Sam Bocetta

Staying Safe: How To Protect Your Network From Security Threats

Cybersecurity can sometimes seem like a huge, complex topic. The threats faced by individuals and businesses are constantly changing and increasing in complexity. 

There are, however, some easy wins when it comes to protecting your networks. Putting in place some basic security features can often make the difference between falling victim to hackers or not, because if your systems are even slightly harder to crack than the next, a hacker will typically move on to a softer target.

At the broadest level, one of the most important ways to protect your network is to take advantage of the security tools that come as part of the package your domain provider, web host, and software provider gives you. NameSilo, for instance, can provide you with SSL certificates and free WHOIS privacy as standard.

Beyond making use of these free tools, here are 5 easy ways to make your network more secure:

1. Develop A Security Policy

Every cybersecurity strategy starts with a security policy. Your security policy should be an active, adaptive document that is able to change as your IT infrastructure grows more complex, and is also able to change in the wake of successful cyberattacks. 

At a more practical level, though, there is one at least one aspect of a security policy that every business, of whatever size, needs to put in place. This is a clear and unambiguous system for managing employee access to (and responsibility for) your systems. This is the foundation for any successful security policy and should be in place even in the absence of large-scale, more complex provisions.

Access control, in turn, should rest on a simple principle: a zero-trust security strategy in which employees are granted access only to the systems they actually need to complete their job, and nothing more. 

2. Lock Down Physical Security

A second, and often overlooked, aspect of network security is the physical security of your network hardware. In today’s business environment, where firms are subcontracting more of their critical business functions than ever before, and increasingly relying on increasingly-popular SaaS business models, it is easy to regard physical security as someone else’s problem.

In reality, several of the highest-profile hacks of recent years have been the direct consequence of poorly secured network hardware. Even leaving your WiFi router accessible can open you up to attack.

Thankfully, securing your network hardware need not be difficult. Site every piece of network hardware in a locked room, and use an access control system to lock down access. Key cards can be a cheap way to do this, but multi-factor authentication and biometric authentication are much better since they allow you to ensure that access is granted only to those employees that require it.

3. Hiring Practices

One of the biggest threats faced by network administrators is the risk of employees compromising systems – either through intentional misuse or simply through negligence. An incredibly important part of network security is therefore to screen all new employees. You should ensure that everyone you hire has the skills necessary to ensure network security. 

In practice, this can be done by using services like Systems Research & Development NORA (Non-Obvious Relationship Awareness). This system combines information from seemingly unrelated corporate databases and can perform personnel checks – on employees, subcontractors, and vendors – as well as prospective hires.

4. Strong Authentication and Encryption

At a more technical level, you should ensure that your authentication processes are as strong as they possibly can be. 

If you are reading this article, you are likely already using strong passwords, backed-up cloud storage, and a VPN. If you are not, you should be – these are the most effective and simple steps you can take to ensure the security of your networks. 

There are a few easy extensions to these basic practices that can take your network security to the next level. Giving every single employee a password manager is one, since this will harden every employee’s accounts against intrusion. Some of the best VPNs also offer multi-user access, which will allow you to encrypt and protect all of your internal communications. When it comes to storage, you can also invest in encrypted solutions that will protect your data even if your servers are hacked.

5. Continual Monitoring

Finally, you should recognize that ensuring network security is not an event, but a process. Even the best-protected networks will require frequent monitoring in order to stay secure. 

Monitoring systems should be built into your network security protocols from the most basic level. They should include two major components: one that gives you an overview of the way that your employees are using your network, and one that scans your system for malicious software.

Monitoring your employees might sound like a creepy thing to do, but it is necessary. An old principle of cybersecurity – “Never Trust The User” – points to the sobering truth that, whatever security tools you put in place, your users will try to get around them. This is why it’s so important to check that your staff is using your systems in the way they were designed to be used.

At a more technical level, you can use cybersecurity monitoring tools to automatically scan for the signs of a malware infection, and to find weaknesses in your systems. Larger organizations will typically hire a pen tester to perform a ‘fake’ attack on their networks to identify security holes, but even smaller businesses can benefit from basic, frequent checks on their systems.

The Bottom Line

All of the recommendations on this list are free since they relate to processes rather than advanced (and expensive) security software. The key, when it comes to ensuring the security of your networks, is to recognize that the biggest threat to them is the people who use them on a daily basis. 

One security breach and you jeopardize your entire company and its reputation. Security software does not only allow you to manage your business effectively and safely but also helps you manage your reputation and trust of your customers.

That’s not to say that purchasing network security software is not a good investment. Rather, it points to the importance of getting basic, inexpensive systems in place first. Get the basics right, and you will be well on your way to better network security.

About the Author:

Sam Bocetta

Sam Bocetta is a freelance journalist specializing in U.S. diplomacy and national security, with emphases on technology trends in cyberwarfare, cyberdefense, and cryptography.

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