It’s crucial to keep threat actors out of corporate networks, otherwise, you risk your company’s operations, reputation, and finances. Even the smallest of breaches can lead to a massive attack. Therefore, data network security should be a main priority for any organization. In this article, we will introduce network security and share why it is important. Continue reading to learn more about network security IT and how to keep cyber criminals away from valuable data.

What is network security?

Network security is created by combining hardware with applications to prevent unauthorized entities from accessing a network. The modern network architecture is quite complex and faces an evolving-threat environment where cyber thieves are always on the hunt for the next vulnerability to target.

Weaknesses can exist in data, applications, via users, through locations, and even devices. As a result, there are a wide variety of network security tools and solutions that do address non-compliance, threats, and exploits. However, selecting the right tool and solution is mind-boggling for most businesses. As such, outsourcing data network security is gaining traction for organizations that want to create a safe and reliable network for end users, devices, and programs.

Network security has several essential functions within an IT environment:

  • Stop unauthorized access to assets and data.
  • Mitigate threats from spreading through the system.
  • Facilitate secure data sharing between systems and employees.
  • Safeguard network data, infrastructure, and all traffic from external threats.
  • Detect and address unusual user behavior and software anomalies.
  • Provide end-users sufficient access to resources.

There are also three phases of effective network security:

Protection: Address vulnerabilities with adequate configuration of systems and networks.

Detection: Work proactively to identify threats before damage is incurred.

Reaction: Mitigate threats to ensure a safe network.

Invariably, setting up and managing network security IT is time-consuming and challenging for most organizations. On the other hand, many companies have realized the cost savings and convenience of working with a network security partner who offer the right tools, including:

  • Packet sniffers that give data traffic insights.
  • Intrusion detection and prevention applications.
  • Tools to analyze network data.
  • Penetration testing software.
  • Vulnerability assessment scanners.
  • Penetration testing for vulnerabilities.

What causes a data breach?

When an unauthorized entity can access your network and sensitive data, this is called a data breach. The entity may also steal or erase customer information and even demand a ransom in exchange for limiting the potential damages.

Two main reasons for data breaches:

Attacks via online communications: Phishing is one of the most popular forms of network attacks because there isn’t any advanced coding required. However, cyber criminals can also program bots to spam your staff through emails and SMS. Using psychological tactics, they can also convince your employees to share passwords, logins, click on a link, open a file, or download malicious documents that appear safe and authentic. If the threat actor is successful, they now have direct access to your network.

Attacks on the network: There are many possible vulnerabilities to a network. In addition, experienced hackers understand how to search for weak passwords and other weaknesses as well as outdated operating systems and applications or old antivirus software. They can tunnel through these vulnerabilities to steal data directly from your network. Once they have achieved their objective, your network will need a complete overhaul.

Common types of network security attacks

Network security attacks are so severe that 60 percent of small businesses shut down six months after a serious data loss. As a result, it is crucial to deploy data network security. Fortunately, with the right vendor, you don’t have to do this alone.

Denial of Service (DoS) attack: A DoS attack occurs when cyber criminals overwhelm your network with so much traffic that your website and services are prevented from function. This is also called network flooding. Moreover, hackers can use bots to attack numerous points to jam your traffic. DoS attacks don’t always steal data, but they debilitate your digital business operations.

Malware: Threat actors can plant malicious software onto your network to cause significant issues. They can do so via social media, email, SMS, or by exploiting other weaknesses. Typically, unaware employees will click a link or download a file infected with malware.

You might not even be aware that malware is currently on your system and executing the following activities:

  • Extracting data
  • Monitoring your computers, search history, and keystrokes
  • Managing device’s camera or microphone
  • Manipulating your hardware

Session hijacking: When you use the Internet, your browsing and search are called unique session IDs. These session IDs will relay to servers where you send requests. Those servers send a response to your device so you can continue your online activities. Session hijacking unmasks the ID linking your device to a nearby server. So, cyber criminals can pretend to be your computer or mobile device to steal search information and access data on other servers.

Brute force attacks: Other forms of network attacks may act anonymously. On the other hand, a brute-force attack happens when cyber criminals simply keep trying to figure out your password through trial-and-error. Many use specific software that will automatically attempt thousands of password combinations in an hour making it easier to accomplish a hack more quickly.

Phishing: Phishing is used to obtain critical data such as social security numbers, bank account numbers, medical records, network passwords and more. Phishing is often successful because it employs a human touch as needed. Phishers will send messages that seem sincere, authentic, and from a trusted source. They often design their emails to look like services you use or as if they are coming from a colleague or boss. Then, the cyber criminal can plan malware onto your computer and network.

What types of data gets hacked?

