When it comes to network security issues, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Waiting for a threat to strike before taking action puts your business at increased risk of data loss, disruption, and even dissolution. According to data cited by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), “60 percent of small firms go out of business within six months of a data breach.”
Even larger businesses aren’t immune to the aftereffects of network security problems, as breaches can result in tens or hundreds of millions of dollars in lost profits and out-of-pocket expenses to recover from a data security breach. Rather than taking a “wait and see” approach, it’s usually better to proactively take measures to resolve issues with network security before they take a bite out of your business.
So, how can you prevent network security issues? Here are a few preventative network security measures you can take to avoid network issues (or, at least, limit their severity):
1) Proactively Identify Out-of-Date Software and Patch it
Many cyber attacks attempt to exploit some well-known security bug or flaw in a software program. Software developers, in turn, continuously release new patches and updates to their software programs to close off these vulnerabilities.
However, despite the easy availability of free security patches, many businesses fail to apply them. Instead, they continue using the unpatched version of the software program because it’s easier to use as-is than it is to take the software down for a bit and update it. Or, they may not even be aware that the patch is available and needs to be applied because they don’t have an accurate inventory of all the software they use on their business network (let alone a map of their network infrastructure).
This is where a security policy audit and assessment can prove to be important. By running such an assessment, you can create a map of what’s on your network, inventory all of the software programs on there, and whether those programs are up to date with their security patches. This can be invaluable for proactively addressing network security concerns—closing vulnerabilities before they can be exploited.
2) Identify Your Biggest Network Security Problems
When you’re running your network security audit/assessment, be sure to consider just how important each risk factor is to your business. For example, how much money would your business lose if it lost all of its data on one server/database? This figure should take into account:
- The cost of restoring the data (if possible);
- Potential lost bill collections;
- Fees for missing accounts payable due dates;
- Lost business transactions; and
- Reduced productivity while returning the business to normal operation.
Assessing all of the risks your business faces from various security threats is important for creating a structured response. Once you know what all of your risks are and how much of an impact each one could have, you can start prioritizing those risks in order from the most impactful and easiest to fix down to the least impactful and most troublesome to fix.
3) Follow a Policy of Least Privilege for User Access
Here’s a not-so-fun fact: According to data cited by the Harvard Business Review, “60% of all attacks were carried out by insiders. Of these attacks, three-quarters involved malicious intent.” In other words, more than half of all cybersecurity threats will originate from your own employees.
Whether they’re abusing their access privileges intentionally or are unwittingly exposing your business to risk, your employees are one of the biggest network security concerns you face. However, there is a solution to this threat: using a policy of least privilege for user access.
Under this policy, you restrict the network access of each individual user account to the bare minimum they need to perform their core job function—after all, there’s no need for every frontline cashier in an organization to have unfettered access to every customer’s billing information.
By limiting user access to the bare minimum required to do their job, you can ensure that—if that access is ever abused—the damage done is kept to a minimum as well.
4) Check for and Create Redundancy Within the Network
In disaster recovery (DR) and business continuity (BC), there is a concept known as the “single point of failure.” This is the term for any asset that, if that asset was to fail, the network would not be able to continue functioning. It can be almost anything on the network, a single database, traffic routing device, access point, server, etc.
When you create a diagram of your network, you can check to see whether you have sufficient redundant systems to pick up the proverbial slack if a network component fails. When evaluating your business continuity solutions, be sure to check:
- Recovery Point Objectives (RPOs). When data is backed up, how recent is the backup? More frequent backups minimize data loss and the associated disruption to your business.
- Recovery Time Objectives (RTOs). When you need to deploy a redundant resource, how long does it take to restore normal function for your network? This will vary depending on the asset being replaced and the nature of the disruption, but shorter RTOs are generally better.
- Solution Reliability. Frequent testing is needed to ensure that a business continuity solution can reliably meet or exceed its recovery point and time objectives. After a database explodes is not the ideal time to find out that your backup doesn’t work.
Having redundancy in place helps you protect your network from issues such as attacks that target common single points of failure in a network. Even better, having a business continuity plan in place can help you minimize downtime in the event of a disaster—thus minimizing its impact on your business.
5) Segmenting Your Network with Strong Internal Security Layers
Another way to limit the impact of a network security issue is to use network segmentation. This is a “defense-in-depth” strategy that divides a large computer network into smaller subnetworks that are each isolated from one another using internal firewalls and other security measures.
By isolating each subnetwork, you can make it harder for attackers—even ones within your own organization—to break out of one system and into the rest of the network. Instead of just having to bypass one set of perimeter defenses, they’ll have to find a way past each individual subnetwork’s defenses. This slows down attackers and makes it easier for your IT security team to spot and neutralize a breach before too much damage is done.
Yet, as noted in a CIO article, “although virtually all information technology professionals believe network segmentation is an essential security measure, less than one-quarter of organizations actually implement it.”
While implementing strong network segmentation can be challenging and time-consuming, it is often well worth the effort to blunt future attacks before they can happen.
Have any questions about network security threats and solutions? Or, need help tackling a particular network security problem? Contact the experts at Compuquip Cybersecurity for more information about network security issues and solutions.