Category Archives: Problem Solving

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Solving four primary security challenges of Microsoft SharePoint

Solving four primary security challenges of Microsoft SharePoint

Microsoft SharePoint has quickly become the enterprise standard for internal and external collaboration and content management much in the same way Microsoft Exchange has become the enterprise standard for email. However, along with SharePoint’s acceptance comes the same challenges that enveloped Exchange: The need to maximize ROI, guard against viruses and data leakage, and establish policies for governance and compliance. This white paper examines SharePoint’s benefits and risks and recommends best practices for protecting an organization’s digital assets.

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Solving four primary security challenges of Microsoft SharePoint

Introduction to SharePoint

Microsoft Windows SharePoint enables information workers to collaborate on documents, exchange files, problem-solve, strategize, link to live web content and create tables and reports that are culled from an organization’s databases. SharePoint offers many benefits for organizations, especially those with 1,000 employees or more, because it:

»»Increases employee productivity by streamlining day-to-day business operations

»»Reduces project cycle time through collaboration

»»Empowers employees to make informed decisions by providing centralized access to information

»»Helps meet regulatory requirements through total content control

»»Simplifies access to structured and non-structured data across various systems

»»Offers a unique, integrated platform for managing business-wide intranet, extranet and internet applications

Microsoft SharePoint comprises two main components: Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 (WSS) and Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS).

Microsoft SharePoint sales broke the $1 billion revenue mark in 2008 with more than 100 million licenses sold, leading one market research analyst to proclaim that “SharePoint is the hottest-selling server-side product ever for the company.” Other analysts predict the growth of the popular content management and collaboration platform will remain steady and they expect to see it grow at a remarkable average annual rate of 25% over the next 4 years.

Today, a majority of organizations are using SharePoint to store and share their most vital electronic records such as strategic corporate planning documents, company financials, employee records, critical intellectual property records and personal health records.

Assessing reward versus risk

One of the key challenges IT managers and administrators face is finding a way to balance SharePoint’s rich functionality with the attendant risks that come from making interactive content more accessible beyond the organization’s walled garden. Even when SharePoint is used mainly by internal users (see shaded area in the figure on page 2) the threat of malware propagating across the network is remains significant.

As access to SharePoint is broadened to include outside partners and applications, the risks are magnified exponentially. What this means for IT managers and admins is that fully leveraging the organization’s investment in SharePoint also increases its vulnerability to malware, data leakage and many other concerns.

A secure deployment consists of layers of security backed with appropriate access controls so that the organization’s content is well protected while at the same time accessible beyond the walls of the organization.

What are the four primary risks?

SharePoint is susceptible to a variety of existing and emerging threats:

1. Viruses and other malware

2. Access to inappropriate content

3. Data leakage of the company’s competitive and bus iness intelligence

4. Data tampering by internal and external users

1. Viruses and other forms of malware

Windows SharePoint Services stores documents, lists, views and other information in a Microsoft SQL Server database.

Collaborative workspaces are an easy way to share files and content, which only increases the odds of contracting viruses and other forms of malware. This is a significant concern if content originates from outside the organization from unmanaged machines (for example, enabling customers to post attachments or links to untrustworthy sites in a SharePoint-based environment).

Recommendations

Deploy an anti-virus suite designed for scanning SQL Server database stores to find malware and suspicious files stored within the database — a capability that typical endpoint/server AV solutions lack. Other features to consider include:

»»On-access, on-demand, or on-schedule protection from malware, viruses, spyware, adware, suspicious files and potentially unwanted applications, which ensures maximum security while offering a completely transparent end-user experience.

»»Proactive zero-day detection of new malware using Behavioral Genotype technology.

»»Integrated quarantine manager for deleting, disinfecting or authorizing files.

2. Access to inappropriate content

Don’t let your SharePoint portal become a vast source of inappropriate, illegal or similar content that violates legal requirements for compliance and governance.

Recommendations

»»Simplify compliance with advanced content filtering.

»»Make sure the third-party solution you deploy includes a comprehensive content scanning and policy engine.

»»Control file types based on file name, size, or type using true-file-type technology to prevent file type masquerading.

»»Delivers centralized data security control across mixed IT environments.

»»Provides consistent implementation and enforcement of company-wide security policies.

»»Makes storage, exchange and recovery of keys simple and easy through centralized state-of-the-art key management

»»Provides comprehensive data protection on all kinds of devices, including: laptops, desktops, removable media, PDAs, CDs, and email

»»Offers encryption and data leakage prevention (DLP) under a single management console.

»»Fully manages Windows Vista BitLocker Drive Encryption

»»Integrates quickly and effectively with existing security infrastructures and automates administrative tasks.

Emerging concerns

»»The threats are getting greater and are not likely to subside any time soon, if ever. One reason is that employee mobility continues to rise. The 2009 Total Employee Mobility Benchmarking Report, released by Runzheimer International, notes 51% of the workforce is mobile on any given day. However, many IT execs do not have control over the associated risks, costs or benefits. The annual report was developed through interviews with executives from 90 small, mid-sized and large organizations across the U.S.

