How to Improve Network Security and Visibility in 2020 and 2021 | Hacker Noon

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@johnjohn

Founder and CEO of Nature Torch, Entrepreneur, Tech Enthusiast, Digital Marketer, and SEO.

With the number of products available, it can be an uphill task to try to ensure robust network security and visibility. This, however, is a task that must be accomplished if you want to be competitive. 

The first step to solving this hydra-headed problem is to be able to pinpoint potential vulnerabilities and assess the tools your IT team needs. This is very essential because attempts at obtaining the right level of IT security visibility can be like trying to remove a birthmark – utterly frustrating – just as when you try to solve a problem that persistently occurs randomly.

There is a large collection of tools in the cybersecurity product space, it’s, therefore, to the best of your interest to ensure that your network and security team must endeavor to deploy multiple security tools and spend time building a security dashboard that automatically collects data from those tools to enhance overall visibility.

Here are some tips on the best way you can improve network security visibility as well as how to recognize potential threat vectors and ensure the right security toolset.

Tool visibility

What should be the primary concern of your network and security team when launching network security visibility is: “Do we have the necessary tools?” 

To effectively answer this question, the Cyber Defense Matrix can be used by your team to classify gaps and duplication in operative areas. 

Since visibility is fundamentally about identifying and detecting attacks, you should, therefore, focus on the tools listed in the Identify and Detect columns.

Threat Vectors in Network Security

Cyberattackers usually target and exploit vulnerabilities or attack surfaces in your system. They can also make use of social engineering to transmit malware inside your organization, as is seen in cases of phishing attacks. 

The reason for attacking your system could be passive (an attempt to gain or use information but not affect a system), or active (a direct attempt to alter a system or affects its operations). 

Hackers are daily working around the clock to add to the list of threat vectors that continuously grows. This enables them to discover new methods to exploit people and system vulnerabilities. 

They are then able to deliver malicious software, access sensitive data, or access operating systems. Threat vectors can be categorized as either programming or social engineering.

What you end up with at the end of the day is the possibility of two threat vectors – external and internal.

External visibility

This simply means that your brand can provide a clear view of the operation of security controls, thereby, making the relevant information easy to see. It, therefore, becomes very important for your network and security team to address any form of vulnerability that can be externally exploited. 

Falling back on penetration testing (pen testing) can only be good for a time but not all the time. What you should do is to ensure continuous visibility and this can come from security visibility service providers.

Internal network security visibility

Bearing in mind that detection does not equate to protection, internal visibility can be a challenge in a large network. It, therefore, becomes highly imperative that you have a trained team that knows the essence of deploying the tools at the right places within the network, configure them properly, and maintain them. 

You should ensure that the tools are deployed at your network aggregation points. If they have been able to penetrate your network, monitoring for peer-to-peer attacks will require teams to monitor traffic between subnets within a facility or even between virtual machines (VMs) in a data center.

With internal visibility, you should be able to identify network devices you may not have known, which possibly could have resulted from shadow IT. You also have the advantage of discovering the best locations to monitor, and this will ultimately increase the effectiveness of existing tools. 

You end up reducing malware propagation and IoT compromises, as bad actors are known to have made use of web cameras and similar IoT devices for DDoS attacks.

Systems you can deploy for network security visibility

Due to the extensiveness of the IT security industry, you may have to deploy multiple tools before you can ensure thorough network security visibility.

The intrusion detection system (IDS)

The IDS is a device or software app that tracks a network for malicious performance or policy infraction. Once a suspicious activity or infraction occurs, your IDS gives a report or collects such an activity centrally using a security information and event management system. 

You can deploy any of the following intrusion detection systems in your network.

Network intrusion detection system (NIDS) – operates at the network level and monitors traffic from all devices going in and out of the network.

Host-based intrusion detection system (HIDS) – monitors system data and looks for malicious activity on an individual host.

Perimeter Intrusion Detection System (PIDS) –  detects the presence of an intruder attempting to breach a perimeter, as over 80% of all break-ins occur through these openings 

Virtual machine-based Intrusion Detection System (VMIDS) – a particular VM is designed to provide intrusion detection services for other VMs.

Intrusion prevention system (IPS)

An IPS is a device or software application that detects and prevents identified threats. IPSs continuously monitor your network, looking for possible malicious incidents, and capturing information about them.

The IPS is classified into these four types:

  • Network-based intrusion prevention system (NIPS)
  • Wireless intrusion prevention system (WIPS)
  • Network behavior analysis (NBA)
  • Host-based intrusion prevention system (HIPS)

Flow data in network security

To understand malware propagation paths and hence, design internal firewall rule sets, your team must be availed of information about network data flows between devices. There are a handful of quality products for the analysis of flow data from network devices to identify who is using the network and which protocols are in use. 

This enables you to classify devices that must communicate with one another, as well as compromised devices that attack other devices. Undesirable flows can be used to identify infected devices.

Automation

This is essential in ensuring you can handle the large volume of network attacks and vulnerabilities. Attempting to do this manually is simply out of the question. 

For effectiveness, you should deploy and use automated systems. Any automated system you use must not only detect threats but should also respond automatically to them. 

It is also expected to promptly alert your network and security managers to the threat and the action they have to take.

Support from the executive

Vital decisions are taken by the executives of your brand hence you can’t afford to sideline them. Support from them is highly imperative and must not be jettisoned. 

Your network and security teams must constantly liaise with the executives, and you need to ensure they are interested in the security of the brand. They should also monitor how effective it is.

The executives must enshrine a culture of teamwork that will enable network and security teams to work together for the good of the brand. If everybody understands the need for teamwork, your organization will be the best for it.

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Founder and CEO of Nature Torch, Entrepreneur, Tech Enthusiast, Digital Marketer, and SEO.

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