5 Network Security Predictions for 2014

It’s the time of year when everyone starts thinking about what the next 12 months will bring, and here at Enterprise Networking Planet, we’re no different. We’ve been watching the network security space evolve over the last year and following the hot trends as they develop. Here are our predictions for what you should watch out for in 2014.

1. Thanks to BYOD, we’ll see more mobile malware

The Bring Your Own Device trend shows no signs of stopping. This presents an endpoint problem for network security administrators. It’s all too easy to download apps with a couple of clicks, and people often labor under the misconception that it is safer to click on links from a tablet than a PC “because it doesn’t have viruses.”

Mobile malware can be hidden in apps and, once unleashed on devices with access to corporate networks, can compromise those networks. Make sure your access policies are up-to-date and that you have a comprehensive, secure approach to network access control (NAC), BYOD, and endpoint encryption, including compulsory anti-malware protection on personal devices. New developments in the resurgent NAC market, such as ForeScout’s recently announced integration with endpoint security startup Bromium, provide innovative solutions.

2. We’ll demand better authentication 

Biometric authentication, including fingerprinting, is already in use and looks set to grow. Adoption in some sectors has been slow due to concerns about storing personal data of this kind, but users will slowly come around to the idea that biometric logins are the way network authentication must go. In fact, it could be a welcome relief from having to remember so many passwords, as well as a more secure alternative to web services that claim to safely store all your passwords so you only have to remember one.

If your business isn’t ready to adopt biometric authentication, consider multi-factor authentication for access to network services instead. It’s more secure than a single login and password and can be easily implemented for high-risk areas, such as network administration tools, even if it is not deployed to the user base as a whole.

3. Cloud security will become a priority

Up until now, cloud security has focused on ensuring data security at the host site and as it traverses the corporate WAN. That might be adequate for enterprises using cloud services from their office base, but end users are increasingly accessing data stored in the cloud from unsecured public networks at places like coffee shops and airports. And with more broadband providers offering customers access to their global connections when they are out of the house, it’s even easier to access corporate services from whatever Wi-Fi connection happens to pop up.

Be aware of the potential threat. You can’t secure every public network, but you can look at educating end users and blocking access to cloud services or corporate data from unknown networks. Technologies like Juniper’s Junos AppConnect technology, which will enable the creation of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) on a per-app basis, may help secure corporate data in the mobile era.

4. Attacks on the Internet of Things will increase

Most malicious attacks are aimed at end user devices like computers, tablets and smartphones. We haven’t seen much in the way of the attacks against other networked devices, but eventually this will increase. There isn’t much call for a hacker to infiltrate your networked fridge and change the shopping order for milk, but as alarm systems and company cars increasingly come equipped with IP addresses and space on the network, they become potential targets.

Don’t focus all your security efforts on user-driven devices if you have other networked devices in the estate. Make sure that your IoT is secure as well to pre-empt any weaknesses in the system, and stay up-to-date with announcements about vulnerabilities so you can mitigate the risks before an attack happens.

5. People will remain the biggest risk

However high-tech the other threat vectors might seem, people remain the biggest concern to network security. Research by Google shows that nearly half of users have told someone else their password. People consistently use easy-to-guess passwords, like pets’ names and important dates. And they write them down!

Whatever network security protocols you put in place, you can’t legislate for users who leave their tablets on the train, their PCs unlocked on the coffee shop table while they nip out for a cigarette, and those who sticky note their passwords underneath their keyboards in the hope that no one will look there. Malicious attacks that exploit social engineering to get access to passwords and personal connections compound the problem.

Keep reinforcing those policies, keep monitoring network traffic for suspicious activity—solutions like WatchGuard Dimension can ease this by combining traffic visibility with Big Data visualization—and keep on top of patching and updates. Your company’s data is one of its most important assets, and it deserves to be well looked after. However, it’s getting harder to do that with network security becoming an increasingly advanced area and hackers (and government agencies) developing far greater levels of sophistication. Stay vigilant and informed to keep your business secure in 2014.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

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