In the modern digital landscape, organizations depend on technology for a significant proportion of their operations. However, this rising dependence on technology comes with an increasing number of security threats. Inadequate network security can cost a business financially as well as damage to their reputation; the worst breaches could mean closing its doors permanently. A proactive and thorough approach to safeguarding sensitive data is essential.
Outlined below are the steps organizations can take to implement a secure network infrastructure.
1. Conducting a Network Security Assessment
A network security assessment allows businesses to get a clearer view of their current network infrastructure to better locate areas of weakness.
Evaluating Existing Infrastructure & Vulnerabilities
A comprehensive audit will look at the firewall architectures and configurations that are currently in place to ensure they are fully updated and free of potential conflicts. Organizations should also list the assets on the network, along with the software and operating systems used by each one, in order to identify any areas of vulnerability that need to be addressed, such as software that does not have the latest security patches.
Assessing Security Policies & Compliance
Existing security policies and procedures should be analyzed carefully. Businesses must consider which standards are being followed by every role when it comes to data security, as well as how security policies are enforced.
This assessment must include the business’s policies surrounding the use of personal devices at work. In addition, it is important to evaluate compliance with all applicable industry regulations and standards.
2. Establishing a Robust Network Security Strategy
A robust network security strategy will protect the network from unauthorized access, damage and misuse.
Defining Security Objectives & Goals
Businesses must establish clear objectives for implementing their network security that align with their company’s values and take the necessary regulatory, ethical and legal aspects into account. These objectives must address the organization’s main security challenges and risks. Goals that are specific, realistic and measurable over a set period of time are more likely to be achieved.
Designing a Defense-in-Depth Approach
A defense-in-depth approach entails implementing several layers of security measures that can protect against a range of threats, with each layer providing protection and backup should another layer fail. Intrusion detection systems, encryption, authentication and firewalls are important elements to include.
Creating a Network Security Policy
Organizations should then develop a network security policy that outlines their security guidelines as well as the roles and responsibilities of network administrators and users. Be sure to include access controls and permissions for various network resources.
The policy should also detail the incident response procedures that will be used to address violations and breaches. This security policy must be communicated to the entire organization, and it should be actively enforced and reviewed from time to time to reflect the latest security standards.
3. Implementing Network Segmentation
Network segmentation can provide an additional layer of security.
Understanding The Concept Of Network Segmentation
Network segmentation entails dividing networks into individual segments with limited access to one another, which can reduce the impact of attacks and breaches. If one segment of an organization’s network becomes compromised, attackers would not necessarily be able to access the other segments.
Identifying Critical Assets & Segmenting The Network
Before implementing network segmentation, the most critical assets within the network must be identified. These may include financial records, personal information pertaining to employees and customers, and intellectual property. They should then be segmented into distinct segments based on their risk level and overall importance, and each one should be given its own security policies and requirements.
Applying Access Controls & Monitoring
Next, organizations must apply appropriate access controls between the various segments that determine who can access each one, and under which conditions access is permitted. Time of day, user role and method of authentication are some of the conditions that may be used. Monitoring and auditing procedures must then be employed to record network traffic and detect unauthorized or questionable events to be swiftly addressed.
4. Strengthening Network Perimeter Security
Strengthening the network’s perimeter security is one of the most significant elements of developing a secure network infrastructure.
Deploying Next-Generation Firewalls
Advanced firewall solutions must be implemented that are capable of performing deep packet inspection and preventing intrusions in order to block and delete malicious traffic and attacks. These next-generation firewalls may also be configured in a way that filters incoming and outgoing traffic according to predefined rules. For example, particular applications or ports could be denied under certain conditions.
Implementing Virtual Private Networks (VPNs)
Virtual Private Networks, or VPNs, provide secure and encrypted connections for remote access as well as communication across sites. Their strong authentication measures and access controls provide unparalleled security.
Securing Wireless Networks
Wireless access points must be configured using strong encryption protocols such as WPA3 and WPA2 to prevent unauthorized parties from accessing or decrypting the organization’s data. Meanwhile, measures such as network segregation and MAC filtering serve to further enhance wireless network security by limiting which devices are able to connect to the network.
5. Implementing Strong Authentication & Access Controls
Strong authentication and access controls ensure the security of an organization’s network infrastructure by preventing unauthorized access and protecting sensitive data.
Enforcing Strong Password Policies
The first line of defense against a brute force attack and data theft is enforcing a robust password policy. It is essential that all users understand the importance of creating unique and strong passwords for every account they use, avoiding predictable or common passwords. These passwords should be subjected to complexity requirements such as including a specified minimum number of special characters, and users should be prompted to update their passwords on a regular basis
Implementing Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)
Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) is another valuable tool for improving user authentication and security. This method requires users to present multiple pieces of documentation that verify their identity. It typically requires them to present something they know, such as a password, along with something they have access to, such as a code sent to their phone or a fingerprint, making it more difficult for an attacker to access an account.
Role-Based Access Controls (RBAC)
Role-Based Access Controls, or RBAC, entails assigning user permissions according to their responsibilities and roles within the organization. This ensures that each user can only access the functions and resources needed to conduct their tasks, which is known as the principle of least privilege. Access rights should be regularly reviewed and updated to make sure they reflect each user’s current responsibilities.
6. Monitoring & Incident Response
Although a considerable amount of effort goes into the initial network infrastructure setup, proper network security is not a one-time task. Instead, it requires regular vigilance and updates.
Implementing Network Monitoring & Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS)
Network monitoring and Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS) can provide ongoing monitoring for suspicious activities and potential security issues, such as unauthorized access, denial of service attacks and malware infections, so they can be investigated and addressed.
Establishing An Incident Response Plan
Organizations should draft a document outlining the steps that will be followed if a security breach arises. This might include identifying the incident’s scope and impact, containing the threat, eliminating it and restoring normal operations. This document should also define the responsibilities of each member of the incident response team, such as who will be tasked with making decisions, communication and escalation.
Conducting Regular Security Audits & Penetration Testing
Regular security audits and vulnerability assessments should be used to evaluate the network’s current security status. Precautionary penetration testing helps to identify any weaknesses and can point to flaws in the current security controls before an attack or breach occurs.
7. Training & Awareness For Employees
A network is only as secure as those who have access to it. Employees are typically the first line of defense against a breach or attack, underscoring the need for them to be educated and prepared.
Security Awareness Programs
Security awareness programs can inform employees about common security threats as well as best practices. Employees should be educated on topics such as identifying and reporting suspicious activities related to password disclosure and phishing as well as data protection. They should also be trained in procedures for reporting suspicious activities.
Regularly Updating Security Policies & Procedures
Security policies and procedures must be regularly updated to reflect the latest techniques used by cyber criminals as well as the latest industry regulations, such as NIST and GDPR. These changes and updates must be communicated to employees as they arise to ensure seamless compliance.
Begin Securing Your Network’s Infrastructure With Advantage Technology
Implementing a secure network infrastructure requires evaluating existing infrastructure and assessing current security policies so a more robust strategy can be devised that defines and addresses pressing security objectives. Network segmentation and strengthening network perimeter security are important components of a secure network infrastructure. This is an ongoing process that must be monitored and improved on a regular basis
Even the best security may not be able to prevent every attack, but your risk can be reduced dramatically by ensuring proper network infrastructure security. Organizations can gain support in this critical task by partnering with the experienced network security professionals at Advantage Technology to ensure a comprehensive and effective network security implementation.