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What is Network Security? A Guide to Network Security

Every company must safeguard a large amount of sensitive data. Important company data, consumer personal information, and sensitive files are just a few examples. Data security is only achievable via the deployment of effective network security technologies and procedures.

What is Network Security

Figure 1. What is Network Security

To protect our most valuable digital assets Let's start by understanding the network security definition.

Network Security Definition

Network security is a collection of technology that safeguards the usability and integrity of a company's infrastructure by preventing the entry or spread of a wide range of possible dangers within a network.

Regardless of size, sector, or architecture, every company requires network security solutions to defend itself from the ever-changing environment of cyberattacks in the wild today.

A well-designed network security solution lowers overhead costs and protects companies from significant damages caused by a data breach or other security event. Having valid access to systems, apps, and data allows businesses to operate and provide services and goods to consumers.

To build a well-designed security solution firstly we need to have an opinion about how network security works.

How Does Network Security Work?

Authentication and authorization are two procedures that are important to network security.

Authentication and Authorization

Figure 2. Authentication and Authorization

What Is Authentication

Authentication is the process of verifying that users are who they say they are. The initial stage in every security procedure.

Authentication ensures that the user attempting to access or enter the network is a member of the network, preventing unauthorized intrusions.

Some of the commonly used authentication methods are given below.

  • Passwords: The most popular authentication factors are usernames and passwords. If a user inputs the proper information, the system assumes the identification is correct and gives access.
  • Pins that can only be used once. Allow access for a single session or transaction.
  • Apps for authentication: Generate security codes with the help of a third party who permits access.
  • Biometrics: To get access to the system, a user must submit a fingerprint or an eye scan.

In some cases, systems need the proper verification of several parameters.

Before providing access, certain systems need the successful verification of more than one criteria. This multi-factor authentication (MFA) or two-factor authentication (2FA) requirement is frequently used to give additional protection beyond what passwords alone can provide.

What is Authorization

In system security,

Authorization is the process of granting a person access to a specified resource or function.

This phrase is frequently used synonymously with access control or access privilege.

This procedure determines the level of access that will be granted to the recently authorized user. For example, the network administrator needs access to the whole network, whilst individuals operating inside it are likely to require access to certain portions of the network. The process of establishing the level of access or permission level based on the network user's role is known as authorization.

What are the Types of Network Security Protections?

Every excellent network security system employs a variety of network security technologies to construct a layered defensive system. The assumption behind this technique is that if a danger makes it past one layer of security, the other levels will prevent it from entering the network.

After giving a list of solutions that provide network security, let's briefly touch on each of them.

  • Firewall
  • Network Segmentation
  • Remote Access VPN
  • Email Security
  • Data Loss Prevention (DLP)
  • Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS)
  • Cloud Network Security
  • Sandboxing
  • Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA)

1. Firewall

A firewall is a network security system that measures both incoming and outgoing network traffic and allows or denies data packets depending on a set of security rules. Its goal is to create a barrier between your internal network and incoming traffic from outside sources (such as the internet) to stop harmful traffic such as viruses and hackers.

There are two types of firewalls, the first one is Hardware Firewalls and the second one is Software Firewalls, though it’s best to have both.

Hardware firewalls are a good choice for protecting a business network because the device protects all of the machines in the network and allows us to conduct the whole setup at a single point, which is the same firewall.

These hardware firewalls provide noteworthy features like CFS, SSL or VPN technology, integrated antivirus, antispam, load management, and so on.

A software firewall is a program installed on each computer and regulates traffic through port numbers and applications. Software Firewalls are the most common and the ones used by home users in their homes.

Firewalls employ one or a combination of the three methods listed below to regulate traffic going into and out of the network:

Packet Filtering

The most basic type of firewall software creates filters based on predetermined security criteria – if an incoming packet of information (a small piece of data) is detected by the filters, it is not let through. All packets that pass the filters are forwarded to the asking system, while all others are discarded.

