What is network security?
Network security is a very broad umbrella term which refers to the numerous devices, technologies, processes and software which prevents unauthorised parties from being able to access your data.
These processes can be installed and managed by your IT team, or by the users themselves as part of their security threat management procedures.
How does network security work?
Essentially, network security measures work by all employees following a set of procedures which ensures your business data is protected. If, however, some aspects of the processes are not followed – such as weak passwords or not updating anti-malware software – will (not can) leave your network in a vulnerable position.
Network security measures essentially create barriers preventing cyber criminals and hackers from accessing your network and your data.
How to make your network secure
There is no singular piece of software that can 100% guarantee computer protection from hackers. Instead, there are a series of processes and behaviours which form numerous types of network security which need to be adopted and maintained.
Here are ten top tips to make your business network more secure:
A firewall is a piece of software loaded onto each user’s PC or laptop which acts as a ‘wall’ between the business network and the outside world, preventing unauthorised access to the data on the machine but also by filtering traffic through the network. Firewalls can also be set up to prevent user access to specific websites or groups of sites.
Disabling a firewall can leave the device vulnerable to cyber criminals, viruses and malware.
2. Malware protection
Anti-malware and ransomware software is as essential as a firewall for front-line defence, as it offers protection against malware and ransomware from infecting the machine and encrypting, deleting or stealing your data as well as freely travelling from one machine via the network to all in your organisation.
3. Enabling a virtual private network
For remote workers, it is vital to set up a virtual private network (VPN) which can connect your employees with the company network safely. It enables everything employees could access in the office to be available whilst working remotely but also ensuring the same level of security they would enjoy at the office.
VPNs are generally more secure than home networks as they encrypt data as it is sent over WIFI preventing unauthorised access to that data whilst in transit. It also sends data through company servers first which masks your IP address and encrypts data such as passwords and browsing history.
A VPN is particularly useful for file sharing with colleagues safely as the data is encrypted at each end of the process, meaning only the intended recipient is able to access it.
Although VPNs are not 100% safe you are less likely to be hacked whilst accessing data on a VPN than a home network or unsecured WIFI network as they typically use IPsec or Secure Sockets Layer to authenticate the communication process.
4. Strong password guidelines
Gone are the days where a password could be your favourite TV show or name of your pet – as they were simply too easy to hack. In order to ensure that passwords are difficult to decipher they should be:
- More than eight characters long.
- A combination of upper and lower case, numbers and special characters.
However, this doesn’t mean simply replacing some letters in your favourite TV show with a number as this is still possible to guess. It means the more random the password the better it is.
Strong passwords could look something like:
Enabling end to end encryption (E2EE) is another means of ensuring that data which is shared over a network is secure and that only authorised people can access it.
Encryption security scrambles the data when it is sent and therefore should it be intercepted on its cyber journey it cannot be read by anyone unauthorised. Only when it reaches the intended destination can it be decrypted by way of a decryption key, which is normally a long line of numbers.
This is generally done via encryption software which means it is an unobtrusive but effective security measure.
6. Multi factor authentication
If all your staff are following the guidelines for complex passwords above, you are going in the right direction for a secure network. However, it is more secure to introduce multi-factor authentication.
This means in addition to a strong password, users could also be required to give a fingerprint or enter a pin code or automatically generated code which is sent to their email or phone.
Whilst this may be a little slower to log in it provides an extra layer of defence and is worth the slight inconvenience.
7. Regular testing
It is likely that your business networks may have vulnerabilities which leave your data open for targeting by cyber criminals.
However, with regular testing, an IT professional will spot the weaknesses before the cyber criminals do. Penetration testing or a vulnerability scan should be carried out at least once a quarter unless compliance dictates it should be carried out more often.
These tests can be carried out using a vulnerability scanner or can be outsourced to an IT consultant to do for you.
8. Keep software/servers regularly updated
Whilst having all the latest software and hardware is laudable and a great weapon in the fight against cybercrime this will mean nothing if it is not regularly updated. Updates can fix bugs and weaknesses – which the criminals have also identified – and therefore ensures that your computer and network security is as safe as it can be.
9. Never use unsecured connections
When setting up remote employees onto the network, if a VPN is not possible then employees should be advised against using unsecured networks for business purposes.
Using unsecured public networks is inviting any unauthorised party to access your company and client data to do with what they want. With more of the workforce working remotely it is important that all users are clear that using unsecured public networks (e.g. free WIFI in a café) is not acceptable for business use.
10. Educate employees
The weakest link in every process is often human, and therefore even if you have the most robust system security in place, with the most up to date hardware and software if employees are not educated in the dangers and therefore the need for the security measures then these measures will not work. Both users and the IT team need to be up to date on the newest threats.
Training in spotting phishing emails and the dangers of clicking on links and opening attachments from unknown or suspicious accounts can cut cyber threats dramatically, as well as how to spot suspicious emails which appear legitimate (eg.an email from Paypa1@yahoo.com).
Additionally, ensure there are clear processes and policies to follow regarding IT security.
For more information about security services, cybersecurity and managing your business network security, speak to one of the team at CIS. With a number of cyber security services and an experienced team on hand to talk you through your issue, contact us today.