Network Design Tips for Security Awareness
You know there are cyber security threats out there, growing more dangerous and more complex every day. You know you can’t afford to put your organization’s data, clients, employees or assets at risk. You know you need to fortify your network before a security breach assaults your operations and inflicts irrevocable damage. But how do you make this happen? Designing a network that’s built on a foundation of solid security takes knowledge, experience and the right approach.
A well-guarded network involves a multi-layered security effort, incorporating a number of aspects that make it difficult for an intruder to attack. As you consider your options for implementing a new network design, it is critical to understand what you’ll need in order to thwart cyber threats and protect your perimeter. Use these tips as a basis for ensuring that your network design fulfills the necessary security requirements.
Tip #1: Recognize Your Vulnerabilities
You can’t possibly begin to design a secure network unless you’ve already done your homework to identify and understand any factors jeopardizing your network security. This should be the first step in any design effort. Be sure to partner with a team of experienced, knowledgeable network security professionals to perform a network assessment and security audit. An extensive evaluation will bring some of the following issues to light:
- Weak password policies, practices and enforcement
- Insufficient authentication methods
- Broad versus granular authorization of your user population
- Lack of application visibility and control
- Inadequate bandwidth policies
- Improper time-of-day connection policies
- Lack of necessary data encryption
- Limited ability to control network access
- Absence of real-time policy management
- Deficient intrusion and prevention tools
Once you have this foundation of security discoveries from which to base your improvement efforts, you can begin to piece together the elements that will help you develop a secure network design.
Tip #2: Inspect Traffic and Address Asset Management
This is the next critical step in understanding how to plug the holes in your security defenses and design a safer network. It involves examining the activity on your network to pinpoint abnormal use patterns that could signal a problem, as well as identifying the authorized and unauthorized users and devices on your network.
A strong asset management system is twofold, including:
- Software asset management: Controlling license use and discerning software vulnerabilities on the system
- Hardware asset management: Determining when unauthorized devices and/or users are accessing your network and providing the first line of defense against network intrusions
A full check-up on these factors translates to valuable insight into the requirements for a secure network design. It also prompts the actions outlined in the next two tips.
Tip #3: Apply Strong Software Solutions
Without the proper framework of network security software, you won’t be able to safeguard against the sophisticated, advanced and persistent attacks that are most commonly seen today.
A network design that enforces advanced threat protection must incorporate robust, up-to-date software solutions, including those for:
- Network operations and management
- Operating systems
- Anti-malware and anti-virus
- Intrusion detection and prevention
- Other network security applications
Keep in mind that these solutions are only as effective as their latest patches. It’s important to stay abreast of software updates and keep your protection current. Download and install patches as soon as possible so that your systems and applications are always up to date with all of the available protection.
In addition, you should be applying policies across the network to strengthen your software solutions and protect against intrusions. Many sophisticated wireless networks have bi-directional communication with next-generation firewalls to allow advanced actions to be taken. For example, a user who violates a firewall policy can have that information passed to the WLAN, and the user can be deauthorized at the access point. This type of action prevents the user from attempting any other malicious activity.
Tip #4: Employ State-of-the-Art Hardware
You may not typically associate your hardware assets with network security, but they do play a major role. It is vital to make sure that your network design utilizes state-of-the-art hardware that’s in strong physical condition, up-to-date and functioning properly, including:
- LAN cards
- Wireless controllers
In addition to this equipment, you’ll need to think about cables. Structured cabling is the backbone of your network, and issues with your cabling infrastructure can impact security. By having a properly installed, standards-compliant cabling system, you can mitigate this risk.
An expert security partner can assist you in planning for your hardware needs to best design a safe network. Make sure they maintain the most comprehensive manufacturer certifications and are subject-matter experts on all of the solutions they offer.
Tip #5: Manage Privileges and Educate Users
OK, so this tip isn’t actually about designing a secure network, but it is necessary to your security effort. Even a well-designed network can be susceptible to security breaches if the proper access privileges aren’t enforced or if users are not security conscious.
Network security is affected by more than just the IT department, and there are often vulnerabilities caused by uninformed employees throughout the organization. Because the human element is such a dangerous one — arguably the MOST dangerous — it’s important to focus on this aspect with great vigilance and the appropriate resources.
Be sure to define and manage privileges across your user base to allow only the access each user really needs. In addition, a constant effort must be made to inform users at all levels of the organization on security protocol and reinforce knowledge on the following issues:
- Dangerous links
- Phishing scams
- Unsecure sites
- Password infractions
- Improper information sharing and management
- Awareness and response plan
Also, an integral component of this tip is taking a look at your company’s BYOD policy and confronting the vulnerabilities it creates. You must be concerned about issues like secure access and exit strategies in a BYOD environment.
Don’t let the complexities of designing a secure network get in the way of prioritizing this urgent need. Work with an expert to fortify your defenses and safeguard your assets. If you’re worried about how to select the right provider, consult this free resource: Your Guide to Choosing an IT Solutions Partner.
By Craig Badrick