Network security is a broad term that covers a multitude of technologies, devices, and processes. In its simplest term, it is a set of rules and configurations designed to protect the integrity, confidentiality, and accessibility of computer networks and data using both software and hardware technologies. Every organization, regardless of size, industry or infrastructure, requires a degree of network security solutions in place to protect it from the ever-growing landscape of cyber threats in the wild today.
Today’s network architecture is complex and is faced with a threat environment that is always changing and attackers that are always trying to find and exploit vulnerabilities. These vulnerabilities can exist in a broad number of areas, including devices, data, applications, users and locations. For this reason, there are many network security management tools and applications in use today that address individual threats and exploits and also regulatory non-compliance. When just a few minutes of downtime can cause widespread disruption and massive damage to an organization’s bottom line and reputation, it is essential that these protection measures are in place.
How Does Network Security Work?
There are many layers to consider when addressing network security across an organization. Attacks can happen at any layer in the network security layers model, so your network security hardware, software and policies must be designed to address each area.
Network security typically consists of three different controls: physical, technical and administrative. Here is a brief description of the different types of network security and how each control works.
Physical Network Security
Physical security controls are designed to prevent unauthorized personnel from gaining physical access to network components such as routers, cabling cupboards and so on. Controlled access, such as locks, biometric authentication, and other devices, is essential in any organization.
Technical Network Security
Technical security controls protect data that is stored on the network or which is in transit across, into or out of the network. Protection is twofold; it needs to protect data and systems from unauthorized personnel, and it also needs to protect against malicious activities from employees.
Administrative Network Security
Administrative security controls consist of security policies and processes that control user behavior, including how users are authenticated, their level of access and also how IT staff members implement changes to the infrastructure.
Types of Network Security
We have talked about the different types of network security controls. Now let’s take a look at some of the different ways you can secure your network.
Network Access Control
To ensure that potential attackers cannot infiltrate your network, comprehensive access control policies need to be in place for both users and devices. Network access control (NAC) can be set at the most granular level. For example, you could grant administrators full access to the network but deny access to specific confidential folders or prevent their personal devices from joining the network.
Antivirus and Antimalware Software
Antivirus and antimalware software protect an organization from a range of malicious software, including viruses, ransomware, worms, and trojans. The best software not only scans files upon entry to the network but continuously scans and tracks files.
Firewalls, as their name suggests, act as a barrier between the untrusted external networks and your trusted internal network. Administrators typically configure a set of defined rules that blocks or permits traffic onto the network.
Virtual Private Networks
Virtual private networks (VPNs) create a connection to the network from another endpoint or site. For example, users working from home would typically connect to the organization’s network over a VPN. Data between the two points is encrypted and the user would need to authenticate to allow communication between their device and the network.
Network Security for Businesses and Consumers
Network security should be a high priority for any organization that works with networked data and systems. In addition to protecting assets and the integrity of data from external exploits, network security can also manage network traffic more efficiently, enhance network performance and ensure secure data sharing between employees and data sources.
There are many tools, applications and utilities available that can help you to secure your networks from attack and unnecessary downtime.