Home > Articles > Cisco Network Technology > Security > Policy, Personnel, and Equipment as Security Enablers

Policy, Personnel, and Equipment as Security Enablers

  • Sample Chapter is provided courtesy of Cisco Press.
  • Date: Apr 1, 2005.

Chapter Description

Policy plays an integral role in security effectiveness. Educating users on their responsibility to enhance security can have a twofold effect: It ensures that deployed equipment can perform tasks with greater effectiveness, and it creates an environment that encourages and supports individual responsibility.

Ensuring a Successful Security Policy Approach

Comprehensive security policies are tools that employees and management can use to understand how the organization is protecting itself—and what it expects from its users.

One of the main challenges in creating this type of policy is ensuring that it doesn't become overburdened with rules that could become insurmountable barriers. Note that security does remove a certain degree of flexibility. Similar to installing a home security system, the more comprehensive the system becomes, the less mobility one has in the home. A simple perimeter system that places contacts on doors and windows allows full movement within the house. But with the addition of motion detectors and laser beams, a dog's attempt to retrieve food mistakenly left on a kitchen table could conceivably trigger an alarm. The decision to install a comprehensive home system is usually preceded by a discussion centering on the real cost of vulnerability. Deciding on the makeup of the system can only begin after that discussion is concluded, because one cannot effectively mitigate risk until the person knows his level of aversion to it.

In a network environment, if users are routinely bypassing security in their rush to complete work, there could be many possible issues, including, but not limited to:

  • Users are ill-informed about vulnerabilities that exist and simply bypass network security measures as a matter of course.

  • The systems in place might be overkill for the type of work that needs to be accomplished.

This section attempts to pinpoint key areas where security policies have been known to be vulnerable. Keeping these points in mind when formulating policy can help to ensure its eventual effectiveness. This section examines the following topics:

  • Security is a learned behavior

  • Inviting the unknown

  • Avoiding a fall into the safety trap

  • Accounting for the unaccountable

  • Workflow considerations

  • Striving to make security policies more efficient

Security Is a Learned Behavior

Individuals are not born cautious. Quite the contrary; they are naturally trusting, open, and inviting. Part of the rearing process involves teaching individuals to become suspicious. Cultivating a secure environment in a computing system is not dissimilar to teaching an individual to be wary. Networks are not born cautious, as evidenced by routers that broadcast their location. Security appliances are introduced to shield vulnerable equipment, but they cannot protect users who act recklessly or sloppily; that form of preventive guarding must be learned by users.

Earlier discussions have alluded to the argument that certain organizations are better served by explaining their security posture to users. While it is challenging to fully protect a network from a user who willfully wreaks havoc, the vast majority of users who might cause harm are not doing so maliciously. They usually have no perception of the damage, or potential for damage, they have left in their wake; they simply do not know any better. An organization that openly shares its rationale for security generally finds its users less likely to skirt measures it puts in place, and a corresponding reduction in the amount of inadvertent errors it experiences should result.

Teaching appropriate security techniques takes time. Through the power of conditioning, users can learn how to properly navigate a system without putting it in jeopardy. Repetitively performing tasks and walking through the system with a knowledgeable teacher, users can become skilled at performing safe computing. Consistent positive reinforcement, whether it is praise or ongoing education, can help to create a corporate culture that is focused on making security a learned behavior.

Inviting the Unknown

Most security systems are designed to deal with known entities, either attacks that have occurred or are feared to occur. Equipment is put in place, and an organization returns to its normal business. A comprehensive network security program dictates that minor vulnerabilities, or seemingly insignificant cracks, should be scanned for constantly, because the most harmful invasions usually come from the most unsuspected places.

Regular security scans should do the following things:

  • Identify an organization's most vulnerable points, and assume that attacks could be launched against them

  • Identify network areas that the IT department assumes to be highly secure, and determine their weakest links

Even the most secure environments have stress points, and identifying them is the first step in forging a more resilient network. Continually scanning for vulnerabilities in the most unsuspected places can proactively help mitigate the unknown.

Avoiding a Fall into the Safety Trap

Perfectly secure environments do not exist. Purchasing every possible type of equipment doesn't protect an organization if its users are not effectively trained. Furthermore, responsible employees cannot protect a company from a DDoS attack without the help of proper equipment. It is a combination of both that provides the most comprehensive security. Equally important is recognition that implementing security is not a one-time effort. Threats evolve and disappear, only to be replaced by new and more sophisticated ones. Policies must be able to respond quickly, efficiently, and proactively.

A security-minded organization can use a revolving wheel, as shown in Figure 5-1, to underscore its daily practices and to help it create a forward-thinking security posture.

Figure 1Figure 5-1 Closing the Loop on Security: Making Policy Review a Constant

Business environments rarely remain static, and the wheel ensures that an organization can keep pace with an ever-changing world.

Accounting for the Unaccountable

The likelihood of a hacker planning and carrying out a full-scale attack against a random network is remote. But should one occur, its effects could be devastating. Protection equipment, or the act of mitigating threats, is a type of insurance vehicle that organizations use to keep hackers at bay, as discussed in Chapter 3, "Security Technology and Related Equipment."

The most common threats organizations confront are those that come from within. Whether they are premeditated or inadvertent, the end result is usually the same. Human error can result in a nonmalicious DoS attack that, while innocent, can still bring down a network.

Some breaches might appear innocuous on the surface, but they could result in serious damage being inflicted if not immediately addressed. For example, a staffer who routinely borrows the phone line from the fax machine to dial in to his personal ISP opens an unprotected path to the Internet that a hacker could recognize. The staffer might know he is not allowed to do this, but his need to connect to his personal account through the ISP could outweigh his misgivings, particularly if he isn't reprimanded after the first few times. The more he accesses his ISP and gets away with it, the more bravado he will have to continue.

Aberrant activity must be addressed in security policies so that users can understand the spirit of what is expected of them.

Workflow Considerations

Ideally, policy formulation teams should include users who are familiar with an organization's workflow to ensure that a policy reflects the workflow.

Policies that reflect workflow have the added benefit of addressing rules that are too cumbersome for users by avoiding the pitfall that is all too common with restrictive regulations: Users go around them and typically create back doors in the process.

Security policies that take practical considerations into account have a greater potential to effect positive results.

Striving to Make Security Policies More Efficient

Identifying and planning for the natural weaknesses in security policies can be an effective tool to use when creating a comprehensive plan.

Breaches can be avoided when planners model a process before committing it to implementation. For example, a procedure might reasonably dictate that a particular room remain locked during business hours and assign responsibility for the key to one person. But if multiple users require access to the room to carry out their normal course of duties, frustration could ensue if the individual in charge of the key is not always readily available. Users might find a way to circumvent the rule by surreptitiously copying the key. It is understandable that the organization might need to control access to the room, but rather than creating an environment that inadvertently encourages underhanded activity, it could research more reasonable access measures, such as the authentication and authorization tools described in Chapter 3.

Ensure that a process exists to routinely review policies. Even the best-laid plans can require tweaking, and security policies should not be immune from postimplementation analyses. Organizations can also change in size, structure, and equipment that they use; policies should be flexible enough to appropriately reflect any relevant changes to the corporation.

Continue to educate users on the importance of security and on what they can do to help. Most employees have strong positive feelings about their employer and, if possible, they genuinely want to make a difference in their workplace. An environment that encourages its employees to become active participants in the security process will be well structured to deal with threats in the future.

10. Surveying IT Management | Next Section Previous Section

Cisco Press Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from Cisco Press and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about Cisco Press products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites; develop new products and services; conduct educational research; and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@ciscopress.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by Cisco Press. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.ciscopress.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020