Network security is about restricting external access by ensuring the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of data, objects, and resources. Every company should have procedures and tools to protect itself against network threats, regardless of size. Robust network security involves protecting digital infrastructure, applications, devices, and systems against online threats. It covers a multitude of hardware and software solutions and processes designed to protect the integrity, confidentiality, and accessibility of computer networks. As the connected nature of the internet is the main source of security risks, network security is one of the key cybersecurity areas. Here's what you should know about network security controls.

Key takeaways

  • Network security protects digital infrastructure, applications, devices, and systems from online threats to ensure confidentiality, integrity, and accessibility.
  • It covers physical, technical, and administrative security layers to safeguard against unauthorized access and data breaches.
  • Network security is key in the age of remote work and digitalization, as cyber-attacks can disrupt business operations and damage reputation.
  • Key network security measures include user authentication, application delivery platforms, DDoS protection, Transport Layer Security, firewalls, and access control.
  • Various types of threats, such as viruses, trojans, phishing, denial of service attacks, and IP spoofing, can be mitigated with network security.
  • A network security policy is essential to outline rules, procedures, and standards for protecting IT assets and resources, ensuring compliance with regulations like GDPR or ISO 27001.
  • Successful network security strategies employ multiple security solutions to protect users and organizations from malware and cyber-attacks.

What is network security?

Network security is the strategic protection of a company's digital infrastructure against online threats. It combines hardware and software to safeguard data integrity, confidentiality, and availability, playing a crucial role in cybersecurity.

How does network security work?

Illustration showing the three tiers of network security

As the internet facilitates inter-device connectivity, this is also one of the most significant sources of cyber threats. For this reason, network security has to be achieved at three levels:

1. Physical network security

The most rudimentary level of protection aims to prevent unauthorized personnel from obtaining physical access to various network components. This includes servers, laptops, peripherals, routers, and cable connections. It's all about maintaining physical boundaries to make them inaccessible to outsiders.

2. Technical network security

A technical layer of network security focuses on data security at rest and in transit. The main goal is to protect data when transferred within the network while also protecting it against malicious activities.

3. Administrative network security

Administrative network security focuses on user behavior, handling authentication, authorization, and access control. This area often reveals potential improvements to the infrastructure.

Traditionally, the primary focus has been on technical and administrative layers of network security. Since most network threats target these areas, they are considered a priority and a more significant challenge.

Types of network security

The basis of network security controls is ensuring that all mentioned network layers are protected against potential threats. Therefore, some types of network security use various detection mechanisms to block malicious connections, while others encrypt used channels, making them inaccessible without credentials.

User authentication

While passwords used to be a go-to solution, it is more popular to enforce multiple-factor checks nowadays. That way, even if a password becomes compromised, there's still a piece of information that the perpetrator might not have. As current smart devices usually have built-in biometric readers, relying on biometric confirmations is also becoming popular.

Applications delivery platform

The application delivery platform ensures that applications are delivered reliably and that the load is balanced. It's usually used for network traffic management in data centers and cloud environments.

DDoS protection

DDoS targets network devices, flooding them with requests. As hardware devices are overloaded with an endless processing stream, they eventually crash, shutting the service down. This may disrupt network performance for its users.

DDoS mitigation filters the incoming network traffic, blocking requests intended to overload the system. It also breaks down the stream of requests into more manageable chunks and distributes them across multiple network devices.

Transport Layer Security

Although many standards exist, many organizations use TLS to secure network traffic between their web servers and browsers. TLS is a cryptographic protocol that scrambles sent data to make it unreadable in transit. The data is decrypted only after reaching its destination, as the process is repeated repeatedly.


A firewall is a network security device that manages incoming and outgoing traffic based on set security rules. It filters and blocks harmful traffic, preventing unauthorized network access. Network security depends significantly on firewalls, which stop malware and attacks that target application layers. Although firewalls can operate at the application level, they are more commonly installed on physical devices like routers.

Access control

One of the first things a hacker might do is check for any open ports on a company's network that are exposed to the outside. If they find them open, they may exploit them inside your company's perimeter.

Therefore, network access control limits user access to internal resources and other company assets. It may rely on various identity access management solutions or other tools to restrict or deny access.

Intrusion prevention system (IPS)

An intrusion prevention system (IPS) is a security tool that checks all network traffic to prevent cyber-attacks. It uses vast amounts of global threat information to halt harmful activities and monitor and prevent the spread of suspicious files and malicious software in the network. IPS technologies are especially useful for network security as they block attacks like brute force, Denial of Service (DoS), and other exploits that exploit software vulnerabilities.

Network segmentation

Network segmentation divides network traffic into categories and simplifies enforcing security policies. It focuses on endpoint identity rather than just IP addresses. This method assigns access based on roles and locations, enhancing control and security. It also helps prevent external threats, manage internal access, secure sensitive data, and improve network security.

