to

mitigate some of these risks. For example, if a device is stolen or lost, geolocation

software can help the organization find it. In some cases, it may even make sense to

install remote data-removal software, which will remove data from a device if it

becomes a security risk.

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When looking to secure information resources, organizations must balance the need for

security with users’ need to effectively access and use these resources. If a system’s

security measures make it difficult to use, then users will find ways around the security,

which may make the system more vulnerable than it would have been without the

security measures! Take, for example, password policies. If the organization requires an

extremely long password with several special characters, an employee may resort to

writing it down and putting it in a drawer since it will be impossible to memorize.

Personal Information Security

There is no way to have 100% security, but there are several simple steps we, as

individuals, can take to make ourselves more secure.

Keep your software up to date. Whenever a software vendor determines that a

security flaw has been found in their software, they will release an update to the

software that you can download to fix the problem. Turn on automatic updating on

your computer to automate this process.

Install antivirus software and keep it up to date. There are many good antivirus

software packages on the market today, including free ones.

Be smart about your connections. You should be aware of your surroundings. When

connecting to a Wi-Fi network in a public place, be aware that you could be at risk

of being spied on by others sharing that network. It is advisable not to access your

financial or personal data while attached to a Wi-Fi hotspot. You should also be

aware that connecting USB flash drives to your device could also put you at risk. Do

not attach an unfamiliar flash drive to your device unless you can scan it first with

your security software.

Back up your data. Just as organizations need to back up their data, individuals need

to as well. And the same rules apply: do it regularly and keep a copy of it in another

location. One simple solution for this is to set up an account with an online backup

service, such as Mozy or Carbonite, to automate your backups.

Secure your accounts with two-factor authentication. Most email and social media

providers now have a two-factor authentication option. The way this works is

simple: When you log in to your account from an unfamiliar computer for the first

time, it sends you a text message with a code that you must enter to confirm that

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you are really you. This means that no one else can log in to your accounts without

knowing your password and having your mobile phone with them.

Make your passwords long, strong, and unique. For your personal passwords, you

should follow the same rules that are recommended for organizations. Your

passwords should be long (eight or more characters) and contain at least two of the

following: uppercase letters, numbers, and special characters. You also should use

different passwords for different accounts, so that if someone steals your password

for one account, they still are locked out of your other accounts.

Be suspicious of strange links and attachments. When you receive an email, tweet,

or Facebook post, be suspicious of any links or attachments included there. Do not

click on the link directly if you are at all suspicious. Instead, if you want to access the

website, find it yourself and navigate to it directly.

You can find more about these steps and many other ways to be secure with your

computing by going to Stop. Think. Connect. This website is part of a campaign that was

launched in October of 2010 by the STOP. THINK. CONNECT. Messaging Convention in

partnership with the US government, including the White House.


As computing and networking resources have become more and more an integral part of

business, they have also become a target of criminals. Organizations must be vigilant with

the way they protect their resources. The same holds true for us personally: as digital

devices become more and more intertwined with our lives, it becomes crucial for us to

understand how to protect ourselves.

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Study Questions

1. Briefly define each of the three members of the information security triad.

2. What does the term authentication mean?

3. What is multi-factor authentication?

4. What is role-based access control?

5. What is the purpose of encryption?

6. What are two good examples of a complex password?

7. What is pretexting?

8. What are the components of a good backup plan?

9. What is a firewall?

10. What does the term physical security mean?


Gallagher, S. (2012, November 3) Born to be breached. Retrieved on May 15, 2013, from



SANS Institute (n.d.). A short primer for developing security policies. Retrieved from


SANS Institute (n.d.). SANS Institute’s mobile device checklist. Retrieved from


Licenses and Attributions

Chapter 6: Information Systems Security


and%20Beyond.pdf) from Information Systems for Business and Beyond by David T.

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