Proxy Service

A firewall proxy server is a program that works as a middleman between two computers. The firewall retrieves information from the internet and sends it to the requesting system, and vice versa. Firewall proxy servers function at the firewall's application layer, forcing both endpoints of a connection to go through the proxy. They work by establishing and executing a process on the firewall that emulates a service as if it were operating on the end host, centralizing all information transmission for an activity to the firewall for scanning.

Stateful inspection

Stateful inspection is the most recent type of firewall scanning that does not rely on the memory-intensive analysis of all information packets. For the length of the session, a ‘stateful' firewall stores significant aspects of each connection in a database of trustworthy information. These properties, known collectively as the connection's "state," may contain information such as the IP addresses and ports involved in the connection, as well as the sequence numbers of the packets being sent. The firewall compares information being transmitted to the database copy relevant to that transfer - if the comparison gives a positive match, the information is sent.

2. Network Segmentation

Network segmentation is an architectural technique that splits a network into several segments or subnets, each of which operates as its independent network.

Network Segmentation

Figure 3. Network Segmentation

The perimeter gateway, for example, separates a corporate network from the Internet. Potential dangers from outside the network are avoided, ensuring that sensitive data within an enterprise stays secure. Organizations may go even farther by creating extra internal network borders, which can increase security and access control.

Segmentation can be done physically or virtually, but the results are the same. You're restricting communication throughout your network, which limits your attack choices. An attacker cannot attack if they cannot see it.

The main advantages of network segmentation can be listed as follows.

Increased security

To limit and/or prevent access between network parts, network traffic can be separated and/or filtered.

Improved access control

Allow users to access just certain network resources.

Monitoring has been improved

Allows for the logging of events, the monitoring of authorized and disallowed internal connections, and the detection of suspicious activity.

Performance has improved

Local traffic is reduced when there are fewer hosts per subnet. Broadcast traffic can be restricted to a single subnet.

Improved Containment

When a network problem occurs, its impact is restricted to the local subnet.

3. Remote Access VPN

With a remote access VPN, your remote employees may connect to your office network from any place – at home, on the road, or in transit — that has an internet connection. They now have access to all of your company's resources and your data.

Remote Access VPN

Figure 4. Remote Access VPN

The public internet is the most logical and common means of sending information, therefore a VPN sends it there. However, everything you send over the internet that isn't encrypted can be viewed by others along the way. Anyone on your wifi network can listen in on your activities. Encryption is the only method to avoid this.

VPNs rely heavily on encryption. When you connect to Acess Server using your devices, all of the data you retrieve is encrypted and unreadable. No one can comprehend it while it's in transit there — it's just garbled nonsense. Access Server, on the other hand, has keys to decrypt it, which is how it can read it. Any information transmitted back to your device from the Access Server is also encrypted, ensuring that nothing that passes over that connection in either direction is readable by anyone else.

4. Email Security

Email security refers to the processes and strategies used to secure email accounts, information, and communication from unwanted access, loss, or compromise.

Email is a common vector for cyber attacks due to its pervasiveness and inherent weaknesses. These assaults may include:

Malware like Viruses, worms, Trojan horses, and spyware. When these vectors are used successfully, an attacker can gain control of workstations or servers. This access can then be used to corrupt otherwise secure data.

Spam may be disruptive to worker productivity and can also act as a vehicle for viruses.

Phishing is the use of a computer or social engineering methods to persuade victims to provide sensitive information or grant access to sensitive systems.

Email security refers to the procedures used to keep emails secure.

To avoid the above outlined cyber threats, companies must ensure that their employees are aware of email security and safety protocols. The techniques outlined below will assist you how to strengthen your email security

  • Make Use of Strong Passwords
  • Encryption is used in email traffic
  • Security awareness training is a key factor
  • Use up-to-date email and antivirus software.
  • Implement a strong Email Policy

5. Data Loss Prevention (DLP)

Data Loss Prevention (DLP) is the process of identifying and preventing sensitive data breaches, exfiltration, or deletion. DLP is used by organizations to safeguard and secure their data while still complying with requirements.

