Specialist Network Security Management
The Importance of Network Security
Today, information is not just information. Data stored on a computer could be anything from an English essay to financial information to a password that opens the digital lock on your bank account.
Unfortunately, that makes your information valuable to people who want what you’ve got. Sometimes these people are hackers trying to steal from you. Sometimes they are vandals who gain nothing but the satisfaction of frustrating you. Others may be disgruntled employees in search of revenge or personal gain.
Whatever the case, your network security is vitally important to making sure that your valuable information – and everything it stands for – remains private to your organisation.
The Secret to Network Security
There’s one secret everyone should know about network security: you can never make a network truly secure. That might seem like an admission of guilt on the part of IT. In fact, the dynamic nature of IT, the evolution of new technologies, and the inventiveness of the criminal mind to find ways into any system, ensures that there will always be a security hole that a knowledgeable hacker can exploit to gain access.
The recent HeartBleed Bug suddenly appeared on the scene because every piece of encrypted data has to be decrypted in memory to be used. An astute hacker found a way to get in and read that in-memory data, opening the security protocol that runs the Internet to unrestricted inspection. Once discovered, a fix was quickly rolled out to the public. But that doesn’t mean that another one won’t be found in the future, beyond the POODLE, FreakOut, LogJam and others.
So the first rule of network security is to remain vigilant. Never assume that because you’ve plugged all the visible holes that new ones won’t appear. It just takes someone with a keen mind, the right motivation, and enough time on their hands.
General Network Security Measures
Detailed Risk Assessment
It’s important to carry out a detailed risk assessment to determine the degree of protection required. In addition, countermeasures should be determined whose cost and complexity is consistent with the value of the data under protection. An experienced network security consultant should be engaged to make sure that such an assessment meets the criteria of internationally recognised standards.
Network Policy Development
With the risk assessment as a foundation, a set of network security policies must be devised. This includes business rules and standards for both physical and digital security. Backup storage, user management, security administration procedures, data access rules, segregation of duties, computer asset management and more should be decided, documented and instituted. In addition, the staff’s security posture, response and interaction with soft attacks (such as social engineering) needs particular focus.
An initial network security audit should be carried out immediately, with regular audits to follow. The frequency of the audits should be scheduled and adhered to. This determines the baseline for current security and the gap that must be closed when compared to the risk assessment.
One of the basic foundations of network security is encryption, especially with Internet having become a standard tool for everyday business communications. But encryption is not simply a matter of scrambling data on one side of a network and unscrambling it on the other. In fact, it can be a fairly complex process. Make sure you get a network security expert to explain your options for getting it right.
Some network security studies estimate that a large percentage of attacks come from inside a company. Another states that at any time, 10% of your employees are trying to find ways to commit fraud. If these estimates are true, it makes sense to limit what employees can do on a network. Physical controls, such as biometric access to restricted areas, and digital controls, such as diligent management of users, authorisation and access control lists, are basic but often overlooked.
Monitoring network traffic and event logs can reveal suspicious activity patterns, such as persistent failed logins from a specific network connection or financial transactions that don’t follow the correct approval protocol. By being aware of such events, organisations can take swift action to minimise damage.
Total Network Security
As stated, a network can never be completely secure. So continuous monitoring and management is called for to prevent potential attacks. However, the complexity of the field requires that professional security consultants provide input and assist a company in protecting their biggest asset – their information.