What is Network Security?

Network security is the practice of protecting your network and its integrity. Utilising both hardware and software solutions in order to manage access to the network, your business’s network security should identify threats and prevent them from accessing the system. As a result, network security doesn’t focus on managing specific devices, but rather how those devices communicate and interact with each other.

 

network security policy

 

No matter how small your business is, it’s important to identify/implement the following in your small-to-medium business’s network security so that measures can be properly implemented: 

 

Network security threats

 

Network security threats can come from both inside your buisness (an employee using their access to compromise the business) and outside your business (a hacker with the intent of stealing your data). These threats can also present as a result of inadequate protections being put in place, as well as human error or neglignce (such as opening an unknown email and clicking on an attachment which then downloads malware to the computer). 


Network security goals

 

Based on the type, size, and intricities of your business, the particulars of your network security goals will differ to other small-to-medium businesses, even within the same industry. Make it an aim to define and list your network security goals, with attention being paid to what areas need to be better secured, and with considerations being made to any past breaches. For example, a company who had their network breached may want to increase employee’s password security, set up mobile device managment so that compromied devices can’t join the network, and seperate the main and guest network servers. 

 

Network security plan

 

You can now come up with a network security plan that will address what was highlighted within the network security goals you set out for your company. This should include indicating specific roles any employees will play during the roll out of these procedures (eg HR, team leaders, and IT) and if the changes will be made in-house or will be outsourced to an external IT team.


Network security policy

 

You should now have the knowledge and frameworks in place to begin creating a network security policy for your business. This needs to outline rules for computer network access, determine how rules and regulations are enforced, and lay out the ins and outs of the basic company security procedures and network security environment. 

 

If you feel a bit overwhelmed with completing these processes, let Standfield IT do the heavy lifting for you, so you don’t need to life a finger when it comes to network security!

 

Why Is Network Security Important?

 

Without effective network security, you essentially have your data there for the taking. Cyber crime is on the rise, and methods of infiltration are getting smarter and sneakier. Even with the most basic network security, you can effectively deter a huge host of malware, viruses, and hacking attempts. Overall, network security is critical to preventing data breaches, which can take a huge toll on your business’s credibility and finances.

 

network security basics

 

Let’s have a look at the different elements involved with network security:

 

1. Access Control

 

Allowing all users access across the entire work network is a mistake many new businesses make. Restricting and managing network access is an essential part of network security. Remember that each user only needs access to the apps, folders, and files that they directly use to do their job.

Identify users and devices, making sure that every new user and device goes through the correct policies and procedures so that they ― and their device/s ― are recognised. Security policies should be created that cover the different types of devices that access your network. As a result, you get to enforce who has approved access and block unidentified users or devices from having unrestricted, or any, network access. You’ll often hear this process being referred to as network access control (NAC).

The different network security control are as follows, with access control falling under administrative controls:

 

network security controls

 

2. User Identity Management

 

Idenity managment, put simply, is the operation of controlling information about users on a computer. This includes what information authenticates the identity of the user and the information that indicates the resources and actions they have permission to access. 

Define and manage user roles and their access privileges to network and sensitive data. This applies to both customer and employee identities. With one digital identity per user, you can easily manage and monitor each individual and their activity. As mentioned briefly above, users within a business often accumulate more access privledges than they need to do their job. The more access users have, the more likely a data breach is to occur. 

 

3. Anti-Malware

 

Malware is short for malicious software and can infect a network and be known immediantly or lie dormant for days ― or even weeks! Anti-walware software is another essential must-have for any business’s network security. Antivirus and anti-malware should be a part of your network security to detect and contain any viruses, worms, ransomware, or spyware attempting to hit your system. Deep visibility into network-level threats are indicators of great anti-malware protection.

A decent anti-malware program will not just detect incoming malware, but will continually monitor and track files for anomalies. This is crucial, as you can’t rely on protection alone ― human error needs to be taken into consideration, too. 

 

4. Application Security

 

Application security is a broad umbrella that covers hardware, software, and processes that you choose to apply for optimal securtity measures. Having insecure applications are a major reason that businesses get targeted by hackers ― it can be easy to infiltrate data via an insecure app that isn’t backed by the business’s network security. 

