Protecting your organization and its data from cyber threats is a difficult task that requires skill and properly managed resources. Additionally, you must have a comprehensive security strategy outlining how to safeguard your network from cyber risks.
Your organization's end users need direction on the proper use of mobile platforms, e-mail, the internet, and other components of the network. This strategy should complement the business model and be neither too restricted nor too easy to implement and execute for your staff.
A network security plan is a strategy that describes the method and procedures that will be utilized to secure the network from unauthorized users and defend against activities that might imperil or undermine the security of a system. It is a high-level document that outlines what a company intends to do in order to comply with security regulations. Users, time, and other resources are specified in the plan as being necessary for the development of a security policy as well as for the technical execution of the security policy.
The security plan is a live document; it needs periodic review and maintenance to ensure it remains current and compliant with regulatory standards or significant changes in the network's topology.
Network security planning provides a road map for your company's operations to ensure that they are secure and safe. You must have a thorough grasp of the company and the backing of the senior leadership team in order to develop this plan successfully. It is important to remember that the strategy must be enforced, intentional, clear, and instructive for workers to put into action.
The administration and maintenance of a network security plan vary significantly amongst organizations. Numerous medium- to large-sized businesses employ a CISO or ISO, a security manager, a security director, or a compliance/risk manager. At the management level of an SMB, one person may wear numerous hats.
Regardless of your business's IT structure, the security plan's supervision should be maintained by individuals of the organization who are capable of successfully communicating the policy's content to end-users.
We are going to walk you through the process of developing and implementing a good network security plan for your company from start to finish in this article. We will explain the goal of each step and how it may be executed.
By the conclusion of this article, you will have a firm grasp of the fundamental components necessary to create your own security strategy, as well as the resources and experience necessary to maintain it.
Why is A Network Security Plan Important?
Due to the increased number of cyber-threats, it is critical to have a network security plan in place to safeguard the IT infrastructure from unauthorized access, damage, or loss of company reputation.
Regardless of the size of your company, network security should be one of your top considerations. No system or strategy is perfect, but having a trustworthy network security plan will prevent you from losing vital information, including your customers' information. A strategy for network security that is successful will lower the likelihood of data breaches, and other types of cyberattacks.
For instance, a successful phishing attempt may infect a desktop on the network with ransomware. Within minutes, it spreads laterally to other computers on the network and to mission-critical systems. Within a short amount of time, the network becomes compromised, and the organization must decide whether to pay the ransom or hire an expensive security consulting firm to find out how to halt the assault. A well-designed and comprehensive network security plan will include policies for proactively preventing attacks and avoiding this poor experience.
A network security strategy also assures the protection of your data in the case of an attack. It is your responsibility as a company to ensure that the information your customers share with you is always safe and secure. This is one of the primary reasons why you should give it a high priority.
Network security issues are perhaps the most detrimental to the productivity and operations of contemporary enterprises. When network systems go down, critical corporate operations grind to a stop, resulting in a range of problems, including customer service complaints and lost revenue.
The most effective strategy for enterprises to avoid these occurrences is to establish and execute a comprehensive network security plan. Businesses set themselves up for success by developing a strategy that enforces best practices, monitors the network, and offers solutions for network concerns.
What Are the Benefits of a Network Security Plan?
The primary advantages of a network security plan are as follows:
- Useful to Prevent Cyberthreats: A cybersecurity strategy that includes protections against information technology breaches might aid in the prevention of cyberattacks. Cybersecurity is a continuous process that needs constant maintenance and monitoring; it does not begin after an assault has occurred.
- Quick Detection of Cyberthreats: When a security breach happens in your business, every second counts either for or against you. If you implement an incident response strategy into your plan, you may quickly and significantly mitigate the harm. Therefore, the earlier you notice it, the simpler it is to manage and safeguard your data.
- Fast Response Against Cyberattacks: A prompt reaction to cyberthreats will defend the integrity of your firm in the eyes of your workers, customers, and other stakeholders. For instance, if a computer system containing sensitive information is taken, you might remotely disable or lock it before any data is compromised. A cybersecurity strategy will include the processes and countermeasures required to counteract any cyberthreat.
