While it is common for organizations to recognize the need to secure their networks, many still struggle with knowing what steps to take or where to start.
In this article, we will outline the essential process you can follow to strengthen the security of your network, some of the key components you’ll need to achieve this, and common challenges organizations face while securing their networks.
Table of Contents
1. Implement a firewall
A firewall acts as a barrier between your network and the outside world, as it monitors incoming and outgoing network traffic. Deploying a firewall will enable your organization to filter and block unauthorized access attempts.
By defining strict rules for the firewall, you can control the types of traffic allowed into your network, reducing the risk of malicious intrusions.
Implementing a firewall also involves regular firewall audits to ensure it remains effective. This can be achieved using firewall audit software, which can automatically review, analyze, and signal potential weaknesses in firewalls.
2. Use strong passwords
One of the simplest ways to enhance network security is by using strong passwords. Weak passwords are vulnerable to brute-force attacks and can be easily cracked by malicious actors.
Implement a password policy across your organization that enforces complex passwords containing a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. Additionally, encourage regular password updates to prevent unauthorized access.
A password management service can help enforce better password hygiene across the organization.
3. Enable two-factor authentication (2FA)
In addition to enforcing a strong password policy, organizations should implement 2FA wherever possible. Also known as multifactor authentication (MFA), 2FA provides an extra layer of security by requiring users to provide two forms of identification to access the network.
By enabling 2FA or MFA, even if passwords are compromised, unauthorized access can be significantly mitigated.
4. Regularly update software and firmware
Software and firmware updates often contain patches and security fixes that address vulnerabilities in the system. Regularly update all network devices, including routers, switches, firewalls, and servers, with the latest security patches.
Additionally, ensure that all software and applications used on networked devices are up to date, as attackers can exploit outdated software.
5. Use virtual private networks (VPNs)
When accessing your network remotely or connecting to public Wi-Fi, using a VPN is crucial to secure your data transmission. VPNs encrypt your network traffic, making it difficult for hackers to intercept and decipher sensitive information.
Keep in mind that VPNs can come in all shapes, sizes, and security levels. Look at the best VPN service providers and make sure that your preferred service can meet your unique network security needs.
6. Employ intrusion detection and prevention systems (IDPS)
IDPS solutions monitor network traffic for malicious activities and can detect and prevent unauthorized access attempts or attacks. These systems can provide real-time alerts and take automated actions to mitigate potential security threats.
Deploying an IDPS adds an extra layer of defense against network intrusions and helps maintain network integrity.
What are the main components of a secure network?
A secure network comprises various components that work together to protect data and systems from unauthorized access and cyber threats. Some of the key components include routers and switches, firewalls, IDPSs, and VPNs.
Secure routers and switches
Routers and switches are critical components that enable network connectivity. Secure routers and switches incorporate features like access control lists (ACLs) and encryption to protect the network traffic and prevent unauthorized access to sensitive information.
Firewalls act as a barrier between the internal network and the outside world. They monitor and control incoming and outgoing network traffic according to predefined rules, blocking unauthorized access attempts and potentially malicious activities.
IDPSs detect and respond to network-based attacks by monitoring network traffic, analyzing patterns, and identifying suspicious or malicious activity. They can take proactive measures to prevent attacks or provide real-time alerts for immediate response.
Network segmentation is a network management practice that allows you to divide your networks into smaller subnetworks or segments based on different criteria, such as departments, functions, or security levels.
By segmenting the network, organizations can limit the impact of a potential breach and control access to sensitive resources more effectively.
VPNs provide secure remote access to private networks over the internet. They encrypt network traffic, ensuring the confidentiality and integrity of data transmitted between remote users and the network. VPNs are commonly used to connect remote workers or branch offices securely.
Secure wireless access points (WAPs)
Wireless access points are used to provide wireless network connectivity. Secure WAPs implement robust encryption protocols, such as WPA2 or WPA3, and strong authentication mechanisms to prevent unauthorized access to the wireless network.
What are the common challenges of securing a network?
While following network security best practices and implementing network security tools can enhance the security of your networks, there are still a couple of challenges you should be wary of, such as insider threats, lack of awareness or compliance, budget and resource constraints, and the ever-evolving nature of the cybersecurity landscape.
Dynamic cyber threats landscape
The ever-evolving landscape of malware and cyber threats poses a significant challenge to network security. Attackers continuously develop new techniques, including ransomware, phishing, and social engineering, to exploit vulnerabilities and gain unauthorized access to networks.
Organizations must always be on their toes to employ robust security measures that can detect and mitigate these threats effectively.
Insider threats are security risks posed by individuals within an organization who misuse their access privileges or intentionally compromise network security. These threats can range from unintentional mistakes to malicious actions.
Implementing strict access controls, conducting regular security training, and monitoring user activities are essential to mitigate insider threats effectively.
Vulnerabilities and patch management
Networks are composed of various hardware and software components, each with its own set of vulnerabilities. Keeping track of these vulnerabilities and promptly applying patches and updates is crucial.
However, the complexity of modern networks and the sheer number of devices and applications make vulnerability management a challenging task. That’s why organizations should be on the lookout for relevant patch updates from their vendors and apply them as quickly as they are released.
Lack of security awareness
Human error remains a significant contributor to network security breaches. Insufficient security awareness among employees can lead to unintentional data breaches, falling victim to phishing attacks, or neglecting basic security practices.
Organizations should invest in comprehensive security awareness training programs to educate employees about potential risks and promote responsible digital behavior.
Budget and resource constraints
Network security requires investments in technology, personnel, training, and ongoing maintenance. Allocating sufficient funds and resources for all of those initiatives can be a struggle, especially for smaller organizations or those with competing priorities.
Unfortunately, limited budgets may result in compromises in implementing robust security measures, such as advanced threat detection systems, intrusion prevention systems, or security information and event management (SIEM) solutions.
Even so, security measures are a nonnegotiable must in any modern organization, regardless of size. Choose a partner who can work with you at your current budget level, while also being prepared to scale as you grow.
Bottom line: How to secure a network
Securing your network is an ongoing process that requires constant vigilance and adaptation. By following this guide, you can significantly enhance the security of your network and cut down the risk of unauthorized access and data breaches.
Remember, network security is a collective responsibility, and taking proactive measures today can help protect your valuable information from potential threats tomorrow.