Intranet Security Best Practices

Stefan Schinkel

A common misconception about intranet security is that just because a company's data resides on their own network, they're safe from cyberattacks. This could not be further from the truth. The reality is that most of today's intrusions come through trusted employees, networks, and devices. In order to protect your enterprise, it's essential to understand the different types of threats an organization faces when using an intranet and how best to guard against them.

In the last few years, we have seen several high-profile security breaches involving companies such as Target and Sony. As a result, many CTOs are now looking at their intranets as potential risks. This article covers some of the most common threats to an intranet and the best practices for securing your company's intranet from cyberattacks.

What Is An Intranet?

Intranet software forms a hub for internal communication and collaboration. This collaboration tool makes it easy for employees to access both internal and external resources. Gartner defines an intranet as "a network internal to an enterprise that uses the same methodology and techniques as the internet but is accessible only to employees."

Based on Gartner's definition, modern intranets give employees a centralized source of information where they can always access information regardless of where they are. One of its main advantages is that remote employees and employees based on-site can access it easily, which speeds the transition towards a fully connected, 100% digital workplace.

Read More: What Is an Intranet, and How Can You Build One?

Why Does an Intranet Need Security?

Modern intranets are cloud-based, centralized hubs filled with information and assets that rightfully belong to your company. While this is great for your business and its operations, it also represents a golden opportunity for cyberattackers to gain all the information they need in one heist.

Internal websites that keep sensitive employee and client information require enhanced intranet security, especially for highly regulated industries like banking and healthcare, where data loss can be catastrophic. However, the truth is that cyberattacks aren't the only major threat to your intranet security— your own employees are.

Common Threats to An Intranet

According to data from Infosec, 70% of data breaches can be attributed to employee error, whether malicious or not. In fact, the top three vulnerabilities to intranet security come from internal negligence. To understand why, let's take a look at the common threats to your corporate intranet, both internal and external.

Internal Threats

  • Employee Error or Negligence: This is the most common threat to the security of your intranet and happens when your data security policies aren't adequately enforced or are weak. Ultimately, workers may end up unintentionally leaving breaches for cyberattackers to exploit.

  • Accidental Intranet Exposure: Sensitive data is accidentally placed in a location accessible from the Web. The news stories about improper usage of Amazon S3 permissions (and other cloud storage) fall into this category.

  • Insider Theft: This is similar —and sometimes mistakenly seen as— employee negligence, but in this case, the employee breaches the system and accesses insider data knowingly with malicious purposes.

External Threats

  • Physical Theft: Cyberattackers can coordinate seemingly harmless attacks and steal office equipment like pen drives or hard drives to gain access to employee data or passwords. Plus, hackers can also gain access to your network by gaining access to your routers or physical servers.

  • Interception of Data During Transit: Another security challenge for intranets is that data is particularly vulnerable during transit. Many companies use insecure protocols like HTTP and don't encrypt their data, which results in lost data packages that malicious hackers can intercept.

  • Hacking: Direct hacking involving a third party is always possible, especially if your company deals with sensitive data or financial records. Potential hacking can come in denial-of-service attacks, phishing, malware or virus, and ransomware.

7 Intranet Security Best Practices

In order to have a safe and secure intranet, you need to protect the stored data. Now that you know the potential threats to your company, let's talk about some best practices you need to follow to protect your organization's intranet from cyberattacks.

  1. Establish a Comprehensive Security Policy
    While it's possible that your company has some data security measures in place, it's likely that you overlooked your intranet data security, especially if you're using a legacy intranet. Take some time to review your security policies and measures and make sure they also protect your remote workers' digital workplace, and that the protection extends to your mobile intranet. Once you've reviewed your actions, delineate a plan with steps for a rapid response if a data breach occurs.

  2. Strengthen Your Log-in Protocols
    While we're all aware of the potential dangers of weak passwords, the truth is that many people still rely on them. Modern intranets, however, protect you from picking weak passwords and enable more secure log-in protocols such as Single Sign-on (SSO), Active Directory (AD), or Lightweight Directory Access Protocols (LDAP). Protocols like this enable a seamless, centralized authentication management process that also enables secure mobile access to your corporate intranet.

  3. Enact Access Control
    It's necessary to limit the amount of information your employees have access to unless it relates to their job.. An intranet platform with granular roles and permissions capabilities can help control access and reduce potential internal data breaches. For instance, by creating permissions for different intranet users based on their roles, you make sure that employees have access to only the information they need, increasing their productivity and reducing time lost looking for information.

  4. Meet Global Security Standards
    Security standards exist for a reason, and it's always a good idea to follow them as closely as possible to prevent a security breach or cyberattacks. Also, for regulated industries such as healthcare, government, and financial institutions, security standards aren't an option, and your intranet needs to meet compliance regulations to operate. A modern intranet like dotCMS offers users a GDPR, SOC2, HIPAA, and ISO 9001-compliant platform that protects your data and simplifies compliance efforts.

  5. Secure Third-party Integrations
    Modern intranets can be extended using third-party software. Third-party software enables greater flexibility and functionality but also introduces security risks to your corporate intranet. For your intranet to be safe and secure, you need to make sure that every piece of software you integrate is protected from end to end. API-based integrations, for example, need to offer secure endpoints and shouldn't expose your private API data, details about the intranet, or your employees.

  6. Never Forget to Update
    Updates always introduce new complexities and risks to your company intranet. However, not updating is not an option either, as new threats and security vulnerabilities emerge every day. Legacy intranets, for example, require manual updates that can break your system and damage functionality, which results in potential data loss or the exposure of sensitive information. With a modern intranet, these concerns largely disappear as SaaS-based products carry out automatic updates.

  7. Choose a Modern Intranet Platform
    Lastly, make sure you choose the right tool for your business. Assess your company needs and decide whether you need an open-source intranet or proprietary software. Decide between a monolithic solution or a best-of-breed platform and determine the architecture and the functionalities your intranet needs to have to support your employees. The intranet platform you choose will play a vital role in how you will be able to approach security and how safe your information is against malicious attacks.

dotCMS: Delivering A Secure Employee Experience

The safety of your company intranet is a company-wide effort, and the platform you choose can only go as far. Your employees need to be an integral part of your security, and you need a platform that even non-technical employees can wield with ease and confidence. dotCMS intranet and company portal solution simplifies your employee experience and ensures that you stay compliant and protected against both internal and external threats.

By leveraging modern intranet software, organizations can increase productivity, eliminate information silos, and streamline internal communication. dotCMS' intranet solution enables you to build corporate knowledge bases and enable rapid onboarding of new employees, all while reducing information overload and context switching. If you want to learn more about dotCMS intranet capabilities, read more here: dotCMS Intranet Portal.

Stefan Schinkel
Chief Revenue Officer
June 22, 2021

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