Holiday season is a period where system admins perform fine tuning of the systems and network. With employees taking their vacation, it is the best time to perform scheduled downtime in order to keep the computers working in their top shape as the New Year comes. Here, we have provided you another full year of tips and tricks in order to keep your computers from falling victim to malware infestation and you becoming the next victim of phishing.

This holiday season, as system admins, we urge you to refocus priorities to a more secure 2019. Here are our tips for this holiday season’s regularly scheduled downtime:

4 Smart Ways to Use Regular Holiday Downtime

  1. Update not only software, but also firmware
  2. Audit network and system logs
  3. Backup configurations
  4. Disable features that only widens attack surface

Update not only software, but also firmware.

Windows update every second Tuesday of the month is very common knowledge across the board. But the reality is operating system update is only one aspect that requires regular maintenance updates in order to create an acceptably secure network. Hardware devices such as routers and switches need regular firmware updates too. Modern routers and switches ditched the old way of updating firmware through the use of COM serial ports, it now features an admin webpage which provides the sysadmin the capability to configure these devices, including a button to automatically fetch the firmware from the vendor’s site and install it on top of the current firmware. If the admin page says that there is no available firmware update, head over to the vendor’s website and download the updates manually. The admin page can be used to browse the update file and upload it to the device for flashing. Firmware updates are very important since it patches the vulnerabilities existing in the old version of the firmware. Firmware update capability is also blocked by router-infecting malware like VPNFilter, as a form of defense in order to remain running in the router for extended period.

Audit network and system logs.

Usually, reading logs in operating system and network are done ‘reactively.’ That is when an issue is already happening, and one of the most reliable way to search for the cause of the problem is the log files. Log files are there to take note all the action that happened in a computer or network in a particular time. These are very useful in tracking down a problem or even find incidents of a problem that has not yet manifested for end-users. The use of system logs to audit the network and the operating system is the best way to maintaining them in tip-top shape the day regular office hours resumes.

Backup configurations.

Serious professionals take backups serious, especially those company-critical files that the firm cannot afford to lose. But something is missing, configuration backups. These are small text files, usually in CSV (comma separated value) format which can rebuild the configuration of a hardware device by just importing it to the admin page. Backup configurations in order to decrease the time required to rebuild the exact configuration of a hardware device. This is beyond data backup, as an efficient backup configuration policy lessens the workload of the system admins during the times of downtime, where configuration needs to be restored ASAP.

Disable features that only widens attack surface.

Unneeded plugins and extensions need to be removed, as keeping them only widens attack surface. Some examples of which are Adobe Flash and Microsoft Silverlight, two streaming technologies that are being rendered obsolete. Letting these two apps installed without any utility is not only wasted resource usage, but also widens the possibility of being targeted by exploits. A strict audit of apps that are needed by an organization in order to ascertain what apps to use and what apps to uninstall.

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