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We security wonks always seem to be put into a position of having to say “no.” That makes us unpopular with the I’m-not-hurting-anything crowd who insist on checking their webmail, IMing their friends, and running assorted and sundry downloaded and web-based applications (but only on their time, of course). Maybe they’re right on some level; many of those things are benign and don’t represent security threats. But there are also potentially dangerous applications such as peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing that can expose your network to hackers via an open P2P connection (See P2P Leads to Major Leak at Citigroup Unit and Pfizer Falls Victim to P2P Hack). What’s one to do?
Start saying “Yes.” You read that right. Look at it from the user’s standpoint: A blanket prohibition against anything and everything usually foments rebellion on the part of some and they’ll do whatever they want to do with wild abandon. Your network is less secure as a result. But, if you develop policies that allow webmail, online shopping, and IM instead of blocking them at the gateway, while prohibiting the potentially dangerous stuff, you just might find the users starting to ask you if it’s OK to do certain things.
And they just might listen to you if you say “No.”