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Employees are the biggest threat to network security - and they don't even know it.

Unauthorised equipment attached to a company network can, according to Robin Dahlberg, UK MD of Internet Security Systems, compromise the best efforts of a network manager to secure the system by creating a "backdoor" into the network.

Protecting a company from external attacks from "recreational hackers" was almost irrelevant if a system was not properly secured internally, he says. "It is like locking all your doors but leaving the windows open."

"Employee behaviour does not have to be malicious to be dangerous," he said. "The kinds of things we are talking about are: accidentally bringing in viruses, adding modems to networks and so on. There are lots of slow scans looking for that kind of stuff."

The most important thing a company can do to keep out the external hackers is to ensure it knows what is happening on its networks at all times. But vigilance to this degree is prohibitively expensive for many firms, Dahlberg reckons.

He says that companies should instead employ software tools to monitor the network for unauthorised hardware, on a 24/7 basis.

But who is it that companies need to protect their systems from?

Dahlberg estimates the vast majority of external hackers, as much as 90 per cent, are kids playing around for fun. "We don't need to crucify these kids, but I think we do need to educate our children that hacking is inherently wrong."

Of the remaining ten per cent, eight or nine are a bit more worrying - the people who would use Back Orifice. This leaves one or two per cent of people hacking with criminal intent. ®

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