Network security refers to the deployment of the procedures, components, and technologies that can protect networks from cyber-attacks. Malware, adware, spyware, virus, worms, Trojans, phishing, and DoS attack are some of the ways an attacker use to gain unauthorized access, misuse the network resources, manipulate network data, or halt the services or availability of resources. Network security policies and strategies address these attacks ensuring smooth network operations. This article covers the best security practices that can help organizations in achieving advanced network security.
A network can be divided into the physical, technical, and administrative layers. The physical layer consists of physical components and hardware that constitutes the network infrastructure. The technical layer consists of all the configurations and technical aspects of the network. Administrative layer aids in managing the physical and technical layer elements. None of these layers are static in nature. As the IT industry evolves, these layers incorporate new changes to meet the industry requirements. On the other hand threat vectors also change with the advancement in technology. Cyber-criminals look for new exploits to attack the networks. Following is a brief overview of some important measures that can help security professionals achieving advanced network security goals.
1) Analyze Traffic Regardless of Source
Traffic analysis is a complex job in today’s threat environment. Attackers use different techniques to hide their origin. The use of virtual machines and resources like Cloud technology has made the incoming traffic analysis a more complex task. The security analysts can no longer depend on the trace-route information of the systems used in a cyber-attack. More advanced techniques are required to analyze the network traffic regardless of their source or destination in a network.
2) Identify Encrypted Malware
Data encryption is a widely used technique in Information security. Data is encrypted to ensure the confidentiality and integrity of information. Different symmetric and asymmetric techniques are used to encrypt data. Encrypted data has no meaningful structure (format). An attacker can inject the malware in encrypted data while it is in transit. It is almost impossible to differentiate between the encrypted data and malware codes with a naked eye. Network tools must be able to filter out the malicious codes from an encrypted communication.
3) Hunt the APTs
Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs) are a serious threat to any network. These APTs can wait for months before they really start probing the network resources. Besides preventing new APTs to penetrate the network, steps must be taken to trace the threats that have already bypassed the security checks and became part of the network.
4) Segment the Assets
Segregation of duties is a well-known approach used in security. Segmentation of assets, however, is often ignored. In cyber-security, data is the most valuable asset. However, not all data is equally important. Treating all the data with a single approach not only requires extra effort but also extra resources. Therefore, data must be segmented in order to utilize more efforts and resources on important data.
5) Enhance Access Control System
Access control decides who has access to the network and what are the privileges associated with each account. Access Control Lists (ACLs) are formed to list the employees and their rights against specific network resources. Weak access control list (ACL) may allow an authorized user to access the prohibited (sensitive) data or network resources. Strong ACLs should be in place to discourage employees from unauthorized access to information and network resources. A revocation list must be maintained that should inform network administrators to limit the user access to the network resources in case the user is no more part of the network. Remote access to network resources and data should also be limited or allowed under strict security policy.
6) Apply the Principle of Least Privilege
ACLs only restrict users from unauthorized access. Giving more rights to a user than required sometimes create internal security risks for a network. Either a disgruntled user can misuse the extra privileges or compromised accounts with more access rights make the hacker’s job easier. Therefore, the principle of least privilege must be deployed to limit user rights to the tasks he is hired for, especially in the case of third party applications. Many third-party applications deployed in the network can provide unauthorized access to the attackers.
7) Get Out of BYOD Dilemma
Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) sounds catchy but it can be a dilemma for organizations. Different organizations encourage employees to bring their own devices to connect with the network. However, it can easily convert into BYOR (Bring Your Own Risk) than BYOD. Personal devices may not have all the required security measures that are necessary before processing sensitive data. A compromised personal device can provide attackers a path to penetrate the network and compromise the whole network. Organizations should have strong BYOD usage terms that should support network security.
8) Implement Strong Security Policy
Security policy acts as guidance for organizations. Organizations can make critical security-related decisions on the bases of documented policies. Without a security policy, security experts may respond to security threats according to their own skills, knowledge, and assessment. Each security expert may have his own approach towards the deployment of security measures. In fact, the security strategy may revolve around a specific person in the absence of a security policy. A strong security policy helps organizations in deploying security measures or responding to cyber-threats in a more organized way.
9) Keep Your Defense System Updated
In Cybersecurity, what we consider the best today may not work tomorrow! Hackers are becoming more advanced with every passing day. They can break into the network systems that were considered safe by the security analysts. Therefore, it is always wise to update the deployed software and upgrade the defense system according to the changing security needs.
10) Spread the Awareness
None of the above-mentioned solutions are effective without awareness. Only a trained employee can differentiate between a work email and a phishing attack. An employee without any knowledge of social engineering can easily leak important business information to the attackers. Therefore, awareness sessions (employee training) should be arranged to make people aware of different cyber-threats.