Network security is a major concern for modern businesses. Even without the various regulatory concerns surrounding the management of stored data, the mere fact that there are literally hundreds of new threats unleashed against businesses worldwide every minute demands the utmost caution.
While no amount of security will ever provide 100% protection against the loss or theft of data, businesses can reduce the impact of attacks on their network by following a few simple tips regarding their network infrastructure’s setup, maintenance, and management. A few of these tips include:
1) Audit Your Network Infrastructure Periodically
Every now and again, it’s important to thoroughly audit your business’ network architecture to make sure that you know exactly what assets are on your network and what kind of software/operating systems they’re running.
Why is this important? And, why should it be done periodically?
The answer to the first question is that it is almost impossible to create a comprehensive network protection strategy if you don’t know what assets are on the network in the first place. Unknown assets on your network infrastructure pose a grave danger in one way or another because they’re elements that your cybersecurity strategy cannot account for.
As for why audits should be done periodically, that is because your business may add new assets to its network architecture from time to time. Until these assets are audited and accounted for in your cybersecurity strategy, they can serve as weak points that attackers could use to breach your network.
Even if you carefully catalog new assets as they’re added, it’s all too easy for something to be missed. So, taking the time to audit your network once in a while (such as once a year or, for businesses that change IT assets more frequently, once a quarter) is important for protecting your network.
2) Never Rely on Just Perimeter Defenses
Protecting your network from attack requires far more than just having a perimeter firewall at the point of connection between your network and the rest of the world. While such firewalls are crucial for filtering out the majority of outside attacks, they do nothing to stop insider threats.
Malicious actors have too many ways of bypassing your perimeter defenses, including:
- Tricking Employees into Downloading Malware (Phishing). Many attackers use strategies, such as phishing, to trick your employees into downloading malware files or clicking on links to malware-rich sites. Once there, the malware can use the employee’s compromised asset to spread throughout your network—without ever triggering your perimeter firewall protections.
- Employees Misusing Account Privileges. Aside from the accidental download of malicious software, employees can actively abuse their user account privileges to cause harm and steal data.
- IP Spoofing. Some attacks use IP spoofing to disguise malicious data packets as perfectly normal ones to bypass a firewall. This kind of spoofing usually only works on less sophisticated firewalls that lack deep packet inspection.
- Smuggling Physical Hardware into Your Network. USB drives, IoT devices, new computer terminals, smartphones—the list of devices that could be malware compromised and then smuggled into your physical business location is endless. The thing is, this “smuggling” could be carried out by a completely unwitting employee. If they have a USB drive they use at home that then downloads some malware, then hook that drive into a work computer for some reason, the malware can be easily transferred to your network.
These are just a few of the different kinds of strategies and techniques attackers can use to bypass your perimeter network security.
One of the best counters to these perimeter-bypassing attacks is to use a defense-in-depth approach to network security that features strong network segmentation. This will help to at least slow down the progress of an attack that makes it past your perimeter—buying your network security team time to stop the attack.
3) Set Network Use Policies with Your Employees
Considering that your employees represent one of the single biggest points of failure for your network security strategy, it’s important to make sure that you minimize the risk of accidental or intentional misuse of employee access privileges on your network. This typically means creating some network use policies for your employees and restricting their access to the network to the minimum needed to perform their job functions.
Network use policies can include things like restricting which websites employees can access from a workstation, guidelines for bring your own device (BYOD) policies, and other guidelines that help to prevent employees from accidentally compromising your system. While not explicitly a part of your network architecture, these policies can go a long way towards preventing accidental insider cybersecurity incidents.
Additionally, having an internal policy of least privilege—one where user access is restricted to the absolute minimum necessary to complete work—is a good way to limit the impact of both accidental and intentional misuse of employee user accounts on your network.
4) Patch Your Software Regularly
Modern software programs are unbelievably complex and may interact with one another in unpredictable ways. These random software glitches and errors can create enormous vulnerabilities on your network.
Every day, malicious actors, software developers, and security companies scrutinize countless software programs to look for vulnerabilities. When malicious actors discover a new vulnerability, they’ll exploit it to cause damage or steal sensitive information.
After a vulnerability in a piece of software becomes known to the software developer (either because they’ve seen attacks carried out using the vulnerability or because a security company reported it), they’ll typically create a patch to address the problem so attackers can’t exploit it anymore. These security patches are a vital part of preventing an attack from succeeding.
However, many businesses fail to apply necessary security patches to their software regularly—sometimes falling victim to years-old exploits because they were never patched. To avoid falling victim to years-old tactics that already have a known fix, it’s vital for companies to frequently check for available security patches for all of the software on their networks.
How frequently? Ideally, these checks would be done once a week—more if you have the resources to handle such frequent checks. This way, you can ensure that you’re protected against the latest threats.
Will the Above Stop Every Attack?
Sadly, no amount of security and preparation can guarantee complete safety from cyberattacks on your network. If there’s a way to get at the data legitimately, then there’s a way for an attacker who is skilled, resourceful, and/or determined enough to access it illicitly.
However, applying some basic network architecture security measures can do wonders to minimize the risks that you face from unknown attackers.
Since there’s no way to completely stop every attack, you’ll need to consider how to respond to a security breach as well. Create an incident response plan that assigns roles and responsibilities to all of your employees so they know what to do to help identify, contain, and eliminate the breach quickly to minimize the damage caused.
If you need help with planning out your network security architecture, or just want some advice, please feel free to contact us! Compuquip Cybersecurity is here to help businesses improve their cybersecurity posture and minimize risks. Or, you can also sign up for a free network security checkup at the link below: