Network security is the protection of the enterprise network – including all networked devices – from cyberattacks or other unauthorized usage. It is generally accepted as preventing unauthorized access or attacks using hardware, software, and procedural methods.
Network security should always be a top company priority. The Internet offers many benefits to companies, but it also exposes companies to the threat of cybercrime and malware. This guide to network security focuses on security measures that will protect information from theft or damage based on network breeches.
These measures protect networks from internal and external threats by identifying potential risks, assessing them, and taking mitigating actions where necessary. The most effective way to ensure network security is through a layered approach that includes administrative controls, physical barriers, firewalls, and an intrusion detection system (IDS).
To be clear, network security protects the entire network: All the connected devices such as computers, servers, printers, or routers that share data and resources. They can be wired networks, wireless networks, local area networks (LAN), metropolitan area networks (MAN), wide area networks (WAN), or virtual private networks.
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Benefits of Network Security
Data breaches are becoming increasingly common as companies are forced to store more and more data on their servers. The average cost of a major enterprise network data breach in the United States is $9.44M, so it is essential that you invest in quality network security products.
There are many benefits that companies can realize with network security. Here are some of the most important benefits of network security:
- Preventing unauthorized access: Network security prevents unauthorized access by ensuring that only authorized users can gain access to the network. The best way to do this is with passwords, but other methods include biometrics and hardware tokens.
- Secure communications: Network security ensures that all communications between systems are encrypted to prevent eavesdropping, tampering, or spoofing.
- Data protection: Network security allows for the protection of sensitive information through encryption so that it cannot be accessed by anyone who does not have the key or password necessary for decryption.
- Compliance: Ensuring compliance with regulations such as HIPAA and SOX is an excellent reason to invest in network security.
- Prevention of malware: Network security also helps protect against malware, software designed to disrupt computer operations, whether that’s to gather sensitive information or gain access to private computer systems. Your computers will be safe from malware attacks as long as your firewall settings are strong enough and you keep up with the latest updates on antivirus programs.
- Improves productivity: Network security increases your productivity because, without it, you would need to waste valuable time each day repairing damaged or corrupted files and worrying about having personal or corporate data stolen. By implementing network security measures, these worries are eliminated, and you can focus more on work.
Types of Network Security
Network security is a broad term that encompasses a wide array of different methods and strategies. There are many different types of network security, but we’ve listed 10 common ones below:
A firewall can be either hardware or software-based. The purpose of a firewall is to block unauthorized access from other networks or computers. It does this by analyzing all data going in or out and blocking any undesired traffic.
Antivirus software helps protect your computer against viruses. However, viruses are often disguised as files you might want to download, so scanning every file before opening it is essential.
Anti-malware programs help protect your computer against malware (malicious code). Malware includes spyware, which collects information about your browsing habits without you knowing. Or it may be ransomware: ransomware attacks usually take your files hostage and demand ransom for their release.
Intrusion Detection System
An intrusion detection system monitors a system for suspicious activity such as unauthorized logins, failed logins, successful break-in attempts, and unusual bandwidth usage. IDSs can also trigger alarms when they detect any intrusion on the monitored systems.
Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA)
ZTNA requires authentication from users every time they try to access company resources. One example of how this works would be an employee trying to access sensitive data through email; they would need to authenticate themselves at both their personal device and the email server.
Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)
MFA refers to requiring two or more forms of authentication, one being a data point only the user knows, like a password or PIN, and another being something only they possess, like a physical key card.
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Data Loss Prevention (DLP)
DLP refers to detecting and stopping any unwanted sharing of sensitive data. Sensitive data could be anything from trade secrets to social security numbers.
Virtual Private Networks (VPNs)
VPNs allow remote employees and mobile workers to connect to the corporate network over an encrypted connection securely. This way, they can access the company network and any resources available, even if they are not physically connected.
Sandboxing refers to isolating applications into separate compartments within the operating system. As a result, these applications cannot share data and thus cannot interact with each other or do harm to the computer.
Cloud Network Security
Cloud network security uses cloud-based protection and monitoring services to safeguard the organization’s network infrastructure. These services typically use firewalls, antivirus and anti-malware software, intrusion detection, and data loss prevention tools to provide robust protection.
