Organizations rely on an internal network infrastructure to optimize processes and scale up operations in today’s globalized world. Still, networks can pose many risks for businesses, which face proliferating cybersecurity threats and new vulnerabilities that threaten the security of their systems.
Network security is the set of tools and technologies that protect the company’s network’s integrity, confidentiality, and operability from malicious activity, unauthorized access, or misuse.
Although network security infrastructure is complex and diverse, it typically consists of a firewall, intrusion prevention systems, access controls, and enhanced authentication methods.
Although network security is closely linked to cybersecurity, the two are separate concepts that respond to different security needs. While cybersecurity seeks to protect the organization from digital threats of any kind, network security aims to protect the organization’s network from either physical or digital threats.
Why Is Network Security Important?
Companies face a series of security threats that must be considered within their risk management program when they automate business processes, take their activities to the cloud, and facilitate the availability of their network.
Due to the value that network infrastructure provides to organizations, implementing security controls to protect those networks becomes critical — and their absence can leave the entire company’s operations vulnerable.
Network security seeks to avoid data breaches and strengthens overall security by preventing cyberattacks on several fronts. Even when deploying wireless networks (essential in today’s world of connectivity) organizations find themselves needing to develop security solutions that reduce the security risk of these technologies.
Network security can provide companies with extra protection for their sensitive data, service delivery systems, and any other activity that is dependent on their network.
Common Types of Network Attacks
Network threats come in many forms and can have various effects on your infrastructure, so it’s necessary to identify the most common network attacks to develop effective security measures.
Network threats can be classified into passive or active attacks. Passive attacks are those where hackers gain access to a network to monitor or steal sensitive information without modifying it in any way. Spyware is an example of this: it extracts data from infected computer networks without damaging the data, so the hackers can remain undetected.
Active attacks go a step further: after gaining access to a network, the hackers seek to modify or delete information in addition to extracting it. Active attacks can be seen in ransomware attacks, where cyber criminals access a network, extract and encrypt the data, and request a ransom payment in exchange for releasing the stolen data.
Network attacks can be categorized more precisely as follows:
- Malware attacks. Malware threats result from the infection of the network with a malicious program that extracts or modifies information within it, including spyware, Trojans, and ransomware.
- Vulnerability exploitation. Threats resulting from software flaws allow malicious actors to exploit and gain access to the network.
- Endpoint attacks. Attacks directed at a network access point (rather than the network itself) allow cyber-criminals to access the network through a series of particular privileges.
- Multilayered attacks. These are a combination of network attack methods designed as a process to gain access to a network.
This classification can be seen in the typical network security threat vectors, which are:
Unauthorized Access, Insider Threats, and Privilege Escalation
In theory, unauthorized access can be caused by various factors, but it refers mainly to unauthorized access without compromising the network and its protection mechanisms. Social engineering attacks, such as phishing or credential theft, are great examples of these network security threats.
Similar is the case of insider threats. By definition, insiders have legitimate access to the corporate network, but they use their privileges to damage the network or to extract sensitive information. Both cases are enhanced by privilege escalation, where users take advantage of or acquire greater permissions within a network to increase their control over it.
In many cases, business networks take advantage of user input interfaces to facilitate data entry. Unfortunately, when these interfaces are not “sanitized,” they can allow hackers to “inject” (that is, introduce) code through these inputs. The best-known of these injections is a SQL Injection, targeting databases with SQL-based languages.
A man-in-the-middle attack involves intercepting the communication between two endpoints. This allows the attacker to act as an intermediary between both points without being detected. In the case of unencrypted communications, this attack also generates data breach risks.
Best Practices for Protecting Your Network
To counter these common threats, companies have introduced network security policies to their risk management processes. Here are some best practices for protecting your network:
Access Controls, Network Segmentation, and Intrusion Detection Systems
To prevent attackers from accessing your network, it’s essential to develop robust network access control (NAC) to identify the devices and users who wish to access a segment of information. By segmenting the network, you reduce the risk of unauthorized access by controlling access to only necessary individuals.
NAC and network segmentation are enhanced by intrusion detection systems. These systems allow real-time tracking and restriction of intrusion attempts from various sources, whether internal, external, wired, or wireless.
Anti-virus and anti-malware software is essential to stop cyberattacks targeting the company and, especially, its network. These tools allow you to stay one step ahead of new vulnerabilities and human errors that could result in the infection of the entire network.
Firewalls allow network administrators to develop a series of traffic restrictions or rules in the system according to pre-established patterns of threats, such as distributed denial of services (DDoS) attacks.
Virtual Private Network
When users work remotely, virtual private networks (VPNs) connect a user outside the company’s physical, private network to the network. The VPN encrypts and authenticates communications between both points, providing an extra layer of security and identifying authorized users to the network even outside its physical space.
Make Security a Priority With ZenGRC
ZenGRC is a governance, risk, and compliance platform that can assist you in implementing, managing, and monitoring your risk management framework and remedial assignments. It’s a simple, user-friendly tool that not only monitors your process but also allows you to identify areas of high risk before they become a severe problem.
ZenGRC checks your systems and networks for vulnerabilities that could expose your business or project to attacks. This information is displayed on user-friendly, color-coded dashboards that show you where your gaps are and how to address them at a glance.
The workflow tagging feature allows you to effortlessly assign risk assessment, analysis, and mitigation operations tasks. ZenGRC is prepared to assist you in streamlining the administration of the complete lifecycle of all key cybersecurity risk management frameworks, such as PCI, ISO, HIPAA, and others.
Furthermore, it performs in-a-click self-audits for you as often as you want. It collects and preserves your audit-trail documentation in our “single source of truth” repository for quick retrieval during network security audits.
Contact our team for a demo to begin your path to worry-free risk management: the Zen way.