Network Security 101 – Definition, Types, Threats, and More
Network Security Is a Multifaceted Process. Here’s Everything You Need to Know About It.
As society evolves more and more towards the dynamic workplace, the modern enterprise is faced with increased network security risks. How can you defend your company’s assets and perimeter, both online and offline? And, more importantly, what do you need to defend them against?
In this article, you will find the definition of network security, as well as its types and components. On top of that, you can read about the most common threats that an enterprise network has to face and learn more about how you can protect your assets against them. So, without further ado, let’s get into it.
What is Network Security?
Network security is a subset of information security concerned with the safeguarding of networks and programs in particular. Not only does it cover an organization’s IT infrastructure, but it handles any network-accessible resources as well. Common threats such as viruses, Trojans, worms, ransomware, or spyware fall under the jurisdiction of network security. Safety tools in this category include border routers, firewalls, VPNs, IPS, and IDS.
Types of Network Security
A holistic network security strategy consists of a combination of the three network security types: physical, technical, and administrative. In the following subsections, I will go over each one and its conventional components to better illustrate what such an approach entails.
Physical Network Security
Physical network security has been around for a long time and is one of the most common types of network security. The idea behind this particular category is to protect the tangible location where the network equipment is located. It is achieved by implementing non-digital measures like cameras, patrols, fences, keycard access, or guards.
Technical Network Security
Technical network security focuses on protecting the data and assets that are transmitted over a network within an organization. This category often employs encryption techniques and other digital means to detect unauthorized access or transmissions. The process includes firewalls, intrusion detection systems (IDS), intrusion prevention systems (IPS), virtual private networks (VPN), and more.
All of these components perform a form of network monitoring that is used to detect any unusual activity that could potentially lead to an attack on the system. For this reason, technical network security is perhaps the most relevant approach in the modern office.
Administrative Network Security
Administrative network security is the process of securing a network from unauthorized access, damage, or disruption. It includes defining administrative-level user accounts and passwords to control who can log in to the system and what they can do once they are logged in. The key difference between it and other types of network security is that it focuses on managing risk through policies, procedures, or processes rather than focusing on specific technologies or products.
How Network Security Works
Understanding how network security works starts with knowing what a network perimeter consists of. In the traditional sense of the word, it would refer to your office space and its adjacent systems. Still, in today’s highly dynamic professional environment, coming up with a universal definition of the online perimeter is almost impossible.
To put it bluntly, your company’s network perimeter is wherever your data is, and this notion is very flexible in the age of mobile devices. While this is undoubtedly a huge benefit the global workforce has in the 21st century, it also opens new gateways through which malicious third parties can strike.
Internal users access company resources from external devices. Your organization’s data is backed up in the cloud. Customer-facing services open a myriad of new vulnerabilities your standard defenses cannot control. These aspects and many others facilitate cyberattacks more than you’d think.
In the age of the flexible workplace, staying protected is essential. This is where network security comes in. By implementing a strong cybersecurity strategy centered around it and considering the three types presented in the section above, you are covering both your company’s physical network perimeter, as well as the one it has online.
5 Common Network Security Components
As we’ve already established in the previous sections, adopting a network security strategy is a multi-layered affair. In this section, I will discuss the five most common components of this approach you will find and need in the modern office.
Thus, below you can find more information about border routers, firewalls, VPN, IPS, and IDS. Keeping the three types discussed above in mind, all these five network security components pertain to the category of technical network security, which is perhaps the most important focus point when considering today’s dynamic workplace and the current cyber-threat landscape.
#1 Border Router
A border router is a network device that provides routing services, connecting two or more networks and passing data between them. It is the first point of contact for data packets entering or leaving an organization’s network. This means that if the border router is compromised, it can be used to launch attacks against other systems on the network.
The border router can be seen as a security guard that protects your network from unauthorized access, as it is the first layer of defense against cyber-threats. By updating the firmware of the device regularly, setting up an access control list on all interfaces, and implementing a packet filter on inbound and outbound traffic, you can make sure that this data checkpoint is as protected as it can be.
A firewall is a security system that monitors incoming and outgoing traffic, blocks unauthorized access, and protects the data stored on the network. This allows it to be more thorough than a simple border router, making it the next essential layer in your network security strategy.
A firewall typically operates at the network level, which means it will monitor all of the traffic that is coming in or going out of a given system. This includes internet traffic as well as data generated by your organization’s computers.
The firewall then decides if it should allow the traffic to pass through or not based on predefined rules, which are typically set by an administrator. These rules could include whether or not specific ports are open for certain kinds of traffic, what IP addresses are allowed to connect to computers inside the network, and more.
#3 Virtual Private Network (VPN)
A virtual private network (VPN) is a piece of software that creates a secure connection over a non-secure network. It is created by the combination of two technologies: a physical network and security protocols. The physical network, which can be either the internet or an intranet, provides connectivity to the VPN servers. Then, the security protocols provide privacy and data integrity between two endpoints of the connection.