It’s crucial to take care to protect all applications and software that you use within your business. This applies to internally-built programs as well as bought ones. All applications are suspect to vulnerabilities that attackers frequently exploit for unauthorised access.

 

5. Hardware Security

 

Hardware security is another component that works to complement software security and is not to be overlooked when put beside its technological counterparts.  In contrast to anti-virus applications, hardware security describes the physical hardware devices that provide vulnerability protection. Devices that provide an additional element of protection to your network include hardware firewalls and hardware security modules. 

A hardware security module is a physical computing device for safeguarding computer hardware. It also provides cryptoprocessing (via one of more cryptoprocessor chips) and manages digital keys. This  means strong authentification. Traditionally, modules come in the form of a plug-in card or external device in which you directly attach to a computer or network server. 

 

6. AI-Based Threat Protection

 

Many threat detection tools now use artificial intelligence to increase their effectiveness. These AI tools have the power to predict threats in advance and discover breaches as they occur. They also have the ability to respond to ransomware or malware attacks. These predictive and automated responses certainly have a great impact on network security.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is leading the wave of digital transformation of today. Both large and small companies are actively growing their AI footprints. Higher ups are consistently comprehending more fully what AI is and how they can use it to their advantage within their business. Businesses are using AI to gain insights into the data they collect, enabling them to engage with customers and stand out from compeditors. 

 

7. Email Security

 

Email portals represent a significant risk of breaches, standing as the number one way a business’s data is jeopardised. Many attackers target emails for phishing attempts and malware links. They compile personal information in order to present convincing emails that deceive recipients.

Email security, often via an email security applicaiton, is crucial for blocking incoming attacks and managing outgoing messages. Employee training is also critical here, as a computer cannot be infected if the recipient of a virus doesn’t open the compromised link or pop up. 

 

8. Nework Security Firewalls

 

Firewalls are a critical part of network security for any organisation. They provide a hard barrier between your internal trusted network, and untrustworthy external networks, like the Internet. You define the rules that determine what traffic is allowed and what will be blocked by the firewall.

A standard security tool for the majority of campanies, you probably have firewalls in place in your business. In today’s forever-shifting threat landscape, however, next-generation firewalls need to be considered for proper protection. A great description of next-generation firewalls is that they’re a:

“Deep-packet inspection firewall that moves beyond port/protocol inspection and blocking to add application-level inspection, intrusion prevention, and bringing intelligence from outside the firewall.”

Gartner, Inc

 

9. Intrusion Detection and Prevention

 

Intrusion detection software monitors your network for suspicious or malicious activity by scanning network traffic. The software flags this activity, usually sending the results directly to an admin or admins. It might also be collected within a security information and event management (SIEM) system.

An intrusion prevention system (IPS) blocks any incoming attacks before they can be executed. They often use AI to anticipate and identify threat patterns. An IPS continuously monitors your network, looking for paotentially malicious activity and capturing information about these incidences. 

 

10. Mobile Device Security

 

Don’t forget to include mobile devices and apps, which cybercriminals are increasingly targeting, when considering network security. There are a plethora of mobile device management and mobile application management programs available now. You can even use the built in mobile device management for Office 365. With these you can manage devices and keep them secure.

Every year, more and more businesses are supporting corporate applications on personal mobile devices. Of course, the devices that have network access needs to be controlled and monitored. Connections also need to be configured in order for network traffic to remain private. Mobile device managment or mobile application management systems and procedures need to be implemented. 

 

11. Wireless Security

 

Wireless network security needs to be more strict and specialised than that of wired networks. This is due to the fact that wireless networks are less secure by nature. Without strong, effective security measures, installing a wireless LAN can be like putting ethernet ports everywhere for people to access your network without even knowing who they ate.

To prevent your network from being exploited, you need to take advantage of specialised products that protect wireless networks and measures that can be taken to ensure you aren’t at risk of attack. This includes strong encrpytion, secure WPA passwords (different for the guest network, if applicable), checking for rogue wifi access points, hiding the network name, using firewalls, enabling MAC authentication, and using a VPN.

 

12. Cloud Security

 

With more services taking place within the Cloud, it’s crucial to use cloud security. This is not the same as security solutions delivered by cloud. It refers to protecting the cloud itself in order to safely run applications, process transactions and store data.