If data is the new currency, then it makes sense why network attacks are surging. The type of data is the incentive for what a cyber criminal will target. Different sources provide various types of information. Some examples include:

  1. Timehop suffered a network intrusion on July 4, 2018 for two hours that comprised the records of 21 million users.
  2. Reddit was hacked in June 2018, and cyber criminals were able to infiltrate an old database with user information.
  3. In June 2018, Dixons Carphone was hacked and it is estimated 5.9 million debit card records were accessed. These cards also had chip-and-PIN protection.
  4. In July 2017, Equifax suffered a major data breach that affected 143 million customers in the U.S. -- almost half the entire population. Further, 400,000 U.K. consumers were exposed. Records accessed included social security numbers, addresses, and birth dates.
  5. In July 2014, Target’s point-of-sale (PoS) machines were hacked and 40 million payment cards were exposed. Cyber criminals also stole names, banking data, and PINs.
  6. In July 2018, 1.5 million patient records from SingHealth were breached.
  7. In April 2015, hackers breached 18 million federal employee training details, job assignments, and social security numbers from the U.S. OPM.
  8. In October 2016, Deloitte’s confidential emails about its blue-chip clients were hacked.
  9. In October 2014, 76 million household and 7 million small business customers of JP Morgan Chase had their personal records compromised by hackers.
  10. In March 2014, 300,000 faculty, staff, and student records were compromised at the University of Maryland.

As you can see, every institution and every industry is at risk. Why do hackers want these types of records? Well, because they can make money by selling identities, replicating credit cards, and even using blackmail.

How does network security work?

The two main processes for data network security are: Authentication and authorization. Authentication checks a user’s identity before access is given.

A network can verify the user with three methods:

1FA: Username and password for log in to the network.

2FA: Username, password, and one other item a user may possess such as a code or digital token for additional verification.

3FA: 2FA and biometric or retinal scanning.

Once the network verifies the identity, the user logs in. Authorization then determines the level of access based on network policies.

If the user’s identity is verified, they can log into the system. The level of access is determined by authorization. Both authentication and authorization work for granting more secure access, but they do not monitor network traffic for exploits. Only network security IT including firewalls, network monitoring, behavioral analytics, intrusion prevention systems (IPS), and other tools can help to mitigate a network attack.

Three types of network security controls

Technical network security: Protection for network data and systems both stored and in-transit.

Administrative network security: Policies and processes that monitor end-user behavior are classified as administrative security controls.

Physical network security: Use of dedicated servers, locks, security cameras, guards, fences, and cabling cupboards, are all examples of physical network security. They are designed to physically prevent unauthorized intruders from accessing the network. However, these types of protocols should be combined with digital tools. Additionally, physical network security can prevent the theft of physical hardware such as servers, laptops, and mobile devices to stop data theft.

Different types of network security

Data network security vendors use layered techniques and protocols to ensure network safety. Below, we have listed some of the different types of network security:

  1. Anti-virus and anti-malware software: The intent is to detect, mitigate, and remove viruses and malware from entering a network.
  2. Application security: Exploitable weaknesses are stopped in their tracks via updates, testing features, and removing any issues with compatibility.
  3. Mobile device security: Data stored on mobile devices and wearables is protected.
  4. Network monitoring and detection systems: Network traffic is consistently monitored and suspicious activity is addressed.
  5. Virtual Private Networks (VPN): Remote employees can access the network more securely with VPNs.
  6. Data loss prevention (DLP): Unauthorized data flows are prevented via data loss prevention tools.
  7. Firewall: Firewalls protect internal networks from external threats and dangerous content.
  8. Web security: Removal of web-based threats via proactive monitoring and detection.
  9. Email security: Protect inboxes from spam, malware, and phishing.
  10. Endpoint security: All endpoints receive security so they are not exploited by threat actors or malicious software and bots.

Invariably, network security vendors use a wide range of technologies and strategies. Without the right expertise, poor integrations between network security components can increase vulnerabilities and weaknesses.

Why is network security so important?

When the network is secure, an organization can offer their products and services consistently without interruption. Network security is so important because it is the first line of defense against a data breach and helps to prevent the following:

  1. Vulnerability exploits: Targets on weak points, applications, or devices to access the network.
  2. Malware: Malware and ransomware is used to replicate through a network and also demand a ransom to unlock encrypted data.
  3. Advanced Persistent Threats (APT): When a network is already compromised, hackers can execute an APT attack.
  4. Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS): Overwhelm a network with traffic to slow down or deny services.
  5. Insider attacks: When an employee intentionally accesses the network to extract data.

Network security facilitates the ability to:

  • Maintain regulatory compliance
  • Improve device longevity.
  • Enhance network performance and reliability.
  • Decrease overall costs.
  • Increase trust with business partners and end-users.
  • Prevent expensive downtime.

Don’t underestimate the importance of network security. The increasing use of digital devices and networks also increases the threat surface. Every 30 seconds, customers spend $1.2 million shopping online. A breach will incur significant financial losses and damaging outcomes for compromised consumer records. Network security can help to mitigate cyber crime and weaknesses associated with employee lack of awareness.

Network security customized for your organization

Prioritize data network security if your organization already works with networked data and systems. Protect your data integrity and online assets from external threats. Deploy network security to manage your network traffic, improve performance, and ensure safe data sharing between team members.

While there are many tools and platforms that can help to protect your network, it can be overwhelming to figure out which ones to use, how to configure your infrastructure, and how to maintain its efficacy at all times.

SSI offers a suite of network security IT solutions that simplify and centralize complex processes to provide comprehensive and robust network security across your organization.

Get a network security quote from an SSI expert here.