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Rules to Better Internet and Networks - 20 Rules

Networks are the lifeblood of any business. This is why we have developed a few rules for better Internet and Networks.

  1. Do you use a secure VPN with MFA?

    If you have a Remote Access VPN, it is important to ensure that the VPN is secure. VPNs are a common point of attack in cyber security incidents - if a bad actor can get into your VPN, they're in your network.

    These days, the most important way to secure your VPN is to use MFA. The best way to set this up will depend on the VPN and current MFA solution you are using.

    It is also important to make sure that your VPN uses a secure protocol. Previously PPTP was a popular method, but this is now a deprecated service as it can be hacked very quickly using online tools. It is recommended to go with a provider that uses SSL or IPSec protocols.

    vpn pptp
    Bad example: PPTP should not be used, it is old and no longer secure

    cisco vpn
    Good example: Cisco AnyConnect configured with Azure AD SSO and MFA

    fortitoken vpn
    Good example: Fortinet have their own MFA solution for VPN, FortiToken

    More information on Cisco AnyConnect

    If you're using Cisco AnyConnect and Azure AD, it is easy to set up authentication through SAML - so your Azure AD MFA will be applied to any VPN logins.

    The basic steps are:

    1. In Azure AD, setup AnyConnect as an Enterprise application
    2. In Azure AD, add the users that you want to have VPN access
    3. Configure your Cisco ASA to use SAML for VPN authentication

    Figure: Adding Cisco AnyConnect as an Enterprise Application in Azure AD

    For more information, see Cisco's documentation here.

  2. Do you assume catastrophic failure before touching a server?

    If you are going to install a service pack on a machine, moving a virtual server to another drive or doing any critical system level changes, make sure you back up your machine first. For virtualized machine, make sure you back up all related files, including vhd, avhd etc.

    You should already assume there could be catastrophic failure after these kind of operations and you should always be prepared for them by having a full backup somewhere. This is especially important when you are working your production or critical servers.

  3. Do you check your DNS settings? supplies a DNS report tool which can help administrator to troubleshoot DNS issues with domains, name servers, SOA, and other information. We need to get all green ticks except for:

    • Missing (stealth) nameservers
    • Missing nameservers 2
  4. Do you keep your networks separated?

    Keeping networks and VLANs separated is an essential aspect of a robust security strategy. This is particularly true for less secure networks such as automation and HVAC systems, which are often targeted by cybercriminals looking to gain unauthorized access to the network.

    The following guidelines can help system administrators maintain the separation of VLANs.

    Define VLANs

    Assigning different VLANs for different client types and services provides a logical division of the network. This will help ensure that each network is independent, even if they share the same physical infrastructure.

    Figure: Separate VLANs on an Aruba switch

    Implement Security Measures

    VLANs should be separated using access control lists and firewalls. Ensure that there are no unauthorized access points between VLANs and that the only devices that can communicate between VLANs are those that are authorized.

    configure access rules
    Figure: Cisco ASA | Access Rules

    By following these guidelines, system administrators can keep networks and VLANs separated while enacting security measures that will prevent unauthorized access to every part of the network. Thus, creating a safer and more secure network environment.

  5. Do you check your teams backup status?

    The goal is: No one is stressed thinking their backup is not working.

    Follow up your team to back up their PCs, then their mobile phones.

  6. Do you enable automatic Windows Update Installations?

    Microsoft Update is a service that allows for the periodic patching of system files to address known issues with Microsoft products. Originally called Windows Update, it was specifically focused on Operating System patches for Windows but has been expanded to include all Microsoft products and the name has changed to Microsoft Update, allowing the automated patching of non-OS software such as Internet Explorer and Microsoft Office.

    It is important to keep your machine up-to-date, but Windows Update Automatic installation can be somewhat intrusive to your workflow. There is nothing worse than getting Windows Updates installing during an important presentation. You should set Windows Updates to be installed manually.