High-profile hacking cases in the past few years have made business owners nervous about storing their data in the Cloud. In nearly every case, however, it’s the way that the Cloud is being used that causes issues, not the Cloud itself. 

 

Here are five key ways to secure your cloud data:

 

 

13. Virtual Private Networks (VPNs)

 

A VPN encrypts the connection from an endpoint to a network. Most often, this occurs over the Internet. Usually, a remote-access VPN uses IPsec or Secure Sockets Layer to authenticate device and network communications.

VPNs are a pretty well-established network security tool at this point. Your online activity is easily visible to anyone when it’s not protected. Enter the VPN. It works by encrypting your data and routing your connection through a private server. Consequently, your activity and your privacy is protected online.

 

14. Network Segmentation

 

It’s easy to see how your network security is difficult to manage when everything is jumbled up together. Network segmentation divvies up your network traffic into different classifications. This makes it much easier to enforce different security policies based on endpoint identity.

These classifications should be based on endpoint identity, as opposed to IP addresses. Access rights can be assigned based on role, location, and more.  This ensures that correct access at the right level is assigned to the correct people and suspicious devices are flagged and contained so that the compromising situation is remedied. 

 

15. SIEM software

 

Security information and event management (SIEM) is a software solution that aggregates and analyzes activity from many different resources across your entire IT infrastructure. SIEM collects security data from network devices, servers, domain controllers, and more.

SIEM products pull together the information that your IT team needs to identify and respond to threats. These products come in various forms, including physical and virtual appliances and server software.

 

16. Behavioural analytics

 

Behavior analytics in cybersecurity is roughly defined as using software tools to detect patterns of data transmissions in a network that are out of the norm. The theory is that the analytics tool would detect the anomaly and alert IT managers, who would stop the unusual behavior or cyber attack.

Enterprises use behavior analytics to detect intrusions that evade preventive technologies such as firewalls, intrusion-prevention systems, and antivirus software. Those conventional tools match fingerprints or signatures identified in prior attacks, while behavior analytics tools study and report anomalies that are judged against a baseline of normal behavior.


17. Data loss prevention

 

Data loss prevention (DLP) is a strategy used by businesses in their network security policy to ensure that users don’t send sensitive or critical information outside the corporate network. DLP is also used to refer to software products that help a network administrator control what data end users can transfer, replicate, etc.

Humans will always be a business’s weakest security link. Technologies and processes to ensure that employees don’t deliberately or inadvertently send sensitive data outside the network need to be enforced.


18. Web security

 

Implement a web security solution to control employee’s web use, block web-based threats, and deny access to malicious websites. This will protect your web gateway on site or in the Cloud. Web security is also used to refer to the measures you take to protect your business’s website.

Your website or web application’s security is heavily influenced by its level of protection tools. Some of the major vulnerabilities for web-based services ― the most common ways in which a website or web application becomes hacked ― are SQL injection, password breach, cross-site scripting, data breach, remote file inclusion, and code injection.

 

19. DDoS attack security measures

 

A distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack is where multiple compromised computer systems attack a target, resulting in the denial of service for its users. The target could be a server, website, or other network resource. Make sure that you keep programs and software up to date. This will ensure that any bugs or issues are flagged and fixed as they arise.

Conduct careful planning and enforce security measures in order to prevent a DDoS attack. The first thing to note is DDoS attacks can happen to anyone ― thinking it won’t happen to your small or realtively unknown business will just work against  you make your business more vunerable. There are several measures that you can use to protect your business from a DDoS attack, which include: having a plan, allocating roles, and installing protection tools like firewalls, network monitoring software, anti-virus and anti-malware programs, as well as threat monitoring systems. 

 

20. Endpoint Security

 

In network security, endpoint security is the protection of the business  network when it’s accessed via remote devices. Such devices include laptops, mobiles, and Ipads. Every time a new device connects to the network, a potential entry point for security threats is established.

In the days of BYOD in the workplace, as well as employees trying to use public networks to access work files (like in the library or airport), it has never been more crucial to think about how endpoint security plays a part in your overall network security strategy. 

 

 

These elements all work together to create a system of network security strong enough to block almost any infiltration or attack. Talk to a security specialist from Standfield IT today about how you can strengthen your network or conduct a cyber security audit