IT professionals use many tools to streamline cybersecurity tasks, including network security monitoring, penetration testing, network intrusion detection, and encryption. This not only reduces the risk of common security breaches and cyber attacks; it also protects your business’s sensitive and private data from the prying eyes of attackers.
That said, not all IT security tools are equal. Some security solutions do a great job of protecting your systems and networks from malicious activities. Others, not so much.
To help you make the right choice, we have compiled a list of cybersecurity tools trusted by cybersecurity experts globally, to improve network security and reduce risks of cyber threats.
Before the list, let’s reacquaint ourselves with the basics.
What Are IT Security Tools?
IT security tools (or cybersecurity tools) are specialized software solutions that protect computers, networks, and other digital systems against cyber attacks and similar threats. They help you maintain the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of your company’s sensitive data by streamlining (or, ideally, automating) necessary information security processes and information security compliance management.
Common Information Security Risks
As cybersecurity threats become increasingly sophisticated, businesses must become more vigilant when protecting data and networks. Understanding the information security risks you face is a good place to start.
Here are the most common information security risks your IT team should know about:
1. Viruses and worms
Viruses and worms are a type of malicious software or malware cybercriminals use to destroy a company’s systems, data, and network – but they are two different terms.
A virus is malicious code that replicates by copying itself to another program, system, or host file. It stays dormant until someone inadvertently activates it, after which the virus starts infecting without the permission or knowledge of the user or system administrator.
On the other hand, a worm is a self-replicating program that doesn’t require human interaction to infect. Once a worm enters a system, it immediately starts replicating itself, infecting other poorly protected computers and networks while remaining active on the infected system.
A botnet is malware that infects and remotely controls a collection of internet-connected devices, such as desktops, mobile phones, servers, and other IoT devices.
The threat actor who creates the botnet (often a cybercriminal) aims to infect as many connected devices as possible by probing random IP addresses until it connects with another infected machine. The attacker then uses the infected devices to perform automated tasks that are generally hidden from the device owners: sending email spam, for example, or generating malicious traffic for distributed denial-of-service or DDoS attacks.
Botnet malware is usually spread by unsuspecting users clicking on links or bogus email attachments, downloading software from a free website, or visiting a compromised website.
3. Insider threats
As the name suggests, insider threats are threats an organization faces from the inside.
Negligent employees who fail to comply with the organization’s security rules and policies are the most common cause of internal cybersecurity threats. For example, a contractor or third-party vendor may inadvertently email customer data to external parties, click on phishing links in emails, or share their login information with others.
Sometimes malicious insiders may intentionally bypass security measures and cybersecurity protocols to delete, exploit, or steal data to deliberately harm a company’s critical systems and reputation.
4. Phishing attacks
Phishing attacks use social engineering to manipulate users into breaking recommended security practices and divulging confidential information. That information might include names, Social Security numbers, credit card information, and login credentials.
In most cases, cybercriminals send fake emails that look like they’re coming from legitimate sources, or even friends and colleagues. The emails try to get users to take an intended action (such as clicking on links) which then either asks them to enter personal information or automatically installs malware on the device that allows hackers to harvest sensitive information or gain remote access to the victim’s device.
5. DDoS attacks
In a DDoS attack, multiple compromised machines attack a server, website, or other network resources to make that server totally inoperable. The infected devices aim to flood the targeted system with a huge influx of connection requests, incoming messages, or malformed packets that either cause it to slow down or crash and shut down completely, denying service to legitimate users or systems. DDoS attacks are similar to a phone number receiving a flood of bogus calls, so legitimate callers always get a busy signal.
6. Drive-by download attacks
Drive-by download attacks happen when malicious code is downloaded from a website via a browser, an app, or an integrated operating system without the user’s knowledge. To make matters worse, the user doesn’t have to click on anything to activate the download. Simply accessing or browsing a website can start the download.
Cybercriminals then use drive-by downloads to inject Trojans (malware that downloads on a computer disguised as a legitimate program), steal and collect sensitive information, or install exploit kits (a programming tool that allows the hacker to create, customize, and distribute malware) onto the target device.
A ransomware attack locks down the target’s IT systems, typically via encryption. Users can’t access the system (or the data stored on it) until the victims pay a ransom to the attacker.
Cyber criminals commonly use infected software apps, malicious email attachments, infected external storage devices, and compromised websites to spread ransomware.
8. Advanced persistent threat attacks (APT)
APT refers to targeted cyber attacks in which the unauthorized attacker penetrates a network and remains undetected for long time periods. Rather than causing immediate damage to a system or network, the APT attacker continues monitoring network activity to steal crucial information to gain access, including exploit kits and malware.
Large enterprises and nation-states are the common victims of APT attacks, where cybercriminals steal highly sensitive information over an extended period to cause significant damage.
Best IT Security Tools
Every business has unique security needs – so rather than us dictating specific tools to you, we’ll discuss the main categories of cybersecurity tools that can help you to enhance your organization’s system security.
1. Network security monitoring tools
Network security monitoring tools secure your IT environment by constantly tracking, analyzing, and reporting on network availability, health, and performance, including essential components such as networking hardware, storage devices, interfaces, and virtual environment.