Data Loss Prevention

Figure 5. Data Loss Prevention

To safeguard data at rest, in motion, and in use, data loss prevention software and solutions monitor and manage endpoint activity, filter data streams on corporate networks, and monitor data in the cloud. DLP also offers reports to fulfill compliance and auditing needs, as well as to detect areas of vulnerability and anomalies for forensics and incident response.

DLP is commonly used in organizations to

  • Protect Personally Identifiable Information (PII) and follow all applicable rules.
  • Protect its intellectual property.
  • Achieve data visibility.
  • Secure mobile workforces and enforce security in Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) environments,
  • Keep data secure on remote cloud systems

Here's how you get started with a successful DLP deployment:

  • Data Prioritization

Not all data is equally important. Every company defines important data differently. The first step is to determine which data would cause the most trouble if taken.

  • Data Classification

Data classification by context is a simple and scalable technique. Associating a categorization with the source application, data repository, or user who produced the data is what this entails. Organizations can trace their usage of data by applying persistent categorization tags to it. Content analysis can also be beneficial.

  • Recognize when data is at risk.

Data sent to user devices or shared with partners, customers, and the supply chain carries a variety of hazards. In these instances, the data is frequently at its most vulnerable while it is in use on endpoints. Attaching data to an email or transferring it to a removable storage device are two examples. A solid DLP program must account for data mobility and when data is in danger.

  • Data in motion should be monitored.

It is critical to understand how data is utilized and to detect behaviors that endanger data. Organizations must monitor data in motion to get visibility into what is occurring with their sensitive data and identify the breadth of the issues that their DLP strategy should address.

  • Develop controls and communicate with others.

The next step is to collaborate with business line managers to figure out why this is occurring and to develop controls to reduce data risk. Data usage controls may be basic at the start of a DLP program. Organizations may build more granular, fine-tuned controls to decrease particular hazards as their DLP program grows.

  • Employees should be trained and supervised regularly.

User training can decrease the risk of unintentional data loss by insiders once an organization recognizes when data is transferred. Employees frequently fail to understand that their activities might result in data loss and will perform better if they are trained. Advanced DLP solutions include user prompting to warn workers about data usage that may violate corporate policy or raise the risk. This is in addition to measures that completely prevent hazardous data activities.

  • Rollout

To allow fine-grained data controls, some companies will repeat these processes with a larger data collection or extend data identification and categorization. DLP is easier to install and administer since it first focuses on safeguarding a subset of the most essential data. A successful pilot program will also give opportunities for program expansion. With time, a greater amount of sensitive data will be included, with minimal impact on business operations.

6. Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS)

An intrusion prevention system (IPS) is a technology that detects malicious activities on a network and/or system. Intrusion detection and prevention systems are other names for intrusion prevention systems (IDPS).

Intrusion Prevention Systems

Figure 6. Intrusion Prevention Systems

How IPS works?

Intrusion prevention systems are often installed behind a firewall to act as an additional filter for harmful activities. Because intrusion prevention systems are installed in-line, they can analyze and take automatic actions on all network traffic flows. These measures may include notifying administrators, discarding unsafe packets, blocking traffic from the source address(es) of malicious behavior, and reconnecting connections. It is critical to remember that an effective intrusion prevention system must be efficient to prevent network performance from being hampered. Furthermore, intrusion prevention systems must be fast and accurate to detect malicious activities in real-time.

In addition, intrusion prevention systems can do more complex observation and analysis, such as monitoring and responding to abnormal traffic patterns or packets. Detection mechanisms might include the following:

  • Address matching
  • String and substring matching in HTTP
  • Matching generic patterns
  • TCP connection investigation
  • Anomaly detection in packets
  • Anomaly detection in traffic
  • Matching TCP/UDP ports

Intrusion Prevention System (IPS) Classification:

The intrusion prevention system is not only capable of scanning network packets at the entrance level, but it is also capable of detecting hostile activities on the private network.

