We all need to abandon the old notions that encrypting our files and requiring passwords on our networks will keep those we serve safe from the activities of crackers (hackers who seek to crack systems and cause some kind of damage) and malicious code. In this day and age, infiltration of the digital world is ubiquitous and unavoidable, no matter what we do. However, all hope is not lost, as we do still have some important lines of defense available to us. First among these things is to keep the most sensitive information off of computers which have access to networks in the first place. Another thing we can do is to very carefully monitor our networks, so as to ensure that any breaches are recorded and studied.
When you keep information on a network, sooner or later someone who should never see it will gain access to it. This is just the nature of a system that a few people really enjoy figuring out, but that is not obvious to most people. The Internet is immensely complex, and offers all sorts of interesting intellectual challenges to a hacker, as well as the more obvious potential for financial rewards that most people would think of first. There is no method of preventing anyone from accessing a network- but not every computer needs to be on a network in the first place.
Another method of protecting one’s “home turf” is to very carefully watch the logs, and to have a central backup file of them. This way, when someone breaches the network, how they did so can be studied, and potentially shored up. While this will always mean that systems administrators will be playing catch up with the criminal elements, it will also mean that over time the cracks will slowly become narrower and narrower. While it is unlikely to happen within most people’s life times, one day there may be a genuinely secure network somewhere.