Fundamentally, you want to ensure that the benefit delivered by a new technology is greater than the risk it creates. We can perform a risk analysis by identifying the advantages and disadvantages of a given project. For example, we might identify the following benefits of an SSL VPN:
- Allows remote users to access the network
- Doesn't require installation of a software client
Along with the following risks:
- Exposes remote access to Internet users
- Creates ability for remote users to transfer data from the corporate network to their home network
Once you've identified the potential benefits and risks, you can decide whether one justifies the other. If the benefits are worth the possible risks, go ahead and implement your program. Otherwise, you may wish to consider abandoning the project or proceeding with the use of compensating controls. Risk assessment is commonly performed by information security professionals seeking to evaluate new technologies. The process requires an investment of staff time, but it ensures that you take a methodical approach to important security questions.
I see a VPN risk assessment as a relatively small undertaking that shouldn't require a tremendous amount of time. Scalability would be an issue if we were talking about an enterprise-wide risk assessment spanning many technologies.
This was first published in October 2006