Network security is the set of activities and strategies adopted to protect the network from various kinds of risks (cyber threats), attacks and to prevent cybercriminals from having unauthorized access to others’ systems.
Different devices are engaged in many types of activities like daily transactions and communication related to an individual, government or organizational works and each such device need protection from being attacked.
Hackers are always hatching new ways to break into the secured systems to illegally obtain sensitive data of users and trying to use it against the concerned organization.
So, the security of any network should be highly effective and powerful to prevent the malicious threats from invading it.
The need for network security
Security for any network, home or organization, is required because security vulnerabilities can lead to a breach of data and loss of information and reputation.
It can also lead to financial damage.
Business targets, risk analysis and evolution of new threats steer the need for network security.
Business goals and risk analysis
Your business will never flourish if it has security failures. No one will trust you and your organization as nobody wants their information to be misused or stolen or tampered.
Presence of weak points turns out fatal for a network and its security because cybercriminals are always active and trying to figure out the loopholes to capture a system illegally.
The cyber crimes can accelerate the loss of money, loss of reputation, and also augment harassment, apart from stealing data.
Evolution of threats
Threats are becoming more sophisticated locally as well as globally. Innovative exploitation techniques are being researched and developed continuously.
Earlier, the attacks were more confined to an individual or a single company, and it was not that frequently heard as well but nowadays it is engulfing the entire world.
For example, from an individual Denial of Service (DoS) attack by a single attacker on a single victim, it has expanded to large-scale distributed DoS attacks emerging from infected systems called ‘botnets.’
Threats may reside as malware-infected files in malicious websites or spread through emails and infected links.
Attackers can use ‘memory scraping’ to directly gain access to your data from the volatile memory of your system and exploit the operating system.
I suppose now you can feel why security and safety of the network are required and how much they should be strengthened to deal with all kinds of risks and threats surrounding them.
What comprises network security?
Network security is based on four essential data elements. They are data access, data availability, data confidentiality, and data integrity.
Data access is governed by a system that has ‘AAA’ characteristics. In other words, data access is maintained by a system capable of ‘authenticating,’ ‘authorizing’ and ‘accounting’ users for their identification through a pin or login.
It also gives permission depending on the user’s functions and audits data changes as well as user’s network activities.
Data is available on demand only to authorized users. It helps in restricting unauthorized users from gaining access.
Unauthorized users cannot access data. Data encryption is implemented to prevent the illegal access by any third party, to protect data transmission.
Encryption also helps in protecting the data at rest.
Data cannot be modified without permission. It ensures that only authorized and legitimate users have access and ability to do so.
What are the different tools and techniques for network security?
Security must be entrenched everywhere – Be at your systems, network, storage, applications and all other possible places to curb the threats and risks.
To do that, you should know the different kinds of network security that are there for your protection.
Antivirus and Antimalware software
Malicious software, also called malware, is very harmful to any network as it can infect the system, encrypt the user’s data and can also restrict the user’s access any further by locking them.
Different types of malware are ransomware, spyware, Trojans, worms, and viruses.
Thus to combat them, reputable antivirus and antimalware softwares must be installed and kept updated. These softwares perform regular scans of the devices and aid in detecting any abnormal behavior and fixing the damage.
Firewalls are sandwiched between the user’s trusted internal network and the unreliable outside network (say, Internet). A collection of rules govern the flow of traffic, by allowing or blocking it.
A firewall can either be a software or hardware or both.
Data Loss Prevention (DLP)
Organizations must ensure that their employees do not leak confidential information outside the network. They must incorporate DLP technologies to avert sharing, uploading or printing any vital information in an insecure manner.
Intrusion prevention system (IPS)
An IPS actively scans the network traffic. They correlate the massive amount of global threat intelligence to block dangerous attacks and track the propagation of any malicious files to prevent attacks.
Whether a trained developer builds an application for you or you buy it, no application is perfect and are bound to have vulnerabilities which can be used by the attackers to invade your network.