Patch management refers to keeping software up-to-date with the latest patches and fixes to protect against any vulnerabilities that hackers could exploit. Software updates are typically delivered automatically via a software update system or manually from a vendor website or service.
Access control refers to the process of regulating access to resources and ensuring that they are correctly used. It is used to control what a user is allowed to see and also what a user is allowed to do. Access control lists (ACLs) can be applied to individual files and folders or the entire network.
Software-defined perimeter (SDP)
The software-defined perimeter is a network security architecture that enables organizations to increase visibility, control, and protection of the networks they depend on. It also increases agility by enabling them to react more quickly when attacks are detected. A software-defined perimeter relies on layers of technology to define and enforce a boundary between trusted and untrusted networks.
Network segmentation is splitting a larger network into multiple smaller networks, each with its purpose and connection. This can be done physically by utilizing routers, switches, and firewalls to separate networks. Creating VLANs (Virtual Local Area Networks) can also be done logically through software.
Security information and event management (SIEM)
Security information and event management, or SIEM, is software that can detect cyberattacks and data breaches. It monitors access logs in real-time and analyzes network traffic for anomalies. Once it detects a problem, it alerts the appropriate personnel.
Email security ensures that messages sent and received through email are safe from electronic intrusion. However, there are many different ways an attacker can gain access to your account, including guessing your password or using social engineering techniques. To protect against these attacks, always use a strong password, enable two-factor authentication on your email account, and avoid clicking unverifiable links.
Also see: 6 IoT Challenges and How to Fix Them
What Does Network Security Protect Against?
Network security protects against unauthorized access, data loss, theft, malware, phishing scams, unwanted intrusion by hackers, and other malicious actors. It does this by ensuring that only authorized people can access the network, using strong passwords and encryption, as well as firewalls, proxies, and intrusion detection systems. They also ensure that a system can isolate the affected device or network area quickly if a system is compromised.
Types of Network Security Attacks
Network security attacks come in many shapes and sizes. However, there are some general types of network security attacks that you should be aware of in order to protect your company.
A virus is a type of malware that can infect a computer or other device, often by running when an uninformed user downloads or opens a file containing the virus’s code. The virus replicates and causes more harm as it spreads to other systems on the network.
Denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks are another popular way to breach network security. They work by overloading the target server with useless traffic to force it offline and stop its services from functioning for all users.
Phishing scams typically involve emails or messages posing as legitimate messages from trustworthy organizations (e.g., banks). In this attack, you are duped into clicking on a link that takes you to a malicious website designed to steal your personal information.
This malware encrypts data on infected computers and extorts money for decryption. In addition, it usually blocks access to data until ransom payments are made, often through untraceable means such as cryptocurrency.
Worms are self-replicating types of viruses that can share themselves across large networks without human intervention. They often enter a network by exploiting vulnerabilities in operating systems and applications.
Trojans take the form of seemingly harmless programs that allow hackers onto your system while hiding their true nature.
One of the most common ways for hackers to gain access to a network is through social engineering. In these cases, attackers impersonate IT staff members, call centers, and other authorized personnel in order to get unauthorized access to customer accounts.
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Developing an effective network security strategy
Network security is an integral part of running a successful business. Whether you are protecting your assets or simply trying to protect the personal data of your customers, you must take steps to ensure that your network is secure.
Conduct a network audit
To identify network vulnerabilities, conduct a network audit and create a baseline for what can be considered normal on your system. You should then compare this baseline with current traffic patterns and determine if any change in user behavior or software settings could represent a breach.
Maintain up-to-date antivirus programs
Ensure that all computers connected to your network have up-to-date antivirus software. It is also essential that all machines have firewall protection enabled, both incoming and outgoing.
Patching holes promptly
If you find a vulnerability, make every effort to close it as quickly as possible by patching holes in your system’s operating systems and other software.
Avoid opening attachments from unknown sources
When opening attachments from unknown sources, remember that hackers may use this tactic to gain information about your company. Therefore, it is best to open these files only if they come from someone you truly trust.
Encrypt sensitive data
Ensure that any sensitive data on your computer remains encrypted at all times. By taking these simple precautions, you will be better able to maintain a high level of network security in your office.