    Note: This is only for client machines, Windows Update for Servers should be handled differently. See Do you use Group Policy to manage your Windows Update Policy? for more information.

    1. Go to Start | Windows Update Settings | Advanced Options
    2. Set Restart this device as soon as possible... to Off
    3. Set Update Notifications to On.

    Figure: Bad example – Install updates automatically

    Windows Update Good Example
    Figure: Good example – Download updates but let user choose whether to install them

    If you have a system administrator who manages your organization’s infrastructure, it's recommended to get you system administrator to push this setting via group policy.

    win update 3
    Figure: Better example – Windows Updates setting is pushed to *ALL* users via group policy

  7. Do you have a consistent naming convention for each machine?

    When we configure networks we give all computers in the company a naming theme like:

    • Buildings
    • Cars
    • Countries
    • Colours
    • Fruits
    • Vegetables, etc

    At SSW we have adopted the animal kingdom.

    SSW computer Great Pyrenees
    Figure: We name the PCs and label them - this one is "Great Pyrenees"

    While you are attaching the label, it is also a good idea to affix a business card to the underside of the computer. This way if you lose your machine, anyone who finds it can easily contact you.

  8. Do you have servers around the world and use CDN?

    Having a very popular website is great. The only problem is where to host it. If you host it in your local country then it is very fast for your local market but what about the market on the other side of the world? The solution to this is to use a Content Delivery Network (CDN).

    The solution is to have an origin server (can be multiple for loadbalancing) and Content Delivery Nodes in locations that have many users accessing the website. Users will be delivered content from the closest Node. This is possible with the help of Bind DNS server and a list of IP addresses and the country of origin.

    CDN is provided by many cloud providers such as WPEngine, Azure, CloudFlare but can also be achieved by using opensource software such as JSDelivr, Cdnjs and many others.

    It can also be achieved using IIS Outbound Rewrite rules. For example could be change to and be directed to another IIS server.

  9. Do you know how to add a print server?

    When you are connected to the company's network, you should complete the following procedure if you want to setup a printer server.

    For Windows Server

    Steps to add a printer to Active Directory:

    1. In Windows Run | Type "printmanagement.msc" | Hit Enter
    2. Right-click 'Print Server' | Choose 'Add/Remove Servers' | Add IP address or computer name | Finish
      Right click the 'Print Server' | Add printer | Choose the best option (e.g TCP/IP) | Put the IP address of the Printer | Finish

    46d5125c b334 49f4 b1ee 45bc78b5dae1
    Figure: Add Print servers to AD

    1. Add DNS entry for your print server (e.g \printer) to make it friendly for the users to find

    Note: Another method is using a Universal Printer in Azure

    Finding the Printers

    Now your users can find the printers by doing the following:

    1. In the File explorer | Type \printer on the address bar to show all the printers connected to the server

    Figure: Bad example – Windows 11 | Printers & scanners - Users won’t see all the printers by default

    Figure: Good example - Printers listed in Printer Server

    1. Double click on your printer name to connect/add it. Follow prompt to finish the printer driver installation
  10. Do you know not to delete expired domain users?

    When an employee leaves or a domain account expires, disable the account, never delete it, as:

    • Some LOB application such as CRM maintain a reference to the AD domain user GUID
    • During the migration or restoration of CRM, users stored in the database are verified against AD and problems may occur if they no longer exist
  11. Do you know not to login as Administrator on any of the networks machines?

    We've seen this happen too many times - a user wants to do something on a network server machine, and because the user hasn't got a profile setup on that machine, he end up using the Administrator password to log on as administrator.

    This is not a good thing because:

    1. We cannot tell who currently is logged in remotely, so if another developer wants to change something on the server, we can't work out who is on it.
    2. This is particularly the case where a lot of the servers don't allow multiple concurrent users, so we need to know who to disconnect or kick to free up a remote connection license.
    3. A lot of applications are installed as 'administrator', and no one end up remembering what they installed, and thus the administrator profile is loaded with applications that most people don't use.
    4. If you check in/check out files from Source Safe, it may end up using the administrator account - which means we can't work out who made a change in source safe.

