In today’s interconnected digital world, organizations heavily rely on technology to accomplish essential business functions. Every day, large volumes of information, ranging from internal announcements to critical client data and confidential business strategies are shared over an organization’s network. Cybercriminals are constantly looking out for weak corporate networks that they can exploit to launch sophisticated cyberattacks. Therefore, a stable and reliable network is crucial for data integrity and security.
There are a wide variety of network security solutions and techniques available today that MSPs can leverage to fortify their clients’ networks and keep cybercrimes at bay. In this blog, we will discuss some of the most well-known network security tools and how MSPs can ensure the safety of their clients’ data in the event security breaches do occur.
What Is Network Security?
SANS Institute defines network security as the process of taking physical and software preventative measures to protect the underlying networking infrastructure from unauthorized access, misuse, malfunction, modification, destruction or improper disclosure, thereby creating a secure platform for computers, users and programs to perform their permitted critical functions within a secure environment.
Network Security Goals, Principles and Risks
Network security is important for every organization irrespective of its size, vertical or location. While cyberthreats are unpredictable and unavoidable, network security can prevent data loss, keep bad actors from entering the network and protect an organization’s systems. Let’s deep dive into network security to better understand what its goals and principles are, and the risks associated with a weak network.
What Are the Goals of Network Security?
The main goal of network security is to make sure the corporate network and systems are safe and reliable and data integrity and confidentiality are maintained. Effective network security monitors a variety of threats and prevents them from entering a network, thereby minimizing the risks of data theft and unauthorized access to sensitive information. A robust network security strategy helps an organization meet regulatory standards, protect endpoint devices and improve network performance and stability.
What Are the Principles of Network Security?
The three principles of network security are Confidentiality, Integrity and Availability. In information security, they are known as the CIA Triad.
- Confidentiality: Data confidentiality is the practice of keeping an organization’s data secret by identifying and controlling who has access to what kind of information. This protects confidential data from unauthorized disclosure. Data confidentiality protects sensitive information from unauthorized access by ensuring only intended personnel can access the data. Organizations can maintain the secrecy of their data by implementing measures like data segregation, access control, file encryption, multifactor authentication, etc.
- Integrity: The principle of data integrity is to ensure data is accurate, reliable and consistent throughout its life cycle. Integrity prevents malicious actors or unauthorized personnel from manipulating, modifying, deleting or tampering with the data. This ensures the data shared between the sender and the receiver is intact, correct and complete. Irrespective of whether the data is in transit or at rest, its integrity is vital for organizations.
- Availability: Mission-critical resources and services wouldn’t be of much use if they aren’t available for use when needed. This principle aims to ensure that data is available and accessible at all times so critical business processes are uninterrupted.
What Are the Major Risks in Network Security?
Today, most businesses are conducted online. While it enhances the ease of doing business, it also provides opportunities for threat actors with nefarious intent to exploit. Cyberthreats are a common scenario in this digital world and the number of cyberattacks continues to grow rapidly. A corporate network is the gateway into an organization. Hackers can easily bypass a weak network and gain illegal entry into an organization and disclose confidential data.
Some of the major risks in network security that IT professionals tackle daily include:
Malware/Ransomware: In 2020, the FBI reported a 300% increase in cybercrimes. Ransomware is a growing concern for organizations of all sizes. This type of malicious software is delivered via email, which is then used to encrypt the victim’s data for a ransom.
Computer Viruses and Worms: Weak networks are easy targets for hackers who can inject malicious codes to bring down a system or an entire network itself. A successful virus attack can corrupt files, wipe out data and impede business operations. It can quickly affect other systems in the network and cause irreparable damage to an organization.
Outdated Software: Obsolete software can not only slow down a corporate network but also cause systems to crash. If software isn’t patched in a timely manner, it can lead to security vulnerabilities. In fact, scammers often exploit software vulnerabilities to transmit viruses and worms into a network.
Insider Threats: Not all threats come from the outside. Insiders can wreak havoc as well, either intentionally or accidentally. Using a weak password, misusing account privileges, clicking on harmful links or downloading malicious attachments are just some of the ways an insider can harm an organization.
Data Loss: Poor network security is an invitation for trouble. Threats of all sorts can easily penetrate a weak corporate network to steal confidential data or trade secrets. Advanced viruses or malware can infect a database and wipe out entire information.
Types of Network Security: Techniques, Tools and Methods
There are a variety of tools and techniques that organizations can use to improve network security. Listed below are some of the most well-known methods and solutions.