How To Create A Network Security Plan?
Network security needs a complicated mix of hardware components, including firewalls, routers, intrusion detection/prevention systems(IDS/IPS), e-mail security systems, and endpoint security applications. Also, purchasing, implementing, and supporting the appropriate component needs employees with a specific degree of knowledge. All of these resources, in addition to the financial constraints imposed by corporate leadership, need meticulous planning and cost analysis to assure a return on investment. These variables must be taken into account while planning to safeguard your network.
Each security layer you add to your network has an effect on the user experience. It raises the cost of operational and capital expenditures. An optimal plan is one that protects your network at a reasonable price without sacrificing user experience. Answering the following questions will assist you in developing a complete cybersecurity strategy:
- Which industry and government regulations must you follow?
- What parts of your network are the most vulnerable?
- Which technologies will you need to identify and prevent the most complex breaches?
- How will you audit the network security strategy after it is put in place?
The fundamental stages necessary to develop an efficient security strategy are outlined below:
1. Identify Network Entities
Identifying the network assets that need to be safeguarded is the first step in designing a security strategy.
This focuses the project and ensures that the appropriate assets are preserved. It entails assessing all of your network's hardware and software components.
Network assets may comprise network hosts, such as the computers used by workers or the data they have saved, as well as networking hardware such as switches and routers. In addition, you should monitor both incoming and outgoing traffic to discover possible entry points. Setting tight network access rights makes detecting intrusions simpler.
For years, network security experts focused only on preventing incoming threats from entering the network. It was presumed that all outbound traffic was authorized. That is no longer the case.
Many businesses are worried about the exfiltration or transmission of sensitive data across the corporate network. Data loss prevention (DLP) is a need for many organizations since it ensures that end-users do not transfer sensitive or vital information outside of the corporate network. Determine initially whether your network security strategy must simply cover incoming traffic or if it must also manage outbound exfiltration possibilities.
User administration and logins are an additional significant concern. Are you responsible for maintaining the security of user logins as they transit your network?
The majority of bigger organizations have a staff devoted to handling single sign-on and Active Directory user setups, but are they also concerned with security? Who is responsible for detecting and preventing network-based assaults against credentials? This obligation should be made explicit.
2. Do a Risk Analysis
The next stage involves detecting and assessing possible network threats. A crucial component of this stage is evaluating the likelihood of a danger occurring and the severity of that risk if it does occur.
Threats might vary from violent attackers to inexperienced individuals downloading a Trojan horse software. Intruders with hostile intent may steal data, alter data, and deny service to authorized users. In recent years, denial-of-service (DoS) assaults have grown more prevalent.
It also requires a thorough comprehension of the present threat environment and its potential impact on your company.
According to the scale of your network, this assessment is often performed by a third party and may take several weeks. At this point, members of the Server, Database, Information Security, and Network staff will be required to join the teams. Following the evaluation of the threat assessment, the accessor will deliver a complete report identifying the most susceptible locations and making suggestions for repair.
Risk assessment should continue even after the security strategy has been implemented; it should be a continuous activity.
3. Analyze Security Requirements
This stage entails assessing the risks and network assets, as well as evaluating the security needs of the company in question. Which information or devices are the most critical to protect?
Despite the fact that many clients have more particular objectives, in general, security needs boil down to the protection of the following assets:
- The secrecy of data is such that only authorized users may access sensitive information.
- Data integrity, so that only authorized users may modify sensitive data.
- System and data availability, allowing users ongoing access to vital computer resources.
Based on the industry, compliance might be a significant concern. Specific regulatory requirements have a direct impact on the network security strategies of businesses that deal with healthcare, financial, and other sensitive data. In these instances, you will need to check with your compliance department which legislation applies to your company.
Additionally, if you have sites or clients in the European Union, for example, you may need to adapt your network security strategy to account for geographical factors. Some privacy and data protection standards may force you to strengthen your security measures.
