Hardly a week passes without hearing about a new virus, worm, or Trojan Horse
that infects networks of computers. These problems not only cost the company
money in their aftermath, but there is a loss of productivity that can never be
replaced. Although these problems primarily hit the operating system and
software of one vendor, no operating system is safe. Remember, the first
publicized worm was unleashed in 1988 and was designed to attack Digital VAX and
Sun Systems based on a version of UNIX.
When writing policies, you first have to establish the need for protection. You may think that is not necessary, but it helps establish the requirement for these policies and strengthens their effectiveness. Then the policies should include how the organization will provide virus protection (centralized or localized) and rules for handling third-party software. Finally, the policies need to discuss the users’ role in security.
The Need for Protection
Some organizations feel that they have to worry about the legal implications of a piece of software scanning information on the users’ system. Although you might believe that this should not be a worry, your organization might never know how policies can be misconstrued if there should be problems. This is not to say that you are going to have problems. But many corporate attorneys want a statement establishing the need for virus protection and the organization's right to mandate the use of anti-virus software.
One way to ensure that the disclosure responsibility is met is to ensure that the policy includes a statement that initiates the anti-virus program in a language that limits its scope to this program. Although there should be specifics based on the anti-virus program strategy (that is, centralized versus distributed programs), start with the establishment of the program. Following is an example of a passage suggested by an attorney:
The organization shall use all means by which to prevent the spread of computer viruses, worms, and Trojan Horses amongst its networked systems. These means shall be restricted to preventing the spread of these problems.
Some organizations prefer a policy statement that does not sound as if it came from a legal brief. Assuming that your organization will install anti-virus software on all systems, rather than using network filters, you might want to use a statement like the following:
All user systems shall have anti-virus protection software installed before connecting the systems to the network. Users shall participate in keeping this software updated and shall not disable its facilities. If the anti-virus software is disabled for any reason, such as the installation of new software, the user shall perform a full-system scan before using the system again.
The traditional approach to virus protection has been the thing to do with systems running various versions of Microsoft’s Windows operating systems or other Microsoft applications. However, there are virus problems that can affect other systems regardless of the type of operating system. Viruses that appear in certain applications can infect every system it runs on. One example of this is Lotus Notes, which can spread viruses to UNIX servers running the Notes server as well as those running Windows NT. There are even proof-of-concept viruses for PalmOS-based devices.
If your organization relies on cross-platform applications, your policy should consider protecting all platforms and not just the Windows systems.
About this Article
This article is excerpted from Writing Information Security Policies by Scott Barman (New Riders Publishing), 2001, ISBN 157870264X). Refer to Chapter 8, "Viruses, Worms, and Trojan Horses," for more detailed information on the material covered in this article.
|All questions, comments, and corrections may be e-mailed to the author||Last update: October 09, 2011|