They are classified into several sorts based on their functioning, as listed below:

  • Network-based intrusion prevention system (NIPS): It analyzes protocol behavior to monitor the whole network for suspicious traffic.
  • Wireless intrusion prevention system (WIPS): It analyzes wireless networking protocols to monitor a wireless network for suspicious traffic.
  • Network behavior analysis (NBA) analyses network data to detect threats that cause anomalous traffic patterns, such as distributed denial of service attacks, particular types of malware, and policy breaches.
  • Host-based intrusion prevention system (HIPS): This is a built-in software package that detects and prevents intrusions.

IPS detection methods and techniques

An intrusion prevention system is generally set up to utilize a variety of methods to safeguard the network against unauthorized access. These are some examples:

  • Signature-Based - The signature-based method employs preset signatures of recognized network threats. When an attack fits one of these signatures or patterns, the system takes the appropriate response.
  • Anomaly-Based - The anomaly-based method monitors the network for any unusual or unexpected activity. If an anomaly is identified, the system instantly disables access to the target host.
  • Policy-Based - This method necessitates administrators configuring security policies in accordance with organizational security rules and network infrastructure. When a security policy is violated, an alert is generated and delivered to the system administrators.

7. Cloud Network Security

Simply, cloud security refers to the technology, rules, procedures, and services that guard against threats to cloud data, applications, and infrastructure.

The infrastructure is someone else's issue when it comes to cloud network security. The cloud service provider safeguards their own infrastructure, right-sizes it, upgrades it as needed, and employs their own personnel. Customers must, however, continue to safeguard their own workloads.

Cloud Network Security

Figure 7. Cloud Network Security

The security measures needed vary according to the type of cloud system used. So what types of cloud systems are there?

Public Cloud Security

The infrastructure in a public cloud is secured by a third party – the cloud service provider. Advanced data security measures, such as data encryption, tracking, and access control, are provided by the most major providers (AWS, Google, and Azure).

The infrastructure for public clouds is managed by the provider, but the client is still responsible for protecting their own workloads.

While these providers provide useful security measures, customers can still make mistakes such as misconfiguring controls, leaving critical data exposed, providing access to the incorrect people, or granting too much access to approved users.

Private Cloud Security

A private cloud is a set of services that are available directly to a limited number of users, who are often workers of the company that administers the private cloud. Users benefit from self-service and access from anywhere, while network operators profit from flexibility and scalability – with the proviso that capacity is restricted to what is accessible on the network operator's systems. Private clouds are much more secure than public clouds, but they need the same amount of manpower, management, and upkeep as a regular network.

Hybrid Cloud Security

A hybrid cloud is a combination of public and private clouds, as well as on-premise infrastructure. Data, workloads, apps, and services can be exchanged between infrastructures, but confidential data or other important assets can be kept away from the public cloud for extra protection.

Hybrid clouds increase complexity, but they can provide more security by restricting critical assets to the private cloud or datacenter, while ordinary workloads can operate on the less expensive public cloud.

8. Sandboxing

The phrases "sandbox" and "sandboxing" are becoming more prevalent in network security. But what precisely is sandboxing and how is it used? Sandbox technology enables the creation of an isolated test environment within a system.

Sandboxing

Figure 8. Sandboxing

Certain operations can be done by software in this manner without causing hardware harm. Sandboxing is simply the process of safeguarding your operating system against incorrect code or viruses.

How does sandboxing work?

Sandboxes may be created in a variety of ways. The following list offers a high-level overview of several sandbox versions and how they work.