    So log on using your own domain account.

  12. Do you know what to do when running out of disk space?

    This is how you free up more disk space on servers:

    1. Check sql backups
    2. Check sql logs
    3. Use TreeSizePRO to find disk spaces issues
    4. Use CCleaner to automatically clean any temporary or junk files on the server
  13. Do you know when to scale out your servers and when to keep it as a standalone server?

    You should use virtualized standalone servers because:

    • If one server goes down it does not affect other servers (e.g. a centralized SQL server fails and brings down: CRM, TFS, Reports, Web Server)
    • You can just copy the VPC to another computer and it just works, no need to worry about reconfiguring the SQL connection string or web services
    • You can just backup the VPC

    However, you should scale out your servers if:

    • You want the best performance (e.g. A different server for SQL backend and Web frontend)
  14. Do you send notification if you cannot access essential services?

    Some of the network services, like TFS/Exchange/Database are essential for our business and people will not be able to work if any of these services is down or inaccessible.When such thing happens, the first thing you need to do is to send notification to SysAdmins so they can start investigating the problem, and you should cc your project manager because those issues will stop you getting tasks done.

  15. Do you use ANAME record?

    ANAME record (also known as A record) is an alias record that allows you to map the apex record or any other record within your domain to a target host name, essentially a CNAME record for the apex record.

    The ANAME record is especially useful for when you have multiple domain names and your website is hosted by a provider that changes it's IP Address, this does happen quite regularly with WPEngine. Many DNS service providers do not support ANAME record, however, DNSMadeEasy has made this service available.

    Configuring ANAME is as easy as configuring CNAME.

    Let's have a look at DNS records for, DNS records contains apex record for and The apex record uses ANAME, while CNAME for - now we will never have to worry about updating these records, they will follow the DNS records of .

    2018 08 01 14 41 32
    Figure: Example DNS entry from Azure DNS

  16. Do you create your own IP Blacklist?

    Cisco's FirePower module is able to automatically get a list of suspicious IPs from Cisco, however the IPs that are attempting to break into your network may not be the same as Cisco's recommended Blacklist. That is why it is important to have your own IP Blacklist.

    This needs to be an internally accessible webpage that the FirePower module can access and use as it's Blacklist. An example script for this can be found on GitHub.

    This script gathers IP Addresses from well-known internet lists, sanitizes them of internal IP addresses and adds them into a text document that is then accessible by the Cisco FirePower module.Alternatively, you could also get failed login attempts and compare them against multiple IP reputation sites. If it looks suspicious on 3 or more sites, add it to the text document above.

  17. Do you keep your network hardware reliable?

    When purchasing new network hardware you should always choose the most reliable option.

    We have discovered that:


    1. Cisco ASA is the best. Cisco has built a lot of trust and a large community of backers over the years by providing an extremely solid product. Finding support and assistance with Cisco devices is much easier than most vendors due to the sheer size of the community. Also pushing it to the lead are advanced features like:

    • Malware Protection
    • Application Control
    • FirePOWER Threat Defence
    • Centralised Firewall Management Center


    2. pfSense is the second best. One of the most used firewalls and for good reason. This Open Source firewall offers similar features to the leading providers of firewalls but comes in at a fraction of the price since the software is free and only requires you to purchase the hardware to run it. This gives you the ability to have an extremely good firewall at a fraction of the price.



    1. HPE is the best. HPE Switches now rebranded as Aruba Switches have provided a strong product for many years. The feature that really pushes this ahead of the game is the reliability of the hardware as well as a lifetime warranty on hardware with next day replacement at no additional cost.

    HP Switch

    2. Cisco is the second best. A leading product for many years however comes at a much larger cost than HPE/Aruba and usually contains ongoing license fees for support. But is a very reliable and feature rich product.

