The increasing sophistication of computer hackers is making it more important for companies to implement online safeguards. But organizations still are most vulnerable to attacks from insiders, says William P. Crowell, former deputy director of the National Security Agency and president and chief executive officer of Cylink Corp, a Santa Clara, California-based developer of security technologies.

To protect networks from disgruntled staffers and former employees, companies should focus on enhanced authentication and implement systems that log and track activity to determine the databases and files that might have been improperly accessed, says Crowell.

Organizations also must take steps to prevent outsiders from intercepting data from wireless communications and combat perpetrators that attempt to copy information through devices installed on routers and firewalls. An important step, Crowell says, is to embed security tools in systems and for companies to leverage all of the "basic" elements of security – authentication, encryption, antivirus and intrusion detection and firewalls.

"We need to make sure that security is so important that it is part of our building code for networks," Crowell notes. "That it becomes either a requirement or a best practice. We need to think of the long-term implications of not securing networks."

Companies, meanwhile, also must be ready to consistently upgrade their safeguards. No security is invulnerable, Crowell notes, if an adversary is ready to spend the money to breach systems.

"The more we become dependable on networks for our business, the more vulnerable we become to breaches," he adds. "Our industry has an obligation to make security transparent and we haven't been good about that yet. We have to focus more on embedding security and making it easy to use.

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