These network monitoring tools collect data from the network devices in your environment through network protocols and track crucial performance metrics such as traffic, bandwidth, availability, usage, and packet loss.
Recommended tools: Splunk, Argus, OSSEC.
2. Penetration testing tools
“Pen testing” tools are software applications used by computer security experts or ethical hackers to carry out stimulated cyber attacks against your organization’s own computer system, to check for exploitable vulnerabilities.
This generally involves the attempted breaching of application systems (such as application protocol interfaces or APIs, frontend/backend servers), so you can detect and patch anomalies and fine-tune web application firewall (WAF) security policies.
Recommended tools: Wireshark, Kali Linux, Metasploit
3. Web vulnerability scanning tools
Web vulnerability scanning tools or vulnerability scanners are automated tools that scan web apps to detect security vulnerabilities. These tools test web applications for common security problems, such as SQL injection, cross-site request forgery (CSRF), and cross-site scripting (XSS).
Recommended tools: Nikto, Burp Suite, Nessus Professional.
4. Encryption tools
Encryption tools are software systems that encode plain text into “ciphertext” using cryptographic data encryption algorithms. The same algorithm also creates a decryption key, a string of numbers, or a password, to decode the data back to plain text. This protects sensitive data from prying eyes.
Many of these encryption solutions also come with management tools that allow you to deploy and monitor data encryption across an organization, which helps prevent data breaches.
Recommended tools: NordLocker, VeraCrypt, Tor.
5. Antivirus software
Antivirus software prevents, scans, detects, and removes malware, including spyware, ransomware, Trojans, and worms. Once installed, these programs or sets of programs run automatically in the background to provide real-time protection against security threats.
Recommended tools: McAfee Total Protection, Kaspersky Anti-Virus, Norton 360.
6. Packet sniffers
Packet sniffers or packet analyzers automate the interception, logging, and analysis of network traffic. These solutions comprise two parts: a network adapter to connect the sniffer to the existing network; and software to log, see, or analyze the data gathered by the sniffer.
Recommended tools: Windump, Wireshark, Tcpdump.
Firewalls are a crucial cybersecurity tool. They monitor and filter incoming and outgoing network traffic based on predetermined security policies to secure networks from hackers, malware, and other cyber attacks. Consider them as barriers between a private internal network and public internet to provide fortified security between networks and outside threats.
Recommended tools: RedSeal, AlgoSec, Tufin.
8. Intrusion detection systems (IDS)
An IDS monitors network and system traffic to detect any unusual or suspicious activity, and generates alerts to security admins upon detecting potential threats. The admin can then investigate the issue and take the appropriate action to remediate the threat.
Recommended tools: Kismet, SolarWinds Security Event Manager, Snort
Difference Between IT Security and Cybersecurity
Information security deals with unauthorized access, disclosure modification, and information disruption. It aims to protect data from any form of threat, both digital and analog (say, an imposter walking into your data center or rifling through filing cabinets). Laying the foundation of data security, information security professionals are trained to prioritize resources before eradicating threats or attacks.
Cybersecurity specifically focuses on protecting against attacks in cyberspace. In fact, cybersecurity professionals are specifically trained to deal with advanced forms of cyber threats like APT.
Check out our information security versus cybersecurity guide to learn more.
IT Security Best Practices
In addition to implementing reliable IT security tools, you can also apply the following data protection and cybersecurity tips to protect your business against malicious attacks:
- Keep all software up-to-date to add new features, fix bugs, and enhance security.
- Use the principle of least privilege to control access to sensitive data. This involves assigning users the fewest access rights possible and elevating privileges only when necessary.
- Regularly monitor the activity of privileged and third-party users. Even if these users don’t act maliciously, they can unintentionally cause security breaches.
- Encourage email security and avoid opening suspicious emails that may be phishing attempts.
- Use up-to-date computer hardware that supports the most recent software security updates.
- Practice good password management. Use reliable password managers to generate strong passwords, auto-enter credentials, and receive periodical reminders to update passwords.
- Use a virtual private network (VPN) to protect connections. This will encrypt your connection and hide all sensitive information, even from your internet service provider.
- Double-check for HTTPS on websites before giving away personal or private information.
- Avoid storing important information in public or non-secure places.
- Back up important data frequently on the cloud-based or a local storage device. If you use the latter, always scan the device for malware before accessing it.
- Train your employees in cybersecurity and information security best practices.
- Conduct regular information security audits to assess your current security posture and make adjustments if needed.
Keep Your Data Safe with ZenGRC
RiskOptics’ integrated Risk Observation, Assessment, and Remediation ZenGRC aims to empower security teams by providing them with actionable insights they need to avoid, control, and mitigate risks in business processes and optimize security.
Its AI engine automates relationship building between business assets and processes, controls, and risks to facilitate the delivery of automated risk posture. In addition, the tool continues to monitor this risk posture for any unusual changes and recommends suitable remediation measures to minimize negative impact.
Schedule a demo to see how ZenGRC can guide your company to infosec and cybersecurity confidence.