Virtual Private Network (VPN)

A remote access VPN creates a secure, private connection from an endpoint, like a laptop, to a company's network over the internet. It uses encryption and authentication methods such as IPsec or SSL to ensure secure communication between the device and the network. This type of Virtual Private Network is particularly useful for remote workers who need to access company resources safely from outside the office, even when using public Wi-Fi.

Cloud security

Cloud security helps you manage and protect your entire setup, whether your data and apps are in the cloud, on-premises, or both. This includes your data center's servers and storage, IoT devices in your warehouse, remote laptops, phones, and even employees at branch locations—all protected under cloud security.

Data loss prevention (DLP)

Data Loss Prevention (DLP) technologies help organizations protect sensitive information by preventing employees from sharing, uploading, or printing it unsafely. DLP tools work across cloud systems to detect sensitive data, prevent accidental sharing, and block data theft.

Email security

Email gateways are the primary way security breaches happen. Attackers use personal details and clever tricks to create advanced phishing campaigns, which fool people into visiting harmful sites. An email security application stops these incoming attacks and monitors outgoing messages to protect sensitive data from getting out.

Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA)

Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA), or software-defined perimeter solutions, follow a zero trust security model. Unlike traditional security like VPNs that give full network access, ZTNA only offers users the specific permissions they need for their roles. This approach ensures users get only the necessary access to their jobs, enhancing security by providing more controlled access to an organization's applications.

Endpoint security

Cybercriminals are now focusing more on mobile devices and apps. Over the next three years, 90% of IT organizations are expected to allow employees to use their mobile devices for work applications. To safeguard your network, you must manage which devices can connect and set up their connections to secure network traffic properly.

Why is network security important?

A company's servers hold sensitive customer and internal information, making their security crucial. Access control is key, allowing only authorized users in and keeping others out.

As more companies adopt hybrid work models, the demand for internal networks and their security increases, creating more opportunities for hackers.

Cyber-attacks can damage a company's reputation and result in large government fines. Therefore, effective network security solutions are essential for every business.

Benefits of network security

Implementation of network security measures drastically improves enterprises' cybersecurity status. It reduces the risks of disruption of critical business processes and infrastructure.

This doesn't affect only businesses with online stores. As digitalization has affected most enterprises, protecting internal resources and applications is necessary to advance the business and meet the set targets.

Bolstering defenses

Network security is the frontline defense against various cyber threats like hacking, malware, and unauthorized access. Implementing robust security measures creates multiple layers of defense designed to detect, prevent, and mitigate potential breaches. This comprehensive shield protects sensitive data and reinforces your enterprise's trustworthiness in the digital space.

Ensuring operational integrity

Downtime due to cyber attacks can be costly and disruptive. Network security ensures that your business operations remain stable and efficient by preventing attacks that could cripple critical infrastructure. This stability is crucial for maintaining customer trust and ensuring that your business processes run smoothly without interruption.

Protecting across the board

Network security extends its protective umbrella beyond just your online storefronts. It encompasses internal communications, proprietary data, employee information, and other digital resources. This holistic approach ensures that every aspect of your business's digital footprint is secure, reducing the risk of internal vulnerabilities and external threats.

Facilitating goal realization

A secure network environment enables your business to focus on achieving its strategic objectives without the distraction and setback of dealing with security breaches. It ensures that resources are allocated towards growth and development rather than constantly managing and recovering from security incidents.

Supporting digital evolution

As businesses constantly evolve and adopt new technologies, network security is not just a protective measure. It's an enabler of this digital evolution. Providing a secure foundation allows businesses to explore and integrate new technologies confidently, driving innovation and staying competitive in the market.

Types of threats that network security prevent

Depending on the hackers' goals, many cyber attack types also target specific network layers.

Viruses—malicious program files that inject themselves into the system when opened.

Trojans—viruses disguised as other programs. The user unsuspectingly launches a trojan, injecting itself into the system in the background.

Phishing—a cyber-attack in which convincingly-looking emails are sent with the intent to obtain some confidential information from the receiver. Phishing emails trick users into revealing credit card details, personal data, and other sensitive data.

Denial of Service—an attack on the organization's systems when they are flooded with more requests than they can resolve. As the system resolves every single one, it's overloaded, disrupting the service.

IP spoofing—involves stealing a specific IP address to bypass IP blocks. The hacker uses IP-spoofed packets to gain entry into protected networks.

Effective network security policy

A network security policy is a set of rules that helps protect an organization's IT assets. It explains how to enforce, manage, maintain, and monitor these assets to keep them safe.

Not having clear security policies can be risky and lead to the loss of important data. Staff must learn about these policies when they start working and follow them closely.

These security policies cover topics like safe internet browsing and proper use of company resources. The goal is to create a shared standard for security that applies to daily activities.

The benefits of having such a policy include clear instructions to protect against digital threats, guidelines for using company assets, and a legal basis for action if needed. This is often required for compliance with regulations like GDPR or ISO 27001.