Network security is a broad term that covers both hardware, software, and cloud technologies that are involved in protecting computer networks and data from cyber threats. Network security prevents this data from being accessed by anyone outside of the network, keeping it confidential and safe.
Any organization, big or small, needs to have some form of network security. The importance of network security should not be underestimated for the individual either, however. Anyone who accesses the internet and wants to keep their accounts secure needs to make network security decisions.
The importance of network security has never been higher. By the year 2021, the annual global cost of dealing with the damage caused by cybercrime is estimated to be $6 trillion.
As network security technologies get more sophisticated, so too do the cyber-criminals’. More and more organizations and individuals are relying on computer networks and cloud storage rather than pen-and-paper so it has never been more important to ensure that your network is secure.
The most common types of cyber threats are:
- hacking – unauthorized access to control a computer or private network within a computer
- phishing – the sending of bogus emails to try to entice people into revealing their network passwords
- malicious software – also known as “malware“, this is software that once downloaded to a computer, can access all data, devices, and systems
- distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks – these target websites and are aimed at overwhelming the website with so much traffic that they become unable to operate
If your network is not secure, anything that you store or access in your network would be vulnerable to being deleted, stolen, or altered. Of course, the nature of this data varies depending on what your network is being used for, but the implications for your business or personal life could be disastrous, depending on the data that is stored.
As an individual, for example, if your banking information and password were to get into the wrong hands, your bank account could be drained of all its money.
For businesses, network security is important for securing client data, protecting computers, keeping any shared data secure, preventing too much traffic, and improving network performance.
A breach in security could mean that business is interrupted, the loss of important data and even legal ramifications on behalf of any customers affected. As a business, it is, therefore, vital to keep networks secure.
It is important to remember, however, that network security is also important in protecting the network from human error, and employee negligence. Data can be accidentally damaged from within the network so it is important to protect it from this as well as protecting it from attacks outside of the network.
There are three main network security controls: physical, technical, and administrative.
- Physical network security involves preventing physical access to the network, such as the physical cables, routers, etc, through the use of methods such as locks and biometric scanners.
- Technical network security involves protecting data that is stored in the network, or that is sent out of or into the network, by preventing unauthorized access by outsiders and malicious access by employees within the network.
- Administrative network security involves having an administrator/s who control how much access individuals can have to the network and who monitor network access.
There are three principles to network security.
- The first is confidentiality, which involves keeping important data away from average users.
- The second is availability, which involves ensuring that this data is accessible to those who need it.
- The third is integrity, which involves protecting the data from being changed so that it remains reliable and accurate.
For a network to be secure, it has to satisfy all three elements of this “CIA” triad.
Types of network security devices
Several different devices can be used in network security. It is important to have a variety of different network security measures in place to protect your network as fully as possible.
- access control – this involves, simply, controlling who has access to the network. For example, through the use of passwords.
- antivirus/antimalware software – this will monitor network traffic in realtime and is also able to scan activity logs for suspicious behavior that may be related to a malware attack.
- behavioral analytics – people’s behavior in the network can be predicted. There is behavioral analytics software available that can identify abnormal behavior within the network and isolate any threats.
- data loss prevention – this blocks data from being taken outside of the network, which stops it from potentially getting into the hands of anyone malicious
- email security – email is one area of network security that is most often targeted. This can be through phishing emails, the sending of suspicious links that could download viruses or malware, or scams. Modern email security is quite adept at identifying suspicious-seeming emails and can either filter them out or present a warning. Some email security measures can also block the sending of certain information and data out of the network.
- firewalls – firewalls act as a gatekeeper between the network and the outside world and they filter incoming data according to predefined rules to prevent anything suspicious from entering the network.
- web security – this blocks people in the network from accessing certain websites that could commonly contain threats to the network.
It is important to remember, however, that again human error is a major source of breaches of network security. Having network security software and automated processes cannot always protect the network from its operators making mistakes or being taken in by people trying to access the network. Staff training and education on methods and techniques that could be used to gain access to the network is vitally important for the network to be truly secure.
The importance of network security should not be underestimated. The world is relying more and more on computers and the internet for everything from storing family photos to collaborating with business leaders across the world.
Every 30 seconds, $1.2 million is spent on online shopping and any breach in those networks could mean the loss of a lot of money and harmful outcomes for consumers. Network security can protect against outside cybercrime threats and from employee negligence and can ensure that no data is lost or ends up in the hands of malicious individuals.