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Source: The Beacon News

Posted on January 20, 2009

      Businesses routinely hire consultants to organize their IT (information technology) networks and be on call when viruses attack or software becomes balky. Daniel Sproul thinks businesses also should hire computer forensics experts who can spot internal IT security issues that could damage a business' operations -- and reputation. Sproul heads Naperville-based National Network Investigations, Inc.

      Sproul says IT security concerns are legitimate. For businesses and consumers, the online headaches come in the form of increased scam attacks, where Internet crooks seek to trick users into revealing personal financial information, and -- even more insidious, says Sproul -- theft of business plans and secrets.

      IT security risks are high, Sproul says, because most businesses -- large and small alike -- fail to implement what he calls "common sense IT security programs." Sproul suggests:

      Employee background checks. Too many companies -- including, Sproul says, larger ones -- fail to run background checks on new hires even though the employee may have access to bank account numbers, Social Security data and other private consumer information. Sproul also suggests background checks on existing staff. If there is an issue, NNI conducts a forensic analysis on the employee's computer activities "to make certain they're not storing or using private customer information."

      In fact, Sproul suggests a periodic forensic review of system data, so management knows whether corporate information has been misused.

      Screen savers that automatically lock after five minutes. "Most of us just walk away when we go to lunch," Sproul says. "Unless the system blocks access, any unscrupulous individual could use my PC and perhaps gain access to sensitive data - payroll or accounts payable, for example - where I have authorization but they don't."

      Monitor the IT staff. "Who is to say the IT manager isn't giving others too much access?" Sproul asks. "Maybe the IT staff is viewing sensitive strategic information."

      In that context, Sproul continues, "Who checks whether or not an employee may be sending data to a competitor -- tempted by hope of a new job?"

      System access should be blocked at night and on weekends, so cleaning crews and other unauthorized personnel do not have access to the company's data.

      National Network Investigations, which can be found on the web at www.nationalni.com, is an eight-year old firm. Its 19 employees include six with law enforcement backgrounds.

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