  • Sandbox programs: Sandboxie, a popular standalone open-source software for sandboxing technology, provides a ready-made sandbox. When activated, any write accesses to the hardware attempted by the possibly malicious application are diverted to a folder that you may choose before the test. On command, files saved in the sandbox can be transferred into the actual system. You may manage several sandboxes at the same time with these programs.
  • Sandbox in the operating system: With the aid of layers and levels, certain programs enable you to utilize the sandbox directly in your program code. This sandbox is then integrated into your operating system, although in a self-contained manner. You input specific settings for the length of the particular program, as with other sandboxing tools, allowing for focused sandbox analysis. With Windows 10 (starting with version 1903, build 18305), you have the integrated Windows Sandbox as default, which you may enable or disable yourself.
  • Virtual machines (VMs): Virtual machines (VMs) are broader than individual programs. Because of its size, a VM may be used in the same way as a regular computer and is frequently housed on a separate server. The VM can be divided into numerous guest systems. These pseudo-systems live independently and are completely separated from the hardware. VMware, Java Virtual Machine, and FAUmachine are well-known VMs for Linux and macOS.
  • Plug-in sandbox: An example of a plug-in sandbox may be found in the computer language Java. Java applets take advantage of the sandbox in this case. Applets are computer applications that run in a web browser client. However, owing to the integrated sandbox, the application code loaded online is run in a separate environment, protecting your hard drive, working memory, and operating system functions.

Features of the Sandbox

Today, sandbox systems are compared based on their collection of capabilities that help in sophisticated malware research. The majority of them contain standard security technologies such as:

  • Threat assessment
  • Pre-filtering
  • Detection time
  • Reporting
  • Automation
  • Roadmap

The Advantages of Sandboxing

There are several advantages to using a sandbox:

  • It poses no threat to your host devices or operating systems. The major benefit of sandboxing is that it protects your host devices and operating systems from possible attacks.
  • Check for risks in possibly harmful software. You can evaluate new software for risks before adopting it if you're working with new suppliers or untrustworthy software sources.
  • Changes to software should be tested before they go live. If you're writing new code, you may utilize sandboxing to test it for any flaws before releasing it to the public.
  • Zero-day threats should be quarantined. Sandboxing allows you to isolate and remove zero-day threats.
  • Supplement other security measures. Sandboxing works in conjunction with your other security products and policies to provide you with even more protection.

Free sandbox solutions

There are a lot of free sandbox solutions available, however, they may not have all of the functionality and integration of an enterprise solution.

  • Avast Internet Security
  • Cameyo
  • Comodo Internet Security
  • Evalaze
  • Malwarebytes
  • Sandboxie
  • Shade Sandbox
  • Time Freeze
  • VMWare or VirtualBox

9. Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA)

It is a strict form of network security in which all requests coming from inside or outside the network are authenticated. In standard security models, requests made from within the network are considered secure, only external access requests are questioned. The risk of this implementation is that if the cybercriminal is included in the network, she/he can access critical assets without encountering any obstacles, and this creates a serious security problem.

Zero Trust Network Access

Figure 9. Zero Trust Network Access

ZTNA works on the assumption that there should be "Zero Trust" to any user no matter where access requests come from unless they are allowed.

As previously stated, Zero Trust Access Network is based on a rigorous set of security standards that demand authentication for all users both within and outside the network's perimeter. ZTNA generally grants access to users in three steps:

  • Confirm users' identities
  • Verify devices
  • Set up an encrypted tunnel MFA or 2-Factor Authentication is used to authenticate users' identities.

Network Access Control (NAC) is used on devices to guarantee that the user's identification matches the device's identity. Once authenticated, the device matches their identification and provides the user the bare minimum of access. The ZTNA service will be created.

What are the Benefits of Network Security?

Of course, it will be devastating if all your personal or corporate work is wasted due to a security weakness. That's why we want to feel safe by investing in network security.

Well, what are the benefits of Network security, what are the benefits, let's talk about them briefly.

Some of the key advantages are:

  1. It contributes to the protection of critical assets (data, devices, etc.) on your network
  2. Reduces the stress about business security.
  3. Decrease the risks you may encounter
  4. If unexpected things happen, help the business recovery quickly
  5. Decreased risks, reduced stress mean increased productivity.

