Network Security

Take steps to secure your network – on-prem or in the cloud.

Cloud Risk Complete

What is Network Security? 

Network security is the process of protecting a business’ digital landscape from threats by building a security framework into and around its various on-prem and cloud environments. Network protection security tools are designed to continuously scan infrastructure for vulnerabilities and signs of a breach.

The ephemeral nature of the connected systems that make up an organization's network means it is a constantly shifting mass of potentially vulnerable virtual and cloud devices. This can make the job of intrusion detection and response systems (IDPS) incredibly difficult. But, today’s cybersecurity solutions are well matched to the task.

What is the Main Purpose of Network Security? 

The main purpose of network security solutions is to reduce the risks posed to an IT infrastructure. This mission becomes particularly critical as today’s disseminated workforces are further stretching the need for security of transnational networks that connect those workers.

The pandemic supercharged adoption of remote work and accelerated the need for cloud adoption as workers moved around the world and abandoned offices. Thus, network security’s reason for existing didn’t necessarily change so much as its scope suddenly became much bigger than it had ever been.

Critical – and many times confidential – data that was safely contained in an on-prem environment now had to be flung out into the world for workers to remotely access, thus cloud network security quickly became the hottest topic in the tech world in 2020. Even with the return to normalization that 2024 brings, the now-epic scope of network security remains.

How Do You Secure a Network? 

You secure a network by first determining exactly what kinds of systems and environments you need to protect and defend. According to the United States Cybersecuriy and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), “securing a network involves continuous monitoring, assessments, and mitigation across various interrelated components, including servers, the cloud, Internet of Things (IoT), internet connections and the many physical assets used to access networks.”

The agency goes on to say that the devices that make up network infrastructure “are ideal targets for malicious cyber actors because more or all organizational and customer traffic must pass through them.”

At a very high-level, securing those infrastructure devices means the same thing to everyone looking to achieve network security. Operationally, though, the process will look markedly different for each security operations center (SOC). Let’s take a look at a few of the more general steps SOCs can take to begin working toward a stronger network security posture:

  • Review active directory groups: Make life hard for attackers by reviewing active directory group memberships and permissions to ensure users are granted access to the minimum set of assets required to do their jobs. Ideally, even your most privileged users should have regular accounts that they use for the majority of their jobs, logging into administrator accounts only when it’s absolutely necessary to complete a task.
  • Enable multi-factor authentication (MFA): Implementing identity and access management (IAM) protocols like MFA for all systems means requiring an additional piece of information in combination with a username and password. An example would be logging into an online banking portal, and having a code sent to your mobile device to then enter into the banking portal to ensure identity. Additional tokens, specific device requirements, and biometrics are all examples of MFA.
  • Practice good posture: There are numerous attack surface profiling tools and services that provide an attacker's-eye view of what an organization is exposing as well as help to identify any problematic services and configurations. 

Types of Network Security

As it is typically understood that network security can encompass many methods of network-perimeter defense, let's take a look at several of the more regularly SOC-adopted solutions. 

Network Access Control (NAC)

NAC is the process of leveraging security protocols to maximize control over who or what can access a proprietary network. If network security services and practices – in particular data loss prevention (DLP) – are particularly weak in any given area, it’s highly likely a threat actor will be able to find their way in and maliciously exfiltrate previously secure data.

Security Information and Event Management (SIEM)

A SIEM is a type of solution that detects security issues by centralizing, correlating, and analyzing data across an IT network. A SIEM solution can help companies meet compliance needs and contain attackers by combining log management and centralization as well as detection and search capabilities.

Zero Trust Security Model

The zero trust security model is a powerful authentication framework that inherently distrusts every human, endpoint, mobile device, server, network component, network connection, application workload, and business process. Each process or person must be authenticated and authorized continuously as every action is performed.

Web Application Firewall (WAF)

A WAF helps protect a company’s web applications by inspecting and filtering traffic between each web application and its interactions with the internet. A WAF can help defend web applications from attacks like cross-site-scripting (XSS) and structured query language (SQL) injection. Common useful applications include e-commerce platforms leveraging WAFs to prevent data theft and fraud.

Security Awareness Training

Humans – also known as employees – are not typically thought of as part of an IT organization’s attack surface. However, a good percentage of exploitable vulnerabilities are the result of human error. It’s a good idea to have internal workforces regularly engage with security awareness training programs so they can stay updated on how to defend themselves and the organization against threats – even if they’re not part of the IT or security teams.

Benefits of Network Security

The macro benefits of network security are fairly obvious: Keep attackers out and plug critical vulnerabilities in a timely manner so they can't be exploited. Let's now take a look at a few of the less obvious benefits of a robust network security program: 

  • Access control: IAM policies enable superior authentication practices so that anyone – or any application/system – wishing to access an enterprise network must provide extensive information to be admitted. Network traffic analysis (NTA) is a technology useful in monitoring network activity for anomalies and helping to improve internal visibility and eliminate blind spots.
  • Compliance: In today's strict global regulatory environment, it’s critical to ensure the security of an organization’s network meets state, federal, or territory-specific compliance requirements. A network security program can help ensure adherence to specific compliance needs.
  • Visibility: Maintaining maximum visibility over an enterprise network helps ensure a stronger and more consistent security posture, which means less surprise vulnerabilities, breaches, attacks, and malicious data exfiltration – all leading to money saved.
  • Risk mitigation: Even if a breach does occur, the right network security solution will be able to help a security organization minimize the impact of that breach. Network detection and response (NDR) capabilities help to cut down on risk by creating baseline network behavior so that it becomes fairly obvious when anomalous activity occurs.
  • Data protection: Any enterprise network will likely want to maintain confidentiality of large amounts of non-customer-facing data. A network security program can help protect confidential data by several of the methods listed above. Keeping the right data behind closed doors also helps organizations adhere to more strict regulations like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

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