What is Network Security?
Network security by definition is the processes and procedures deployed to protect network infrastructure from malicious intent. Irrelevant of an organisation’s geographical location or size, networks have vulnerabilities that need to be protected. Often a trade-off exists between maintaining network security and retaining business productivity.
Hackers can passively eavesdrop and steal passwords if unencrypted (clear text) information is sent across an organisation’s network. Often attackers will masquerade as a device by creating a ‘man-in-the-middle’ to intercept traffic to amend information before it arrives with the recipient. By exploiting vulnerable protocols and access rights, criminals can move around your organisation for long periods of time without being identified, creating backdoors (high level root access) which enables them to keep re-visiting without a trace.
DDoS attacks, also popular, take down an entire network by flooding unauthorised packets of data into a network, preventing legitimate requests passing to the recipient, and as such, a large back log is created, crashing systems. It is reported that these style attacks usually go hand-in-hand with other methods.
Why is Network Security Important?
Network attacks are on the rise due to an increased number of devices being used per employee (mobile phone, laptop and desktop PC), increased IoT devices and a mobile workforce, including more employees working remotely.
- According to CSO online, attacks on IoT devices tripled in the first half of 2019.
- According to ZDnet’s security update (April 2020), “Almost one in five – 18% – of incidents in 2019 involved ransomware attacks”. Although, the majority (98%) of malware and ransomware payloads are delivered via employees clicking a malicious link; Once a network is compromised, payloads can be left without a trace and activated at a time which suits a hacker. ZDnet reported for the first time in history that this style of attack has pipped payment card and financial breaches.
- Organisations have a responsibility to protect an organisation’s personal data. It is now law to action and take steps towards protecting data. Under the Notifiable Data Breach Act 2018, organisations are required to notify affected individuals and the Australian Information Commissioner if a data breach occurs. There are significant fines for non-compliance.
- Gaining access to network infrastructure can cause significant disruption to an organisation. If a hacker is able to re-configure network devices, intercept traffic, modify or steal data, they have ultimate control of an organisation’s network. The consequences go beyond data loss, and can include revenue, reputation and IP loss. Not to mention the associated legal fees, PR agency fees and potential fines.
Positively, we are seeing moves to improve the security posture of organisations. There is greater capability available, which is affording organisations a higher degree of visibility over their network; enabling better protective measures to be applied.
How can you protect your network?
The good news is that networks are defendable. To acquire what the industry refers to as “Defence in Depth” organisations must move to automate, real time monitoring of their network.
IDENTIFY NETWORK USEAGE
Obtain continuous insight into who, what and when your network is being accessed and closely monitor the activity across your network.
ENFORCE NETWORK CONTROL
Develop IT security policies on device use and access. Enforce these expectations across all devices, including IoT devices and printers. Limit administration access to systems and apply multi-factor authentication where possible.
PROTECT YOUR NETWORK
Deploy real time threat detection and remediation that also extends to 3rd party systems which can include:
- Packet Filtering
- Closing unused internet facing ports
- Patch and update all infrastructure from routers and switches to servers, workstation, firmware and IOS.
- Applying AAA (Authorisation, Authentication and Accountability) for each privilege level of your router, switch and server to prevent unauthorised use. Consider scalability, redundancy and flexibility in this process.
- Change access point, routers and switch default password logins
- Network segmentation to separate access to sensitive information
PREPARE FOR THE WORST
Develop a unified response to incidents on the network. Have back-ups that are kept and are easily available in the event of an attack. Produce incident response plans and actions to implement for unforeseen circumstances.
Additionally, complete network cyber awareness training for all employees. Most employees are increasingly becoming aware about phishing scams, however knowledge about protecting networks is limited. Upskilling employees to understand network security becomes crucial when working remotely.
The first step to understanding your network vulnerability is to perform a Network Security Audit which will highlight the gaps, assess your network design and provide mitigation advice for your organisation.
NetWireless is a multi-disciplinary IT Network and management consultancy specialising in network design, deployment, security and managed services. Speak to our technical consultants today (CALL 1300 324 844) to ensure your infrastructure meets your needs. Working across Australia (Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra, Brisbane, Perth, Broom, Darwin, Hobart) and New Zealand (Christchurch, Wellington, Auckland, Queenstown).