This is also the point at which the budget comes into play. because some remedies may be more costly than the danger they are attempting to prevent, or because they may leave the program nearly totally useless or onerous as a result.
The cost of guarding oneself against a danger should be less than the expense of recovering if the threat were to hit you, according to an ancient security adage. It is important to realize that cost in this context includes losses reflected in actual dollars, reputation, and other less visible indicators.
As with the majority of technological design needs, accomplishing security objectives requires making compromises. Security objectives and goals for price, performance, usability, and availability must be compromised. In addition, the maintenance of user login IDs, passwords, and audit logs increases the workload of management.
Clearly define your network security needs. Determine the boundaries of network security. And last, use contemporary technologies to combat contemporary dangers.
4. Develop a Security Policy
A security policy is a written declaration of the rules that anyone with access to an organization's technology and information assets must follow.
A security policy advises users, managers, and technical personnel of their responsibilities for securing information and technological assets. The policy should outline the methods for fulfilling these duties. As was the case with the security strategy, managers, executives, workers, and technical professionals should support the security policy.
Senior management is responsible for developing a security policy with assistance from security and network administrators. Managers, network engineers, users, and potentially legal counsel provide feedback to the administrators.
After a security strategy has been formed senior management should communicate it to everyone. Numerous businesses need employees to sign a statement attesting that they have read, comprehended, and agreed to adhere to a policy.
A security policy is a document that is always evolving. Due to the dynamic nature of businesses, security policies should be continuously revised to reflect new business directions and technical developments. Changes in risks also impact the security policy over time.
Typically, a policy should have at least the following elements:
- Access policy: A policy that specifies access permissions and rights. The access policy should outline the procedures for connecting external networks, devices, and new software to systems. A policy may also handle the classification of data such as top-secret, internal, and confidential.
- Authentication policy: A policy for authentication that generates trust via an effective password policy and provides remote-location authentication standards.
- Accountability policy: A policy of accountability that outlines the duties of users, operational personnel, and management. The accountability policy should establish an audit capability and give incident-handling instructions that outline what to do and who to contact in the event of a probable intrusion.
- Computer-technology purchasing guidelines: Guidelines for the procurement of information technology that outline the requirements for obtaining, configuring, and auditing computer systems and networks to ensure compliance with the policy.
5. Develop Security Procedures
Security procedures are used to execute security policies. Configuration, auditing, authentication, and maintenance are procedures. End users, security administrators, and network administrators should be the intended audience for security processes. The handling of events should be outlined in the security protocols (that is, what to do and who to contact if an intrusion is detected). Users and administrators may learn about security protocols via instructor-led and self-paced training.
This step will include the development of an implementation strategy, which will take into account the technical tasks that will be necessary to put your security plan into effect.
6. Train Staff
Compliance training is essential for ensuring that your personnel understands the expectations placed on them.
Your information technology employees will need extra training beyond that provided to users and management since they will often be on the front lines, resolving problems as they happen.
If your IT assistance is provided by a third-party organization, you'll want to be certain that they are aware of your program.
Security awareness training should be provided regularly for the firm to build a strong security-first culture. Despite the fact that the ordinary employee may not remember the precise phrases used in the policy, security awareness training is critical to its internalization. Periodic phishing campaigns may be used to educate employees about security regulations and how to deal with risks that they may have forgotten about. Individuals who are not following security regulations may be identified, and a corporate hotline can be set up to report any noncompliance issues.
When creating a network security plan for your organization, it is essential that all workers comprehend the new aspects and are confident in their ability to adhere to them. Employees should not feel as if they are being needlessly constrained, but they must recognize that they play a crucial part in securing the network in their regular duties.
7. Implement the Plan
The smoothness of the deployment is determined by how comprehensive the planning process was. Because your network is operational 24 hours a day, this vital duty should preferably be completed when traffic is at its lowest.
If implementing the security strategy all at once is likely to create a network outage, you may do it in stages. Prioritize the most serious vulnerabilities. Holding trials before going live makes it simpler to uncover and resolve previously unknown network security vulnerabilities.
