Network vulnerabilities can compromise your entire system. As a result, your sensitive data can be lost, or worse, stolen by cybercriminals. A data breach can severely damage your company’s reputation and bring substantial financial losses.
These vulnerabilities are evolving constantly. Hackers have proven methods to infiltrate a seemingly secure network, and employ various tricks, devices, and information to get the job done.
Hence monitoring your internal network and vulnerability scanning is of utmost importance. It’s also essential to conduct regular penetration testing and vulnerability assessments to identify IT security weaknesses in your network, operating systems, firewalls, and hardware.
A network vulnerability is a flaw or weakness in your software, hardware, or organizational processes, resulting in a security breach when compromised by a threat. Network vulnerabilities can be physical or non-physical.
Non-physical network vulnerabilities are related to data and software. For example, operating systems that the IT department fails to update will leave the entire network susceptible to threat actors. For instance, if a virus or malware is downloaded into an outdated operating system, it could infect the whole network.
Physical network vulnerabilities involve security controls to physically protect an asset. These measures include security cameras, locking a server in a rack cabinet, and protecting entry points with key card access.
What Are the Different Types of Network Vulnerabilities?
Network vulnerabilities are not only classified into physical and non-physical. We can also define three broad categories of network security vulnerabilities: hardware, software, and human.
Any device on the network can be problematic unless the IT department is aware of the device, and maintains each one with the latest firmware updates to patch bugs and vulnerabilities.
Hardware network vulnerabilities require you to protect all your devices, routers, servers, and other assets. Implementing security patches and physically protecting devices from unauthorized access is your first line of defense.
Remember that laptops, smartphones, and other mobile devices are most vulnerable to theft and security breaches. Also, IoT devices have sensors and software that allow them to connect to a system, network, or device and transmit data over the Internet. Those IoT devices will need attention too.
Virtually every network uses software capable of running various operating systems and applications; that software is also vulnerable to cyber-attacks. All known vulnerabilities in the operating system should be fixed as soon as possible to limit security risks.
The most common application vulnerabilities are buggy, unmanaged, or outdated software programs. Applying appropriate security policies and using up-to-date software solutions can limit exposures to common vulnerabilities in your system.
In addition, software configuration should be done with care. For example, instead of using the default settings, try changing the name of each administrator account and limiting employees’ access to sensitive data.
Malicious actors always go after the weakest link. More often than not, that weakest link is the people who use the network. Despite all efforts to protect computer systems, people are required to manage them, and humans are bound to make mistakes.
An organization is vulnerable to malware, adware, distributed denial-of-service (DDOS), and ransomware attacks when employees use weak passwords, click on links to suspicious websites and fall prey to phishing attacks. That’s why employee education must be your top priority: so everyone understands the importance of security protection and controls.
How Are Network Vulnerabilities and Network Attacks Different?
Network vulnerabilities are flaws or weaknesses in operating systems, computer networks, hardware, or other digital processes used by your company. If compromised by cyber threats, network vulnerabilities can lead to a data breach. A network vulnerability is an unintentional mistake in system design, business operations, installed software, and network configurations.
On the other hand, a network attack attempts to obtain unauthorized access to a company’s network to steal data or engage in other destructive behavior. It is intentional, and can be active or passive.
Security vulnerabilities would not be problematic if cyber threats did not exist. Cybercriminals and hackers, however, can use a variety of tactics and tools to break into your systems and exploit your company’s data. In broad categories, there are four main types of attacks to watch out for:
- Malware attacks. Malware is short for malicious software, such as trojan horses, viruses, and worms that install themselves on a user’s machine or host server.
- Social engineering attacks. Phishing attacks and other social engineering methods aim to trick users into providing authentication information, such as usernames and passwords. That error gives bad actors a backdoor into the system.
- Unpatched or outdated software. Legacy software versions expose IT systems (and potentially the entire network) to known vulnerabilities.
- Misconfigured firewalls. A firewall is a buffer between the Internet and your internal network, and a misconfigured firewall can inadvertently expose your network.
Safeguard Your Business from Network Vulnerabilities
Knowing your vulnerabilities is only the beginning. Your compliance and cybersecurity program must undergo ongoing maintenance and review to assure it remains effective over time and is updated to address new and emerging risks.
ZenGRC is a governance, risk management, and compliance tool with a variety of solutions to suit your needs. Policies and procedures are revision-controlled and easy to find in the document repository. Workflow management features offer easy tracking, automated reminders, and audit trails. Insightful reporting and dashboards provide visibility to gaps and high-risk areas.
It is a single source of truth to document risk assessments, vulnerability scanning and penetration testing results, mitigation activities, and incident response efforts. It provides real-time information on evolving security requirements, enabling organizations to strengthen their security posture and eliminate tedious tasks.
Schedule a free demo today to see how ZenGRC can help protect your business from network vulnerabilities.