A VPN client can create an encrypted tunnel with its corresponding server so that all data transmitted through it will be secure from eavesdropping or interception. This means that, even if employees are using a public or generally less secure Wi-Fi network, hackers cannot see what they are doing online because all of their data is coded.
#4 Intrusion Detection System (IDS)
An Intrusion Detection System (IDS) is a system that observes and analyzes the traffic going into or out of a computer network to detect and prevent malicious activity. It is your network’s alarm system and can be thought of as a firewall, but for all types of attacks instead of just network traffic.
An IDS screens your system for malicious activity, such as when an attacker tries to penetrate endpoints via the network by using a virus, worm, or Trojan horse program. Its capabilities include monitoring traffic on a single host, multiple hosts on the same network segment, or even all hosts on an entire network.
#5 Intrusion Prevention System (IPS)
An Intrusion Prevention System (IPS) is a security system that monitors the behavior of devices on a network. It can detect and block suspicious patterns to protect the network from unauthorized access, misuse, or damage. This is achieved by analyzing the data packets that are transferred across the network.
In addition to this, the IPS also monitors the operating system running on servers and computers on the network to identify malware programs and other threats. Since an IPS can’t block all intrusions, organizations need to have an intrusion detection system in place as well for additional protection.
Threats to Network Security
The integrity of your company’s network perimeter can be endangered by several malicious code attacks. In the sections below, you can find an overview of the most widely encountered threats to network security that enterprises are faced with.
A virus is a piece of malicious code that can attach to an executable file, such as a Word document or PDF, and spreads by copying itself to other files. Viruses are often used to steal personal information from the host machine. In addition to this, they can also be used for denial-of-service attacks or as a means to install spyware on a victim’s computer.
A Trojan is a type of malware that is disguised as a legitimate program. Named after the infamous Trojan horse used as a disguise by Greek soldiers in the ear, the Trojan virus can be sent to a user in an email, or it can be downloaded from the internet. Once installed on the user’s computer, the threat will infect the system and download other malicious files to further spread the infection.
Worms are another type of malicious code used to infect a device that copies itself over a network, spreading like wildfire. They are similar to viruses but differ in the fact that they do not need to attach themselves to other programs to spread. This malware is self-contained and does not require the help of another program to propagate itself. Due to this, it is often used for denial-of-service and distributed-denial-of-service attacks.
Spyware is a network security threat that installs itself on devices and collects sensitive information about the users that are active on them. It can be installed in several ways, such as through phishing emails, downloading software without paying attention to the permissions it requests, or visiting malicious websites. Once installed, spyware can record things like keystrokes, passwords, browsing history, and more. This type of malware is often used by cybercriminals to steal personal information and commit fraud.
Ransomware is a network security threat that blocks access to the files on your computer and demands a ransom to provide you with a key that will decrypt your files. A typical attack involving it takes place when an unsuspecting user clicks on a malicious link or opens an email attachment from an unknown sender. The malicious code then starts encrypting the user’s data and demanding a payout in exchange for the decryption key.
The amount asked for ransom usually depends on how much data the user wants to decrypt – for example, a malicious actor might ask $500 for 100 files and $1000 for 200 files. The most common form of payouts is Bitcoin, but other possibilities exist as well.
How to Enhance Your Network Security
Here is where Heimdal™ Threat Prevention Network comes in. Heimdal™ Threat Prevention Network is an innovative network security solution that eradicates threats efficiently with proprietary Network Prevention, Detection, and Response technology. Created to complement your firewalls, it blocks malicious requests to perimeter servers before they find a way in.
As the perimeter-level version of our DarkLayer Guard™ & VectorN Detection modules, Heimdal™ Threat Prevention Network filters incoming and outgoing DNS traffic, monitoring it for any unusual patterns. As a multi-tasking IPS/IDS and IOA/IOC add-on, it detects even hidden threats that other levels in your online perimeter security system aren’t able to recognize.
What makes Heimdal™ Threat Prevention Network a complete network cybersecurity solution is the fact that, besides traffic monitoring, it also stops the delivery of network APTs or malware to your systems. It is also efficient in protecting your enterprise against data leaks, a dire consequence of perimeter breaches.
To cover your workstations at every single point of access, I also strongly recommend using Heimdal™ Threat Prevention Network in tandem with our core offering of Heimdal™ Threat Prevention. It does the same thing for your endpoint DNS security as Heimdal™ Threat Prevention Network does for the perimeter’s DNS, which means that your data will be protected regardless of where it’s accessed from.
Heimdal™ Threat Prevention
Final Thoughts on Network Security
Your enterprise’s network perimeter is a flexible concept in the 21st century. It involves both a physical and a digital component, and you should not fail to appreciate the importance of protecting either one of them. For this reason, I will always recommend adopting a network security strategy that tackles both the endpoints and the actual office where the workstations are.
Do you have a network security protocol in place? Have you found any other successful approaches other than what I’ve mentioned above?
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