»»SharePoint is among the easiest-to-use tools in the Windows suite, experts say. The problem is any user can set up a SharePoint site, and, often, there are no guidelines for who can access it or what data can be stored there. Some users assume that because it’s used on the company’s internal network, SharePoint data must be protected by the standard corporate security defenses.

3. Data leakage of the company’s competitive and business intelligence

Because SharePoint technology enables the easy exchange of files between users, even if you’ve deployed security policies on perimeter and mail servers, users might still try to use SharePoint to exchange files that would ordinarily be blocked by email security.

Recommendations

»»Look for a solution that specifically ensures sensitive data is not being leaked through SharePoint or Exchange.

»»Employ content control that prohibits users from uploading or downloading sensitive information.

»»Check to see that files can be controlled by file name and by content (words and phrases) within files.

4. Data tampering

According to a recent survey, one-quarter of 330 respondents lack confidence that their organizations’ electronic records or other digital content are protected when they are being shared within the SharePoint environment. Of the respondents whose organizations have suffered a data breach within their SharePoint systems, 67% indicated that the tampering was at the hands of a person with access to SharePoint from inside the organization.

Recommendations

»»Look for a modular information protection control solution that enforces policy-based security for PCs and mobile devices across mixed environments.

»»It should be fully transparent to end users and easy to administer from a single central console. Finally, its modular architecture provides comprehensive data security tailored to your organization’s needs and growth requirements.

»»In other cases, employees make the mistake of offering SharePoint access to business partners or contractors outside of the company, without taking steps to secure the exchange of data.

This article was provided by Sophos and is reproduced here with their full permission. Sophos provides full data protection services including: security software, encryption software, antivirus, and malware.

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The Logistical Problems of a New World Order

Lately, the news has come in flooding waves for me. The election, bailouts, and endlessly horrible employment news have washed over me, and left a sort of numb feeling in place of my usual optimism. Capitalism seems to have died a death at the hands of worldwide greed, and I am left shaking my head at a growing list of casualties. That’s just the domestic scene. When I take a look at the sprawling, worldwide chaos, the picture becomes even darker.

India is considering a strike against Pakistan. Israel is weighing strikes against both Iran and Syria. The United States faces an impending disaster in Afghanistan, pondering the age old old question “Should I stay or should I go?”. Then, there is the Cold War posturing that Russia has rediscovered of late. They have reinserted themselves into the international conversation once again, in a very aggressive manner.

We are seeing substantial devaluation across currencies worldwide, and some of it is intentional. For instance, the Chinese have devalued the yuan to keep their exports competitive, even as consumption drops in the Western world.The Russian ruble has been dying a slow, agonizing death for months now. Its prospects against the dollar have fallen by 30%, and show no signs of hitting a solid bottom. Iceland is on the verge of anarchy, due to the insolvency of the krona, and the resulting anger at the government’s perceived culpability.

Instability is the only constant worldwide, with the occasional sprinkling of outright implosion. In all this, the cry from the international -and domestic- communities is a global solution. It makes sense, to a certain degree. Ockham’s razor would naturally deem that a problem of global scope should be paired with a solution of the same depth. While I generally have no qualms with the theory. that “All things being equal, the simplest solution is the best”, I believe Mssr.Ockham would think twice before applying his philosophy to international crises.

I can hear some of you who fervently wish for world peace asking “Why? I mean, isn’t it time we put aside our differences, our Nationalism, and our borders? Isn’t now the best time to embrace our fellow man, and weather this crisis as a member of the human race.” That is an admirable sentiment. Let us examine the logistical issues inherent in the adoption of global governance (née government).

Let’s start with the chosen form of Government: You’ve got your Monarchies, Theocracies, Democracies, Benevolent Dictatorships, Technocracies, and all forms of Socialist variants in-between. Now, you want people with diametrically opposed ideals to come to a consensus on how the world should be run. This could be done, but all parties would have to agree to binding resolutions that may or may not contradict the Constitutions adopted by the inhabitants of their respective countries. If this is done, then you wipe out another hurdle that presents itself: National Sovereignty.

That one is a doozy, because it wipes out the individualism of nations. Sure, you may keep your cute, cultural idiosyncracies. You’ll still wear lederhosen, a Sikh’s turban,or the tartan kilt passed down to you by your grandfather. What will disappear are the laws you have been accustomed to following your whole life. For someone in the United States,it would be the obliteration of State’s rights. Want to legalize medical marijuana in your state? It has to be approved by the governing body for the entire world, and the legal code of the entire world must be amended, just so your Granny with glaucoma can get access. Want to appeal an unjust judgment? You get to go through various levels of an internationally appointed judiciary. All of your local decisions are subject to the whims of an international body. Even if their motives are completely pure (unlikely at best), the system still leaves ample room for corruption and vast inefficiency.

