What’s the weakest link in Enterprise IT infrastructure?

“As advanced persistent attacks increasingly target multiple entry points, it’s not an oversight organisations should risk any longer."

Information Technology decision makers (ITDMs) believe wireless networks to be the most vulnerable element of the IT infrastructure, with nine in ten CIOs reporting concerns over insufficient wireless protection.

According to a new survey from Fortinet, nearly half (49 percent) of respondents ranked wireless networks as most exposed from a security standpoint, in contrast to just 29 percent for the core network.

The Fortinet survey also reveals that insufficient wireless security is a concern for almost all (92 percent) of the CIOs polled while nearly half of ITDMs (48 percent) consider loss of sensitive corporate and/or customer data the biggest risk of operating an unsecured wireless environment.

Delving deeper, findings show that 72 percent have adopted a cloud approach to management of their wireless infrastructure and 88 percent trust the cloud for future wireless deployment.

Furthermore, 43 percent of ITDMs polled provide guest access on their corporate wireless networks but 13 percent of these organisations do so without any controls whatsoever.

“The survey findings indicate that despite the growth in mobility strategies, wireless security has simply not been a priority for enterprises to date,” says John Maddison, vice president of marketing products, Fortinet.

“As advanced persistent attacks increasingly target multiple entry points, and the cloud becomes more prevelant, it’s not an oversight organisations should risk any longer.

“It’s positive to see IT Leaders beginning to recognise the role wireless security plays in protecting their critical business assets, yet there is more to be done.

“As IT strives to balance the need for strong network security with ubiquitous connectivity, wireless must be considered as part of a holistic security strategy to ensure broad and consistent protection for users and devices over wired and wireless access.”

Wireless Networks at risk?

According to the survey, wireless networks are ranked as the most vulnerable IT infrastructure, with the highest proportion of ITDMs (49 percent) placing it in their top two.

Respondents positioned wireless as significantly more vulnerable than core networking infrastructure, with just 29 percent of ITDMs ranking this highly.

Databases (25 percent), applications (17 percent) and storage (11 percent) infrastructures were considered amongst the least susceptible from a security standpoint.

In addition, 37 percent of global ITDMs polled do not have the most basic wireless security measure of authentication in place.

A significant 29 percent and 39 percent of enterprises respectively, overlook firewall and anti-virus security functions when it comes to wireless strategies.

Other security measures deemed critical to core infrastructure protection, such as IPS (deployed by 41 percent), application control (37 percent) and URL filtering (29 percent), play a part in even fewer wireless deployments.

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When considering the future direction of their wireless security strategies, Maddison says the majority of respondents said they would maintain focus on the most common security features – firewall and authentication, while demand for more security is emerging with 23 percent prioritising complementary technologies – IPS, anti-virus, application control and URL filtering - to guard against the full extent of the threat landscape.

Insufficient wireless security

Of the ITDMs surveyed, 83 percent are concerned their existing wireless security is not sufficient, with CIOs reporting the highest level of concern at 92 percent.

Despite deploying the highest level of security of all the regions surveyed, ITDMs across APAC are the most concerned about their wireless security with 44 percent stating they are very concerned, in contrast to 30 percent in the Americas, and 20 percent in EMEA.

When asked to cite the risks of operating an unsecured wireless network, 48 percent of ITDMs considered loss of sensitive corporate and/or customer data as the biggest risk to their organisation.

According to Maddison, this was highest at 56 percent in APAC, in contrast to the Americas at 45 percent and EMEA 42 percent.

The next highest risk, industrial espionage, was cited by just 22 percent of ITDMs, followed by non-compliance to industry regulations (13 percent), with service interruption and damage to corporate reputation ranked equal last (9 percent).

Cloud Management

Wireless infrastructure governed by a premise-based controller is a thing of the past according to the findings, with on-site wireless controllers the least common form of management (28 percent).

“This trend for cloud-based management looks set to grow further, with only 12 percent of enterprise ITDMs refusing to trust the cloud for such critical management in the future,” Maddison adds.

“Of the cloud-ready respondents, 58 percent would want to use a private cloud infrastructure for wireless management and 42 percent would outsource to a third party managed services provider.

“14 percent of those considering outsourcing would only do so provided it is hosted in the same country, leaving 28 percent happy to embrace wireless management as a public cloud service regardless of geography.”

Finally, Maddison reports that nearly half (43 percent) of ITDMs polled provide guest access on their corporate wireless networks, with 13 percent of these organisations doing so without any controls whatsoever.

The most common form of guest security access on corporate wireless networks is a unique and temporary username and password (46 percent), ahead of a captive portal with credentials (36 percent).