Network Security 101: Everything You Need to Know | Hacker Noon

Network security is a sub-category under the cybersecurity umbrella. Its purpose is to prevent unauthorized users from accessing computer networks and devices. It involves protecting and creating a secure infrastructure for the users, devices, and applications. It works by combining multiple layers of defenses with each security layer having policies and controls.

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@jtruongJessica Truong

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What is Network Security?

Network security is a sub-category under the cybersecurity umbrella. Its purpose is to prevent unauthorized users from accessing computer networks and devices. It involves protecting and creating a secure infrastructure for the users, devices, and applications.

Network Security Importance

Network security is important for maintaining the integrity and privacy of the organization and employee’s data. Network security keeps confidential information safe and will continue to be a necessity as more information will be stored on devices throughout the organization’s network.

How Does Network Security Work? 

Network security works by combining multiple layers of defenses, with each security layer having policies and controls. Authorized users will be able to gain access to the network resources while the malicious actors are prohibited from exploiting vulnerabilities. 

The elements of a complete, multilayered security architecture that implements network security across an organization are access control and threat control (vmware).

Access Control

The purpose of access control is to restrict unauthorized users from gaining access to the network. If for some reason, they were able to gain access to an organization’s network, then they could insert malware or launch a distributed denial of service attack, or DDOS, for example. 

Threat Control

The purpose of threat control is to prevent hackers from causing any damage within an organization’s network. Threat control operates on traffic that is permitted in the network. 

Common Network Security Vulnerabilities

In order to keep the network secured, it is important to understand the common vulnerabilities that we may come across in network security. These are the types of vulnerabilities that hackers would typically exploit to gain access to your network. 

These are a few of the common network security vulnerabilities:

  • Weak passwords
  • Lack of physical security
  • Hardware and/or software operating systems are not updated to the latest version
  • Hardware and/or software were improperly installed
  • Design flaw in the network or in a system’s operating system

Common Network Security Attack Types

As we know, cybersecurity is an evolving area, which means the types of attacks that we see will continue to be more complex and difficult to defend against.

These are only a few of the most common types of network security attacks that IT professionals should be aware of:

Malware Attacks

A malware attack occurs when attackers install malware onto a device. Malware can easily spread to other devices, making it difficult to remove it. 

Insider Threat

As you can tell from the name, this type of attack starts from inside the organization. An employee can use their own access to infiltrate the organization’s network and steal sensitive information. 

Password Attack

The attacker is attempting to guess or perform a brute force attack in order to access an organization’s network. 

Social Engineering

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Social engineering attacks occur when attackers impersonate a legitimate person working for an organization to trick users into providing personal information, such as login credentials. These attacks are typically targeted towards those who aren’t as tech-savvy; however, that doesn’t mean that those with immense technical skills haven’t gotten manipulated before.

Data Theft (also known as Data Exfiltration)

Data theft occurs when hackers gain unauthorized access into an organization’s network to steal confidential information and read-protected documents. 

Network Protection Tips

These are a couple of network protection tips and best practices that an organization should follow:

  • Always beware of who you grant access to into your network
  • Create strong passwords that use a combination of upper case, lower case, space bar, numbers, special characters
  • Make sure that you test the security of your network 
  • Physically secure devices and servers

Network Security Tools

Since network security utilizes a multi-layer approach, there are a number of tools that can be used to aid with access and threat control. 

Firewall

A firewall is a network security device used to monitor the incoming and outgoing traffic in an organization’s network and decide whether to allow or deny the traffic based on defined rules. 

IDS/IPS

An Intrusion Detection System (IDS) is a network security device that is designed to detect any suspicious activities within a network.

An Intrusion Prevention System (IPS) is designed to scan the network traffic and actively block any malicious traffic that wants to enter the network. 

Both the IPS and IDS systems are placed behind the firewall.

Load Balancer

The purpose of a load balancer is to distribute network traffic across multiple servers so that one server is not doing all of the work.

Sandbox

A sandbox is an isolated environment where you can execute potentially unsafe applications or code without affecting the production environment. 

Network Detection and Response (NTA/NDR) 

NTA/NDR looks at the network traffic and utilizes machine learning algorithms to assess the abnormality and determine if a threat exists. However, before this can be done, NTA/NDR will first need to determine the baseline.  

Final Thoughts: Network Security is Vital

Network security plays an important part in cybersecurity. Its job is to protect the organization’s sensitive information from being stolen.

Cyberattacks are only going to continue to be more complex and difficult to defend against. Therefore, it’s vital that employees of an organization are educated on what can be done to protect themselves against network security attacks. 

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