    Cisco Switch

    3. Extreme has great Switching and Wireless products that are excellent for enterprise environments

    Access Points

    1. Ubiquity is the best. Quickly becoming the leading AP used in the industry it offers a rich cloud management software allowing ease of management over multiple sites and countries. Unifi Access Points are easy to manage and install and can be upgraded and provisioned with the touch of a button. With new features being released regularly and prices much lower than Cisco and Aruba it is hard to not see why this is the best.


    2. Cisco/Aruba is the second best. Offering many features and used on many large projects such as the University of Wollongong for Cisco and KFC for Aruba they offer truly tried and tested hardware. These products do come at a higher cost and requires a lot more skill and time to manage and really only come into the spotlight on large scale projects.

    Cisco AP


  18. Do you know how to find your mac address?

    To help with automation (e.g. SophieBot) you can use the MAC address of your mobile device to match when it joins the company Wi-Fi. This allows you to:

    Here is how to find your MAC address:


    1. Open the Settings app
    2. Navigate to General | About
    3. Look for WiFi Address

    iphone mac
    Figure: MAC address on an iPhone

    Android Phone

    1. On the Home screen, tap the Menu button and go to Settings
    2. Tap About Phone
    3. Tap Status/Hardware information
    4. Scroll down to see your WiFi/MAC address

    android mac address
    Figure: MAC address on an Android

  19. Do you use Network Intrusion Prevention Systems?

    Network Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS) can assist with network security by automatically detecting network attacks and stopping them before they become an issue.

    Most business firewalls have some sort of IPS/IDS system built into them. Cisco has FirePower and PfSense has Snort. Both will assist in watching for suspicious activity and DDoS attacks, blocking traffic where necessary.

    Both FirePower and Snort can get automatic updates from the internet so they remain at the forefront of new emerging attack strategies, so it is important to ensure that the associated module has internet access to remain up to date.

    Depending on your environment you may want to enable inspection of all traffic, however this may slow data transfer, but it may be important depending on the data your company is dealing with. Otherwise it is recommended that WAN to LAN traffic is being inspected only.

  20. Do you know what DNS is and how it works?

    Have you been in a scenario when you look at a website in your phone and it works. Meanwhile, one of your colleagues is looking at it in their PC and they get a response saying this site doesn't exist. That's probably a DNS (Domain Name System) issue.

    DNS is akin to the internet's phonebook. It's easy to remember a website's name, like, but computers and networks need numerical IP addresses to access websites. DNS translates human-readable domain names to machine readable IP addresses.

    DNS explained

    Video: Everything You Need to Know About DNS (5 min)

    Understanding DNS is crucial for troubleshooting connectivity issues, optimizing network performance, and ensuring secure internet navigation

    When you type into your browser, the process to translate this human-readable domain name into a machine-readable IP address involves several steps and servers in the Domain Name System (DNS). Here's a detailed breakdown:

    1. Domain Name Input - You enter into your web browser.
    2. Browser Checks Cache - First, your browser checks its own cache to see if it has recently resolved the IP address for If it finds the IP address there, it skips the remaining DNS steps and proceeds to connect to the web server.
    3. Operating System Cache Check - If the browser cache doesn't have the IP address, the query moves to the operating system's DNS cache. If the operating system (OS) has the IP address cached, the DNS lookup process stops here, and the browser uses this IP address. If not, the process moves to the next step.
    4. DNS Resolver Query - The query is sent to a DNS resolver, typically operated by your Internet Service Provider (ISP). The resolver checks its cache; if the IP address is there (and still valid based on its TTL), the process ends, and the IP is returned to your browser. If not, the resolver queries a root nameserver.
    5. Root Nameserver Query - The DNS resolver contacts one of the root nameservers. The root server doesn't know the IP address for but knows where to direct queries for .au domains. It responds with the address of the TLD nameserver for .au.
    6. TLD Nameserver Query - Next, the resolver contacts the .au TLD nameserver. This server manages information for .au domains but doesn't store individual IP addresses. Instead, it knows which authoritative nameserver handles It responds with the address of this nameserver.
    7. Authoritative Nameserver Query - The resolver then queries the authoritative nameserver for, which has the actual IP address for This server responds with the IP address of the web server hosting the site.
    8. Resolver Caching - The DNS resolver caches the IP address of with the corresponding TTL. This caching helps speed up future requests to the same domain.
    9. Browser Connection to Web Server - With the IP address now known, your browser can establish a connection to the web server hosting It sends an HTTP request to the server asking for the web page associated with
    10. Web Server Response - The web server processes the request and sends the requested web page back to your browser, which then displays the content to you.