What Are The Best Network Security Tools?

In today's digital-first era, when cybercriminals and threats are at an all-time high, companies must employ network security technologies to ensure the safety of their systems and networks.

In the last part of this article, we will present you with a list of network security tools.

1. Wireshark

Wireshark is the most famous and extensively used network protocol analyzer in the world. It allows you to observe what's going on in your network at a microscopic scale.

Wireshark

Figure 10. Wireshark

Wireshark offers a comprehensive feature set that covers the following:

  • Deep inspection of hundreds of protocols, with more being added regularly
  • Offline analysis and live capture
  • Standard three packet browser
  • Multi-platform: Runs on Windows, Linux, macOS, Solaris, FreeBSD, NetBSD, and a variety of other operating systems.
  • Captured network data can be viewed using a graphical user interface (GUI) or the TTY-mode TShark software.
  • The industry's most powerful display filters
  • In-depth VoIP analysis
  • Many diverse capture formats may be read and written: tcpdump (libpcap), Pcap NG,

2. Metasploit

The most widely used penetration testing framework in the world.

Metasploit is accessible as an open-source project as well as a paid Pro edition for developers and security experts.

 Metasploit

Figure 11. Metasploit

The Metasploit framework is a comprehensive network security tool that hackers and security experts may use to examine weaknesses in my site or network. Because it is an open-source framework, it is highly customizable and may be used on a wide range of operating systems.

3. Nessus

Nessus is a vulnerability scanning tool developed by Tenable. Nessus tests each port on a computer to determine which services are running and then tests for a vulnerability that could be used by a hacker to carry out a malicious attack.

Nessus

Figure 12. Nessus

Some of the features of Nessus, which has a very important place in ensuring your network security, are as follows:

  • Vulnerability Scanning
  • Asset Discovery
  • Network Scanning
  • Vulnerability Assessment
  • Prioritization
  • Policy Management
  • Web Scanning

4. Nmap

Nmap, or Network Mapper, is a penetration testing and security auditing tool. It uses NSE scripts to discover network service vulnerabilities, misconfigurations, and security problems.

Nmap may also be used by network managers to accomplish activities such as network inventory, service update schedules, and uptime monitoring.

Nmap

Figure 13. Nmap

5. Suricata

Suricata is the most trusted independent open source threat detection engine. Suricata can swiftly identify, halt, and analyze the most complex threats by integrating intrusion detection (IDS), intrusion prevention (IPS), network security monitoring (NSM), and PCAP processing.

Suricata

Figure 14. Suricata

Features:

Some of the features that play an important role in the use of Suricata are as follows:

  • IDS/IPS

Suricata uses a comprehensive signature code to detect known threats, policy breaches, and malicious behavior. Suricata will also discover a large number of abnormalities in the traffic it examines. Suricata may use the specific Emerging Threats Suricata ruleset as well as the VRT rulebook.

  • Network Security Monitoring

Suricata can track HTTP requests, log and store TLS certificates, and extract and store files from flows. The full pcap capture support makes analysis simple.

  • High Performance

Suricata can analyze multi-gigabit traffic with a single instance. The engine is based on a multi-threaded, modern, clear, and highly scalable code foundation. Several vendors provide native hardware acceleration support

  • Automatic Protocol Detection

Suricata will identify protocols like HTTP on any port and apply the appropriate detection and logging logic. This substantially aids in the detection of malware and CnC channels.

Can Optimizing a Network Increase Your Network Security

Complexity is the enemy of  security.

Figure 15. Complexity is the enemy of security

Many high-profile data breaches are the result of setup problems and weaknesses caused by business networks' increasing complexity. As all network security specialists know “Complexity is the enemy of security” While you are optimizing your network, in a way, you are producing solutions against complexity.

Another well-known saying “ Enemy of my enemy is my friend” Optimization is an Enemy of Complexity and a friend of Security. You can find the benefits of Network Optimization in this article.