Network security is taking preventative measures to protect your networking infrastructure from unauthorized access, cyber-attacks, misuse, malfunction, modification, destruction, or improper disclosure. Regardless of the size of the business, industry, or infrastructure, network security is vital for protection against the evolving threats that exist.
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Why is Network Security Important?
Network security is important because it prevents cybercriminals from gaining access to your valuable data and sensitive information. Network Security is vital in protecting client data and information, keeping shared data secure, ensuring reliable access and network performance, and protection from cyber threats.
The following are three of the most important reasons why protecting networks and the data they hold is important:
- Operational Risks: Without adequate network security you risk major disruptions to your operations. Your network depends on devices and software that will not be able to operate effectively when compromised by viruses, malware, or cyber-attacks.
- Reputational Risks: Data breaches can be expensive for your business. If your business handles personally identifiable information (such as Social Security numbers and passwords) then you are required to keep that information safe.
- Regulatory Risks: Many governments require businesses to comply with certain data security regulations (covering aspects of network security). For example, medical organizations in the United States are required to comply with the regulations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Violations of these regulations can lead to fines, bans, and even jail time.
At its most fundamental level, securing your network involves two basic tenets: authentication and authorization. First, you need to make sure that every user in your network is an authentic user and permitted to be there, and then you need to make sure that each user within your network has authorized access to the specific data that they are accessing. This process involves everything from setting and enforcing enterprise-wide policies and procedures to installing software and hardware that can automatically detect and block network security threats.
A well-designed network security solution reduces overhead expenses and safeguards your business from costly losses that occur from a data breach or other security incident. Ensuring legitimate access to your IT systems, applications and data will enable operations to function properly.
A firewall prevents unauthorized users from accessing your network, stopping suspicious traffic from entering while allowing legitimate traffic to flow through.
There are several types of firewalls with various levels of security, ranging from simple packet-filtering firewalls to proxy servers to complex, next-generation firewalls that use AI and machine learning to compare and analyze the information as it tries to come through.
Intrusion Detection and Prevention
Intrusion detection and prevention systems (IDPS) can be deployed directly behind a firewall to provide a second layer of defense against dangerous actors.
An advanced IDPS can even use machine learning and AI to instantly analyze incoming data and trigger an automated process – such as sounding an alarm, blocking traffic from the source, or resetting the connection – if it detects suspicious activity.
Network Access Control (NAC)
Not every user should have access to your network. To keep out potential attackers, you need to recognize each user and each device. Then you can enforce your security policies.
Network access control manages access to your network. NAC can screen an endpoint device, like a laptop or smartphone, to ensure it has adequate anti-virus protection, an appropriate system-update level, and the correct configuration before it is authorized to access. NAC can also be programmed for “role-based access,” in which the user’s access is restricted based on their role within the organization so that they can only access approved files or data in the network.
Cloud security is a broad set of technologies, policies, and applications applied to defend online IP, services, applications, and other important data. It helps you better manage your security by shielding users against threats anywhere they access the internet and securing your data and applications in the cloud.
Virtual Private Networks (VPNs)
A virtual private network (VPN) is software that protects the user’s identity by encrypting their data and masking their IP address and location. When someone is using a VPN, they are no longer connecting directly to the internet but to a secure server which then connects to the internet on their behalf.
VPNs are routinely used in businesses and are increasingly necessary for individuals, especially those who use public Wi-Fi in coffee shops or airports. VPNs can protect users from hackers, who could steal anything from emails and photos to credit card numbers to a user’s identity.
Data Loss Prevention (DLP)
Your business employees must be sure that they do not send sensitive information outside of the network. Data loss prevention is a set of strategies and tools implemented to ensure that endpoint users do not accidentally or maliciously share sensitive information outside of a corporate network.
Often put in place to comply with government regulations around critical data (such as credit card, financial, or health information), DLP (Data Loss Prevention) policies monitor and control endpoint activities on business networks and in the cloud, using alerts, encryption, and other actions to protect data.
Secure Web Gateway
A web security solution will control your staff’s web use, block web-based threats, and deny access to malicious websites. Secure web gateways typically include content-filtering technology and security controls for web applications.