What about handling issues of equality? There’s a sticky situation. While they could handle the issue of dominant nations by giving them preferential seats in the new government, it would still provoke the criticism of the rest of the governing body. Nobody really cares for the UN model of government, as they merely pass guidelines, not binding legislation. They draft resolutions with all the legal enforcibility of “the gentleman’s handshake”. The smaller nations want equal voice with the US, China, and Russia. This would have to be remedied, in order for the smaller nations to agree to surrender their sovereignty. Larger nations would have to eat some national pride, and swallow the bitter pill of decreased international relevance. In short, there had better be some kind of “Supreme Leader” in charge to smooth the ruffled feathers. How are they going to come to agreement on appointing the Emperor of the Planet? These people can’t even agree on which form of government is best. This, is only minor squabbling compared to…

Religion. In a government made up of diverse population, and differing views on what is “the only true way to God”, how do you keep one religion from being imposed on all the others. Most Christians look on Constantine’s misguided reign as a horrible time for their religion. A forced conversion to a state(or world) religion would be many times worse than the rule of any Roman emperor in times past. Far worse than that would be the travesty of forced parity between all religions. This is a freedom of speech issue. The Muslim would not be able to declare “Allahu Akhbar(god is greater)”, because it is contrary to parity. The Christian could not declare “Jesus is the Son of God”, because it contradicts the statements of Islam and Judaism. The follower of Judaism could not declare “Hear, oh Israel, the Lord is One”, because it devalues the claims of Hinduism. This is the primary obstacle for a global government, and one that will remain a vexing issue, should they choose either of the options previously discussed.

Financially, the problem of switching to a universal currency like the Euro is easily on its way to being solved. I only mention it as an afterthought. Physical currency would not even have to be minted. Well, maybe for developing nations. For the developed world, one would turn into a society like the Japanese have: A relatively cashless society, where you can pay with your cell phone, or credit card. Most of the groundwork, trading, and information systems are already in place to facilitate such an exchange. Your old currency would simply be given an exchange rate. There would be a one-time trade in, and the destruction of all other currencies would commence shortly thereafter. Problem solved.

While global government is inevitable, the challenges that face it are almost insurmountable. This ensures that it will be poorly implemented, poorly received, and roundly declared a triumph of humanity. The solutions, however, are unable to be solved by Mr. Ockham. You know, “All things being equal, the simplest solution is best”, and all that. The problem lies in the fact that neither of his premises can be applied here: In the world of international politics, nothing is simple. The other problem is more adequately explained by a paraphrase of George Orwell. He had this to say “All animals (nations) are equal, but some animals (nations) are more equal than others.”

Kurt Hartman is Head of Employee Training for Mobile Fleet Service, Inc. They sell tires to the mining, construction and heavy equipment industries. As a complimentary service, they offer tire specifications to the OTR Tire industry.

Causes of Infertility in Women – Knowing and Solving

The biggest causes of infertility in women often involve physical health issues that often have a wide variety of forms, but have the same short range of remedies. For a woman to truly break free from her infertility, she needs to know what’s causing it, and devise a way to ensure that it doesn’t keep hunting her for the rest of her life.

The first step to knowing is to give your doctor a small visit. Infertility in women often comes from ovulation disorders, uterine issues, age, pre-existing health problems, and overall physical unfitness. With a few simple and cheap tests, your doctor can determine whether any of the more common causes for infertility are preventing you from conceiving, or if there’s anything more serious that you should be aware of. By knowing the answer to the simple problem of “what’s causing it all,” you are giving yourself a few targeted options to take in the long run.

Once you know what’s causing the infertility, take the time to solve the problem. Solving the problem could either mean taking some medications, going on certain fertility diets, increasing overall physical wellness, active monitoring of physical statistics such as basal body temperature and menstrual cycles, or a combination of some or all of these options.

Women who have ovulation disorders and uterine issues are often prescribed medications to improve their hormonal balance. A good hormonal balance will promote the regularization of a woman’s menstrual cycle, and increase uterine wall thickness — a problem that tends to become more pronounced with age.

Along with these treatments, a woman could also be subjected to fertility diets and overall lifestyle changes so to counteract the effects of age, the environment, and any other external factors that may affect a woman’s fertility adversely. Lastly, with active monitoring, you give yourself the benefit of knowing when you have the greatest probability of conceiving successfully: use these odds to your advantage, and you can even counteract the disadvantages of certain adverse factors, such as age and physical health, that you might have.

The above-stated problems and solutions are targeted for those that are most commonly being experienced by women today. Some cases might be more serious, and may require more drastic measures such as surgery and artificial fertilization. However, it is still important to note that the general solutions are still practical to take no matter how serious or mild your causes of infertility might be, as these simply lead to a healthier you.

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