With over 86% of Canadian security leaders claiming to have faced a data breach in 2020, network and data security have become central to robust cybersecurity protocols.
A recent security incident highlighted this fact. HPE disclosed that a malicious actor accessed the data repositories for their Aruba Central Network via a stolen access key. The access key allowed the actor to collect sensitive data on network analytics and contact tracing. While Aruba has eliminated the threat, this incident highlights the need to strengthen network security.
What is network security?
Network security is a broad term used to define the many hardware and software technologies, including internal processes and practices, used to secure the integrity of computer networks, connected devices and the data stored in them.
What are the different layers of network security?
When working with network security, it's important to understand the relevance of the different network layers involved. Each layer needs to be secured to prevent unauthorized access to malicious players. A sound approach to network security requires a deep understanding of the three primary layers of network security.
1. Physical Network Security
The first security layer is the physical assets. It helps prevent malicious outsiders from gaining unauthorized access to devices such as routers, computers, firewalls and cabling cupboards. The physical layer requires checks and barriers, such as locks, biometric authentication and ID verification.
2. Technical Network Security
The second security layer is primarily responsible for protecting all data stored on devices in the network. It also ensures safe data transfers within the network and to systems outside the network. Apart from keeping malicious hackers away from the data, it also protects against disgruntled employees.
3. Administrative network security
As the final layer of network security, this layer addresses high-level security aspects, such as policy-making, authorization and internal compliance. These policies control employee behaviour, outline expected practices and detail the chain of command. The admin layer also deals with other aspects of network security, such as user verification, the level of privilege to be granted and the IT department's response to infrastructural changes within the network.
Protecting your network from unauthorized access
Now that we've understood the different layers of network security, let's look at the steps you can take to monitor and secure them.
Building your network security should begin with network auditing. It helps decode the different aspects of your network, its weaknesses, security gaps and the overall posture. By analyzing your network, you ensure that no gaps are left unaddressed for intruders to exploit.
Network security devices
Once you've built up a comprehensive report of all network-related assets under your control, it's time to secure them with security systems, such as firewalls, intrusion detection and prevention, security information and event management, and data loss prevention software.
Disabling file sharing within the network
It’s a simple precaution often overlooked by smaller companies in favour of the convenience of instant file sharing. While sharing files between a few secure devices may be allowed, the larger section of employees should not have access to this option.
Antivirus and anti-malware
It's crucial to not only install the most robust cybersecurity software on all devices but also keep them updated with the latest security patches. Proper patch management needs to be conducted to keep all devices clean.
Routers are one of the most easily accessible entry points for hackers. A security breach can occur by simply pressing the reset button on all routers. Since it's a physical device, keeping it in a secure location behind locked doors is advisable. Camera surveillance and personnel verification also help.
Network segmentation is used to define the boundaries between different types of internal networks. Keeping these boundaries intact and secured will help keep critical networks safe from intrusion. Segmentation also helps limit culpability in the event of a breach because the networks aren't interconnected.
Remote access VPN
A VPN comes in handy, especially with a large section of the workforce migrating to remote work permanently. Employees working from home tend to access the company network from their personal devices, creating additional security issues. A remote-access VPN ensures encryption of data and proper authorization of users.
Network security and monitoring don't just keep the data safe; these precautions also help manage traffic, enhance network performance and enable secure data sharing. The rapidly evolving cybersecurity threat landscape has made it fundamental to keep up with the latest guidelines to protect networks from unauthorized access.