Ethernet security – How it can protect your business
Businesses today face an ever-increasing set of cyber threats. Find out how to keep yours safe.
According to a press release from Gov.co.uk, two-thirds of large UK businesses were hit by cyber breaches or attacks in 2016. The growing threat of cyberattacks, combined with growing reliance upon the use of the internet and cloud services, means that it’s increasingly important to take security seriously. Despite these threats, the Cyber Security Breaches Survey found that only half of all firms have taken any recommended actions to identify and address vulnerabilities.
It’s imperative that businesses take measures to protect all of their desktop and mobile systems; the so-called endpoints. This means having up to date security software. It also means ensuring that all operating systems are current and fully patched. The recent WannaCry attack that made the headlines only affected out of date versions of Windows. But businesses also need to think about protecting their data where it’s stored and when it’s moving around between systems. One of the ways of doing this is to review how their business connects to the internet.
Ethernet vs broadband
Most homes and many businesses use broadband to connect to the internet. This has many advantages; it’s fast, it’s low cost, and it’s widely available. But there are some drawbacks too. Broadband uses an asynchronous connection; you will often hear it referred to as ADSL (Asynchronous Digital Subscriber Line). This means that while you get very fast downloads, upload speeds are much slower. On a typical UK fibre broadband service you might get 40Mbps or better downloads, but less than 2Mbps uploads. While this isn’t a problem when you’re streaming movies or downloading music, it is an issue should you need to send large files to another site or backup big volumes of data to a cloud service.
Broadband’s other big problem is that once the line leaves your premises, you’re sharing it with other people. This is known as contention; typical UK broadband has a contention ratio of somewhere between 20:1 and 50:1. The best way to explain this is to compare it to rush hour. If everyone’s travel was spread out through the day, there would be no congestion, but because we all travel to and from work at the same times the roads become congested and struggle to cope. A similar phenomenon happens with broadband; when everyone else is online in the evenings, all streaming TV and updating their social media, your connection will slow down. You can see this effect for yourself by running an internet speed check (there are lots of free websites that will let you do this). Run the test at different times of day and see what difference it makes. Because you’re sharing the circuit, there’s also an additional security risk since it’s possible your information could be intercepted.
There’s another issue, too, which is a limit on the amount of data you’re allowed to download. Broadband contracts frequently impose a cap on the amount of data that can be transferred, if you exceed that you’ll be faced with an extra charge. Even when services are described as ‘unlimited’ there will generally be fair use restrictions in place which can give you problems if there are certain peak times when you transfer large amounts of data.
Ethernet – which connect you directly to your service provider’s data centre – overcome all of these issues. Ethernet, otherwise known as a leased line, is a synchronous connection, so you get the same transfer speed for data travelling in both directions. If, as many businesses now do, you have systems in the cloud, it means that a significant percentage of your critical business processing may be reliant on having an internet connection, so this equal speed is a big advantage. There are no delays accessing online data, backing up to cloud storage, or using communication services such as video calling and VoIP telephony which are increasingly popular for controlling business communication costs.
There are no concerns about contention when using Ethernet either. Because the circuit is reserved solely for your use, the connection won’t slow down due to high levels of demand from other people at peak times. This is a key consideration for internet-based businesses, especially if you intend running your own in-house web servers where a fast connection in both directions is crucial. This also means that there aren’t any usage caps on the amount of data you are able to transfer, so at the busiest times, you won’t have to worry about facing an unexpected bill for going over your data allowance at the end of the month.
Ethernet security is also stronger, partly because the connection is exclusive to you, and partly because you can select your own protocols for encrypting and securing data.
How big is the risk to your data? To be honest, most corporate information is not that sensitive. While your data would undoubtedly be useful to your competitors, they’re unlikely to risk breaking the law by hacking into your systems. When using the internet, however, there’s always a risk that your data could fall into the wrong hands so encrypting sensitive information is vital. With the new GDPR legislation on the way, failure to adequately protect personal data could lead to large penalties for companies, so it’s important to take security measures seriously.
By default, data carried over leased lines is not encrypted. However, because the circuit is private and exclusively for your use, there’s less chance of information being intercepted. Tapping into a leased line is something that’s too difficult for all but the most dedicated of hackers to attempt. But this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take other measures to protect your information.
If you’re using Ethernet to link your business sites, you can enhance Ethernet security further by encrypting data before it’s transmitted, ensuring that even if it is intercepted it’s of no use to anyone. A further measure you can take in addition to leased line data encryption is to use virtual private network (VPN) technology to secure your connection to the internet. This has the effect of putting your internet traffic in a private ‘tunnel’ so that it can’t be intercepted. It can be used on broadband services too, so it’s a useful method of ensuring that remote offices and home workers are able to access your central business systems safely.
Of course, a leased line won’t help you to protect against malicious activities such as phishing, where social engineering techniques are used to try to trick employees into revealing their credentials. The only real solution to this is to ensure that your staff are aware of the risks and don’t get caught out.
Other Ethernet advantages
Other than helping you to be more secure, what other reasons are there as to why a leased line is likely to be a better choice for your business? Let’s be honest, for the smallest businesses it may not be, but once you have a few employees using your systems, or you have more than one location to serve, or you’re heavily dependent on cloud-based services, then a leased line starts to look like a far more attractive proposition.
A leased line is synchronous so there are no barriers to uploading information and you won’t have frustrating wait times to upload large files. It will also be able to deliver better connection speeds at all times of day, so you’ll have no concerns about slowdowns if you’re working outside normal office hours or at busy periods. If you’re using the cloud either to store data or to run systems – whether office systems or business packages – then you most definitely need a reliable connection. Should you be unable to access your systems then you’re going to be losing trade and losing money.
If your business has several different sites relying for their computing needs on a central data centre then Ethernet also makes a lot of sense. The asynchronous nature of the connection makes it easier and quicker to transfer large files around between your sites, and it will be better for data-hungry cloud applications. It’s also good for internet-based communication such as video calling and VoIP phone calls which are increasingly popular especially if you need to communicate overseas.
You need to consider the reliability of the line too. Because Ethernet services are more business focused than broadband, they tend to come with guaranteed levels of service. The support is also designed to recognise that the service is essential for your business and that you need to get up and running again quickly in the event of a problem. Compare various types of commercial ethernet leased lines.
To read more from the Gov.uk press release on cybersecurity and the Cyber Security Breaches survey, click here.
If you’d like to find out more about the Ethernet options available, take a look at our connectivity comparison guide.Call Us On 0808 115 4281