Antivirus and Anti-malware
One of the most effective ways to tackle online threats and improve network security is by deploying an antivirus or an anti-malware software, or both. Antivirus programs scan entire systems for viruses. They detect malicious files and stop them from running, thereby preventing information systems from being infected. Today’s antivirus programs are designed to detect even malware infections. However, they are limited to certain types of malware and can’t provide protection against advanced malware threats. An anti-malware software scans, detects and removes sophisticated threats, such as trojans, adware, spyware, etc., which most antivirus can’t detect.
According to Forrester’s The State of Application Security 2020, most external attacks are conducted by misusing a software vulnerability (42%) or through a web application (35%). Forrester also predicts that application vulnerabilities will continue to be the most common external attack method. Application security, as the name suggests, is the practice of detecting and fixing security flaws in order to make apps more secure.
Behavioral analytics monitors users and applications by examining their behavior, patterns, trends and activities. It looks for anomalous behaviors or patterns such as unusual data transmissions over a network. If any unusual instances are detected, it alerts IT administrators to take appropriate action. This helps in preventing potential cyberattacks from occurring.
Cloud Network Security
Given the new norm of working remotely and organizations increasingly adopting the cloud, protecting distributed workforces, applications and data is now more important than ever. An effective cloud network security prevents threat actors from accessing, altering or manipulating information on a cloud network.
Data Loss Prevention (DLP)
Data loss prevention (DLP) is the process of protecting sensitive information against data loss/leakage, misuse and unauthorized access. Data loss prevention solutions monitor and prevent potential data breaches or illegal data transfer, which helps protect data while in use, at rest or in transit.
Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) is a type of cyberattack that targets a website server by sending unusually large amounts of traffic to exhaust the network bandwidth. This can impact the functionality of a website and can cause the website to crash. DDoS protection services identifies traffic flow, examines patterns and differentiates between legitimate and fake traffic. This helps prevent potential attacks from occurring without hampering user experience.
Email security is the process of securing email accounts and confidential information from illegitimate access, loss or leakage. It uses various policies, procedures and tools, such as strong password policy, spam filters, antivirus and anti-malware programs, to combat spam, malware and sophisticated phishing attacks.
Businesses today manage multiple devices, such as desktops, laptops, tablets, smartphones, etc., that are connected to a corporate network. Cybercriminals can exploit these endpoints to gain entry into an organization’s network. Endpoint security solutions help to quickly detect, block and prevent potential attacks before they cause any damage.
According to Cisco, a firewall is a network security device that monitors incoming and outgoing network traffic and decides whether to allow or block specific traffic based on a defined set of security rules. Firewalls establish a barrier between secured and controlled internal networks that can be trusted and untrusted outside networks, such as the Internet.
Network monitoring helps keep a close watch on a network’s performance by assessing traffic and bandwidth. This helps to ensure critical resources are available and accessible to users. It identifies various devices and components connected to the network and analyzes their statuses to resolve any issues that could impact network performance.
Network segmentation, also known as network segregation or partitioning, is the process of dividing a network into multiple smaller segments. This helps in improved network security, improved performance, better access control and network monitoring.
In cybersecurity, a sandbox is an isolated test environment that’s similar, but also different, from an operating environment. Sandboxing is the process of testing untrusted or suspicious software code in a controlled environment without compromising the host machine or network. This is a proactive practice that helps prevent system failure and improves an organization’s security posture.
Virtual Private Network (VPN)
A virtual private network (VPN) helps establish a secure, encrypted connection between a client and a server. VPNs mask users’ online identity and activities, making it difficult for prying eyes to obtain information or steal data.
Web security is the process of keeping a website or web applications safe from cyberthreats. Organizations can enhance their website security by ensuring software and plug-ins are up to date, adding HTTPS and SSL certificates, applying patches in a timely manner, implementing strong authentication methods, applying web application firewalls, having a backup of the website, etc.
Backups for When Network Security Fails
The size and magnitude of cybercrimes are increasing and no network is safe from these sophisticated cyberattacks. As an MSP, it’s your responsibility to keep your clients’ data safe from threat actors and their notorious intentions. Implementing advanced network security solutions should be your first step in securing your clients’ network. However, you should be prepared for unforeseen disastrous events. The best way to protect your clients and ensure business continuity in the event of a security incident is by having a backup of their assets.
As businesses look to adopt a hybrid work model in the post-pandemic world, protecting distributed workforces, applications and dispersed data will be even more challenging. You need a unified approach to secure your clients’ data no matter where it lives, whether on-site, in private/public cloud, in cloud-based SaaS applications or in remote locations.
Unitrends MSP Unified BCDR is a single, all-in-one platform that combines enterprise-class backup, ransomware detection and cloud-based business continuity. Our powerful BCDR platform is complete, automated and priced right, enabling you to make more margins, save more time and win more clients.