Network security is an organization’s strategy and provisions for ensuring the security of its assets and all network traffic. Network security is manifested in an implementation of security hardware and software. With large-scale data breaches making headlines, whether you’re a small startup or an enterprise organization, security should be a top priority.

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You may ask yourself: Why are there so many types of IT security? Well, the more links in a network’s chain, the more opportunities for hackers to find their way in. Each component, therefore, requires its own security measures.

You may be thinking it, but no, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Every network is different and requires skilled professionals to create tailored plans across all fronts: apps, databases, network devices, cloud servers, IT infrastructures, and the users. The users are often the weakest link in the security chain. These security plans are living, breathing things that need to be updated, upgraded, and patched on a constant basis.

Information Security, IT Security, and Information Assurance

Information security and information technology (IT) security and are often used exchangeably, but they’re slightly different fields. When we’re referring to information security we’re actually talking about protecting our data—whether that’s physical or digital. IT security is a bit more specific in that it’s only referring to digital information security.

IT security just about covers all of the types of security within a network, from components like databases and cloud servers to applications and the users remotely accessing the network. They all fall under the IT security umbrella.

Within this is another term to know: information assurance. This means that any important data won’t be lost or stolen in the event of an attack or a disaster—whether that’s a tornado wiping out a server center or hackers breaking into a database. This, then, ties to enforcement.

Most definitions of network security are narrowed to the enforcement mechanism. Enforcement concerns analyzing all network traffic flows and should aim to preserve the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of all systems and information on the network. These three principles compose CIA:

  • Confidentiality – protecting assets from unauthorized entities
  • Integrity – ensuring the modification of assets is handled in a specified and authorized manner
  • Availability – a state of the system in which authorized users have continuous access to said assets

Strong enforcement strives to provide CIA to network traffic flows. This begins with a classification of traffic flows by application, user and content. As the vehicle for content, all applications must first be identified by the firewall regardless of port, protocol, evasive tactics or SSL (Secure Sockets Layer). Proper application identification provides full visibility into the content it carries. Policy management can be simplified by identifying applications and mapping their use to a user identity while inspecting the content at all times for the preservation of CIA.

The concept of defense in depth is observed as a best practice in network security, prescribing for the network to be secured in layers. These layers apply an assortment of security controls to sift out threats trying to enter the network: access control, identification, authentication, malware detection, encryption, file type filtering, URL filtering, and content filtering.

These layers are built through the deployment of firewalls, intrusion prevention systems (IPS) and antivirus components. Among the components for enforcement, the firewall (an access control mechanism) is the foundation of network security.

Providing CIA of network traffic flows is difficult to accomplish with legacy technology. Traditional firewalls are plagued by controls that rely on port/protocol to identify applications – which have now developed evasive characteristics to bypass the controls – and the assumption that IP address equates to user identity.

What you can do to ensure in your network security

1. Keep patches and updates current

Cyber criminals exploit vulnerabilities in operating systems, software applications, web browsers and browser plug-ins when administrators are lax about applying patches and updates. Keep an inventory to make sure each device is updated regularly, including mobile devices and network hardware.

2. Use strong passwords

By now, most users know not to write their passwords on Post-It Notes that are plastered to their monitors. But there’s more to keeping passwords secure than keeping them out of plain sight. The definition of a strong password is one that’s difficult to detect by humans and computers, is at least 6 characters, preferably more, and uses a combination of upper- and lower-case letters, numbers and symbols.

3. Secure your VPN

Data encryption and identity authentication are especially important to securing a VPN (virtual private network). Any open network connection is a vulnerability hackers can exploit to sneak onto your network. Moreover, data is particularly vulnerable while it is travelling over the Internet. Review the documentation for your server and VPN software to make sure that the strongest possible protocols for encryption and authentication are in use.

Multi-factor authentication is the most secure identity authentication method. The more steps your users must take to prove their identity, the better.

4. Actively manage user access privileges

Inappropriate user-access privileges pose a significant security threat. Managing employee access to critical data on an ongoing basis should not be overlooked. When an employee’s job changes, make sure the IT department is notified so their access privileges can be modified to fit the duties of the new position.

5. Clean up inactive accounts

Hackers use inactive accounts once assigned to contractors and former employees to gain access and disguise their activity. Software is available for cleaning up inactive accounts on large networks with many users.

It is imperative that, no matter the size of your network, you have the needed security. If you are wanting to ensure that your network has the security it needs, contact us here and we will help you out. You need not worry about being hacked or losing your data – at the least.