    Each of these steps involves complex interactions between your computer, various DNS servers, and the final web server hosting the content you wish to access. This process, although it might seem lengthy, happens within milliseconds, allowing for the quick loading of web pages.

    DNS how it works
    Figure: DNS - finding the correct authoritative nameserver

    Image source: ByteByteGo's DNS Video

    Hierarchical Structure of Domain Names

    Domain names are structured hierarchically, with the right-most component being the top-level domain (TLD). In the domain name

    • .au is the country-code top-level domain (ccTLD) for Australia
    • is considered a second-level domain within the .au ccTLD. It's commonly used by commercial entities in Australia
    • is a domain registered by an entity (in this case, SSW) within the space
    • includes a subdomain (www) of the domain

    How DNS Knows is a TLD

    In essence, DNS doesn't treat as a single TLD but rather as a combination of a second-level domain (com) under the .au TLD. The distinction comes from the DNS hierarchy and the namespace management:

    1. Root Nameservers: At the top of the DNS hierarchy are the root nameservers. They have the information necessary to direct queries to the TLD nameservers.
    2. TLD Nameservers: Each TLD, like .com, .net, .org, or a country-code TLD like .au, has its own nameserver(s). When a query reaches this level, the TLD nameserver directs the query to the appropriate second-level domain nameserver, if applicable.
    3. Registry and Registrar: The registry for a TLD manages the domain names within that TLD. For example, the registry for .au manages all domains ending in .au, including,, etc. When someone registers a domain like, they are registering a second-level domain within the .au TLD. The registry ensures that each domain name is unique within its namespace.
    4. Authoritative Nameservers: For a given registered domain, like, there are authoritative nameservers that know the IP addresses for subdomains (like

    Direct Browsing to a Second-Level Domain

    You can browse to a second-level domain if it is set up to host content. For example, if were registered as a domain with its own website, you could browse to it directly. However, is reserved for structuring domain names within Australia and is not used as a standalone website. This is managed through DNS policy and registration rules set by the domain registry responsible for the .au domain space.

    In summary, DNS distinguishes between different levels of domains through its hierarchical structure, managed by a combination of root, TLD, and authoritative nameservers. The ability to browse to a domain depends on whether it is registered and configured to host content, regardless of whether it's a TLD, a second-level domain, or lower.

    Common DNS record types

    In the context of DNS (Domain Name System), a "type" refers to the kind of DNS record in a DNS server's database, here are some common ones:

    TypeFunctionCommon Example
    Address Record (A)Maps a domain to an IPv4 maps to
    IPv6 Address Record (AAAA)Maps a domain to an IPv6 maps to 2606:2800:220:1:248:1893:25c8:1946
    Canonical Name Record (CNAME)Maps a domain to another domain name (aliasing) aliases to
    Mail Exchange Record (MX)Specifies mail servers for a mail handled by
    Name Server Record (NS)Delegates a subdomain to a set of name delegated to
    Pointer Record (PTR)Maps an IP address to a domain (reverse DNS) reverses to
    Start of Authority Record (SOA)Stores administrative information about a SOA record indicates as primary NS
    Service Locator Record (SRV)Specifies services available in a points to SIP server at port 5060
    Text Record (TXT)Holds text information for external sources to uses a TXT record for SPF: "v=spf1 ~all"
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