Hackers gain an entry point into the network by exploiting its various weak points. As used IT assets have a lot of vulnerabilities that could be exploited, network administrators are tasked with ensuring protection against a diverse range of threats. This can be a tremendous task to oversee. However, there are a lot of handy tools that can be used to increase the network's resistance.
Network security is a complex field, so in this article, we'll go through the main network protection methods. This should prove handy when planning an organization's cybersecurity strategy.
3 types of network security controls
Protection of an organization's network involves ensuring that all network layers are secured. This means looking at the network as a combination of hardware, software components, and its users — each has to be up to standard. Your overall security setup is as strong as its weakest component.
Depending on the intended function, the network security controls can help prevent potential attacks, detect them when they're happening, improve security or act as a deterrent for hackers. They set the tone of the basic level of requirements that are enforced to protect the organization from potential risks.
Technical network protection
When talking about network security, its technical side is usually the one that gets the most attention. This is because the network can serve as a direct route for hackers from outside the perimeter to access the data stored on your network. Therefore, the main purpose of technical security is to seal off private data internally and externally.
As the data is constantly passed between different departments and employees, its security in transit is one of the key risks. Technical solutions will be the ones that deal with encryption, hashing, and other technologies that scramble data to make its hijacking more difficult.
Physical network protection
While the main focus of network security is usually making it harder to penetrate remotely, it can be harmful to neglect the infrastructure's physical security. All networks have to rely on physical hardware, and it can be very easy to interfere with network components. This may bypass even the smartest technical security setup you have.
Usually, physical network protection solutions have more to do with door locks and ID passes to seal off server rooms and other areas. The main idea is that the harder it is to get in the room with a server, the lower the risk that this will be exploited by hackers that may decide to infiltrate the building physically.
Administrative network protection
The administrative side of network security deals with various policies in which users can access specified types of data. In essence, it's a rule set that helps to control a user's behavior within a network by drawing lines that can't be crossed.
Administrative network protection is a standard procedure when setting up company networks. However, nowadays Zero Trust approach is becoming more popular, which is one of the driving forces of administrative network protection reforms. Under this approach, no implicit trust is given based on the incoming internal connections — identity has to be confirmed when accessing all resources.
Types of network security protection
Regarding cybersecurity, the specialists working on the defense methods are always at a disadvantage compared to hackers. It's always much easier to poke holes in someone else's setup than to devise a resilient plan that prevents various attacks. For this reason, network security solutions usually focus on one or several areas.
Here is the list of the most popular network protection types and tools.
A firewall is a network filter that allows some traffic types to pass while denying others. It acts as a gatekeeper investigating the incoming connections and deciding whether to allow them by aligning with a predefined set of rules. Network administrators set up what traffic should be allowed in advance (as the work-related tools shouldn't be disrupted), while other connections are usually disabled due to safety.
Intrusion prevention systems
An intrusion prevention system actively analyzes the traffic to detect harmful actions by searching for common attack patterns. When the network attack is detected intrusion prevention system kicks in, shutting it down to secure your data. It acts as a safeguard after the firewall has already greenlighted the connection.
As more organizations rely on Software as service applications, employees' workloads can be in many locations. Workload security ensures that the data is protected as workloads are moved between cloud and on-premise environments. In addition, this has to be done without interfering with the employee's performance and threatening the data itself.
Network segmentation is a practice of classifying traffic to enforce security policies of different strictness. Not all data within an organization is equally sensitive. Some materials need better security, while others can be accessed more freely. Network segmentation helps plan specific rules and tie them with specific traffic types. Usually, this is done concerning endpoint identity and provided authentication.
A Virtual Private Network uses an encrypted tunnel to route traffic from the user's endpoint to the company's server. This makes its snooping and hijacking attempts near impossible. The best VPN setups also require user identification and strong tunneling protocols that don't have exploits or vulnerabilities.
Access control is a method to identify the devices that want to connect to your network. Various mechanisms can be set up using their IDs, hidden files, or other solutions. Only a select few devices can connect to the network, while the others will be rejected This can work wonders for your organization's cybersecurity as it adds more hoops for hackers to jump through to infiltrate your network.
While many tools can sift through the user traffic to detect malicious files, the end user can still infect the device. Antivirus software is the go-to solution to clean up the device or stop the malware from executing unsigned code. Antivirus software periodically connects to malware laboratories to retrieve the latest libraries to use them as a reference for the analysis. That's why it's important to keep antivirus up to date and never disable it.
Application security ensures that any user application or hardware is fully patched. Hackers can look for new exploits when they become revealed and use them to infiltrate systems via vulnerable applications. This part comprises one part of the larger IT assets management task, as infrastructure's safety is directly linked to the safety of the used assets.
Behavioral analytics use machine learning models to form patterns of how users use the network. When the system detects deviations from usual patterns, i.e., the user starts to download large amounts of data in bulk, it informs the IT administrator. After inspecting the network log, the administrator can decide and act based on the data when disabling or resuming the connection.
Cloud security is a broad scope of various technologies intended to protect data in online services. Usually, this means adding various control mechanisms to regulate how cloud access is granted to prevent cases when malicious individuals could exploit the connection during cloudjacking attacks. It also involves securing the access channels when downloading or uploading the data from the cloud.
Data loss prevention
Data loss prevention is a method to ensure the safety of the most vital pieces of stored information. Not only does this oversee its backups, but it also prevents the sensitive data from being exposed outside the organization, preventing its uploading, downloading, and distributing via unsafe channels.
Email security is primarily concerned with various filters for incoming email messages. Each incoming message's header is analyzed to check for spoofing attempts, while the attached files are checked for malware. If the email contains a link, it's also analyzed to discern phishing attempts when hackers set up a genuine-looking website to trick the people who accidentally opened the link.
Mobile device security
Hackers are targeting mobile devices, and their apps as mobile device usage grows. Therefore, mobile security requires stricter controls for what mobile devices can access your network without endangering the organization's network security. If mobile devices are used to access work resources, jailbroken devices shouldn't be allowed as they lack appropriate security measures and can be easily hacked.
Security information and event management
A great part of cybersecurity is data analytics. SIAM tools put together various network data for cybersecurity personnel to look at. These findings make optimizing the setup even better and diagnosing specific bottlenecks possible. This is one of the key tools for improving your network infrastructure.
Most web threats can be blocked directly from the browser. Therefore web security adapts to various remote threats before they get the chance to infect the device. Web security relies on various databases tracking malicious websites. Once the site appears on the list, the user can't enter the site even by manually typing its address in a web browser. This is a simple but effective solution to stopping malware.
A wireless network can be very susceptible to remote attacks, plus they're in the vicinity of everyone who is nearby your office. With some dedication, a hacker could connect to your internal network without setting foot on your premises. Wireless security is, therefore, a method to prevent such unauthorized access attempts by strengthening access control to wireless devices.