For your implementation to be successful, you must prepare ahead of time for the implementation timetable, who will be focusing on the implementation, any outsourcing needs (if applicable), risks that may arise, and a disaster recovery strategy.
If your organization has properly written and sound policies that outline what has to be done, you will need controls and tools to put in place to ensure that the rules are supported by the surrounding environment. To implement security controls, you may make use of one of the various security control frameworks that are available. These frameworks guide how to secure firewalls, adopt safe practices, and take other important security measures.
8. Monitor and Improve Your Plan
Having the greatest network security plan does not mean you should sit back and relax. Cybercriminals are continually scanning your network for vulnerabilities. Examining your audit logs provides you with crucial information about possible dangers. You should regularly monitor your security strategy to verify that it is functioning as intended, and you should use network security monitoring tools to assist you in this effort.
To keep your network safe in the face of constantly changing and evolving threats, it is necessary to keep an eye out for possible assaults or unusual behavior on your network. An effective network security plan also enables you to fine-tune your security controls to avoid future intrusions. Organizations should also have a team of IT specialists that are solely responsible for reacting to breaches. They may do this by redefining security settings, changing passwords, and turning off susceptible network components.
In the end, you will need to monitor the efficacy of your approach. In addition to the data and analytics provided by your network security devices, you may need additional information.
Government rules may mandate the maintenance of certain logs and audit trails. In the case of a security breach, it may be necessary to replay network events. You may choose to establish a security information and event management system to assist with logging, monitoring, and analyzing the deluge of data that your security equipment may generate.
It's also critical to ensure that fixes are maintained up to date, which is something that an outside support firm can surely assist with.
What should be part of a Comprehensive Network Security Plan?
The following components comprise a safe, secure network security strategy that will protect your organization from network attacks.
- Firewall: Your network's incoming and outgoing traffic will be filtered by a firewall. It will prevent specific information from accessing your network if it seems hazardous or harmful.
- Incident Response and Reporting: The ability to respond quickly to incidents is a critical component of network security. Some threat offenders have the goal of interfering with the company's day-to-day activities. These individuals are always on the lookout for new ways to access your network via the use of ransomware, phishing, and other social engineering techniques. Additionally, there is the potential of an insider threat in addition to the external danger. However, the good news is that you may get the technologies necessary to defend against these assaults. Network segmentation, firewalls, security awareness programs, and endpoint malware protection are just a few of the options available. If an employee senses danger or risk posed by spam, viruses, email/data breaches, etc., they should be trained to report these incidents to their IT or management team.
- Internet and Email Use: This component covers monitoring, regulating, restricting, and reporting on email traffic, the entrance point for the vast majority of network intrusions. Further restricting, monitoring, and reporting on employee Internet use, as well as the limitation of business resources, are essential for addressing the expanding risks.
- Security/Authentication of Passwords: Utilization of protective software, such as password managers, that encrypts passwords company-wide in order to store and manage them securely inside your network. Enforcing the usage of complicated passwords and using two-factor or multi-factor authentication might further safeguard your sensitive data.
- Training: Ensure that workers comprehend how safeguarding the organization eventually helps them to do their tasks more successfully and efficiently. Give them the chance to ask questions and offer ideas. Employees who feel listened to, valued, and supported are far more inclined to assume personal responsibility for the organization's protection.
- Protocols: As a business, you should have set software and hardware procedures for online device modifications, data access, and limits on the use of company-owned devices.
- Utilization of Corporate-Owned and Employee-Owned Devices: This section should address any limits on the usage of company devices for personal use, as well as the use of employee-owned devices for professional purposes. Detailed security criteria for any device that accesses corporate data should be specified in this section.
- Social Media Usage: Typically, It is advised to have a "no social media" policy while on business time or using company-owned devices in order to maximize company profitability, boost staff productivity, and avoid data breaches. This area is also the place to address privacy and confidentiality concerns, such as discussing the firm, its workers, customers, and rivals on social media or publishing corporate images or photos of other employees or clients on social media. There will always be businesses that believe it's acceptable to be more flexible on this topic, but the variety of threats posed by social media cannot be overstated.