Application security should, therefore, always be reviewed, audited and strengthened to patch up any loopholes related to the software, hardware or processes.
Behavioral analytics tools can automatically detect and differentiate between the normal and abnormal behavior of the activities.
Your security department should be able to distinguish any potential threat and risks effectively and quickly with the help of these tools.
Email gateways are the most popular threat vector for the security violation. Social engineering concepts are applied to create phishing emails and leading the users to infected sites.
Therefore, an email security application can block such attacks and control outgoing messages for preventing any data loss or security breach.
Mobile device security
Mobiles are very common nowadays, and cybercrooks are eyeing them for attacks. Many organizations also support corporate applications on these devices.
So it is highly necessary to monitor and provision which devices can connect to the particular network and accordingly configure their connections to keep network traffic private and secure.
Web security solution will help you in controlling the web use of the employees of your company, in restricting access to malicious websites as well as managing web-based threats. It will help you protect the web gateway in the site or cloud.
Endpoint security (or, endpoint protection) safeguards corporate networks when accessed via remote devices or wireless devices. For example, there is a software called Comodo Advanced Endpoint Protection that offers seven layers of defense.
The layers include viruscope, file reputation, auto-sandbox, host intrusion prevention, web URL filtering, firewall, and antivirus software.
Network traffic is classified based on software-defined segmentation and aids in incorporating security policies. The classifications depend not only on IP addresses but also on endpoint identity.
This process overall helps in authorized access by legitimate users as well as detecting suspicious activities.
VPN connection strengthens security and provides privacy to you even while connected to public networks through wifi hotspots etc. The privacy is augmented as the user’s IP address is replaced with the one provided by the VPN.
Besides, VPN encrypts the data which enhances security and keeps it safe from someone snooping around.
VPN was primarily used in corporate, but because of several benefits it provides, it is also getting popular with individuals as well.
A remote access VPN uses IPSec or Secure Sockets Layer to authenticate the communication between the network and device.
Security information and event management (SIEM)
SIEM products help the security team in gathering all the necessary information for discerning and responding to different threats.
SIEM strengthens the security of infrastructure by bringing together different IT tools like firewalls, endpoint security intrusions, intrusion prevention, and threat intelligence.
They help in checking hardware, software and security sources to figure out any possible weaknesses and vulnerabilities and stop any network invasion. Some essential SIEM products are Micro Focus ArcSight, Splunk Enterprise Security, LogRhythm SIEM, etc.
Network Access Control (NAC)
NAC is a network security solution that allows trusted and authorized endpoint devices or nodes to access the network resources and infrastructure. It monitors their activities once they are on the network.
NAC is also called Network Admission Control.
By now, you should know many kinds of available network security policies and how they can help in bolstering the security of the network to avert any attacks or sensitive data breach.
Hackers are becoming smarter each day, and hence, you should continuously review and enhance security policies to protect your data, network and your systems from the potential threats.
Because of our increased exposure to the public network and use of different devices, and multiple technologies, we are becoming more and more vulnerable to cyber attacks.
Cybercrooks are always watching out for a security loophole on your system and network. And as most of the attacks happen through the network, so the necessity of continuously enhancing and reviewing network security is paramount.
Remember that, once invaded, the cybercrooks can steal your confidential data and misuse it for bribery, extortion and thus damaging your or the organization’s reputation.
It can permanently harm your systems as well.
Network security must be ingrained in every possible area to control the access of users, data transmission as well as discerning suspicious activities and blocking them. Different layers of defense must be set up to prevent any malicious attackers from exploiting any resource.
Digitization has completely transformed the world and has changed our lifestyle. Every organization wants to offer their best services to their customers for their benefit as well as for the customers. If your network is not secured, then your business is also not secured.
Customers obviously will not trust any organization that has ever been a victim of data loss and security breaches. Therefore, network security policies must be implemented and bolstered to maintain safety, trust and securing information.