Network Security Checklist, Protect your Business
We have compiled a network security checklist for SMBs providing actions that should be taken to secure your business network against internal and external threats.
A Network Security Checklist for SMBs
Attacks can come from all angles and as your network grows and you add more devices, increase the number of users, and use new applications, the threat surface rapidly grows, and your network becomes more complicated to defend. The purpose of this network security checklist is to provide you with tips on the key areas of network security you should be focusing on.
The best place to start is to develop a series of policies that describe the actions that are permitted and not permitted by your employees. If you do not explain how systems must be used and train users on best practices, risky behaviors are likely to continue that will undermine the hard work you put into defending your network.
Develop Policies that Dictate What is and is Not Allowed
You should develop an acceptable use policy covering all systems, an internet access policy stating how the internet can be used, and the websites and content that should not be accessed. Policies are required for an email stating how email must be used and data that is not permitted to be sent via mail. You will no doubt have some workers who access your network remotely. A policy is required covering secure remote access and the use of VPNs. If you allow the use of personal devices, a BYOD policy is a must. You should clearly state the sanctions for violating policies and must ensure that policies are enforced, ideally using automated technical measures.
Secure Servers and Workstations
All servers and workstations must be properly secured. Create a checklist for deploying new servers and workstations to ensure that each is properly secured before being used.
Secure Network Equipment and Devices
You must ensure your network is secured, along with any devices allowed to connect to the network.
User Account Management
You should adopt the principle of least privilege and only give access rights to users that need to access resources for routine, legitimate purposes. Restrict the use of admin credentials as far as is possible. Admin accounts should only be used for admin purposes. Log out of admin accounts when administration tasks have been performed and use a different account with lower privileges for routine work.
Ensure that each user has a unique account and password and make sure accounts are de-provisioned promptly when employees leave the company. Create a password policy and enforce the use of strong passwords. Consider using a password manager to help your employees remember their secure passwords.
Email is the most common attack vector used to gain access to business networks. Phishing is used in 90% of cyberattacks and email is a common source of malware infections. You should use an email security solution that scans inbound and outbound email to protect your network from attack and avoid reputation damage should email accounts be compromised and used to attack your business contacts.
Your email security solution should provide protection against the full range of email threats, including email impersonation attacks, phishing/spear phishing, and malware and ransomware. The solution should also be configured to prevent directory harvesting attempts.
The internet is a common source of malware infections and phishing attacks usually have a web-based component. You should implement a web filtering solution such as a DNS filter to provide secure internet access, which should protect users on and off the network. Your filtering solution should be capable of decrypting, scanning, and re-encrypting HTTPS traffic and should scan for malware including file downloads, streaming media, and malicious scripts on web pages. Use port blocking to block unauthorized outbound traffic and attempts to bypass your internet controls.
Traffic and Log Monitoring
You should be regularly reviewing access and traffic logs to identify suspicious activity that could indicate an attack in progress. Make sure logging is enabled and logs are regularly reviewed. If you only have a handful of servers you could do this manually, but ideally, you should have a security information and event management (SIEM) solution to provide real-time analysis of security alerts generated by your endpoints and network equipment.
Security Awareness Training
If you follow this network security checklist and implement all of the above protections, your network will be well secured, but even robust network security defenses can be undone if your employees engage in risky behaviors and are not aware of security best practices. Employees should be provided with security awareness training to teach cybersecurity best practices and how to identify threats such as phishing. Security awareness training should be provided regularly, and you should keep employees up to date on the latest threats.
Top Network Security Certifications and How to Choose the Right One for You
Network security is an organization’s first line of defense against hackers and other cyber threats. Thanks to projections that cybercrime is expected to inflict $6 trillion worth of damage around the world in 2021, we can see why network security has risen in prominence. However, just like there are many different forms of cyberattacks, there are a dizzying array of cybersecurity certifications to choose from.Although having so many cybersecurity choices is arguably a good thing, the sheer number and variety also pose a challenge. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the number of choices, sometimes to the point of not making a choice at all. What are the top network security certifications? Which one(s) are right for you and your organization? Are any of the top cyber security certifications universally applicable?In this article, we are going to shine the spotlight on various topics, including:What is network security?The need for network securityVarious types of network securityNetwork security jobs and salariesBest network security certificationsWhat is Network Security?Most experts define network security as the policies and practices of taking protective measures for protecting network infrastructure from trespassing, illegal access, modification, abuse, change, destruction, or the unauthorized gathering and release of data. The full process requires a combination of hardware devices, security software, and user awareness of security procedures and techniques.The latter element can range from employees getting briefed on proper security practices, to professionals who have taken network security training. Why is Network Security Needed?So many aspects of our lives have migrated to the digital world. We use the internet to conduct financial transactions, communicate with family and colleagues, make purchases, seek entertainment, and engage in research. So much of our personal information resides online, everything from birth dates, Social Security (or other identification numbers), health history, credit history, bank accounts, utility bills, and a host of other things.All that data and all those transactions are vulnerable to hackers and cybercriminals. The more of our lives we commit to the internet, the higher the risk of compromise. Moreover, the continuing importance of the Internet of Things (IoT) means even more reliance on wireless networks, which only increases the threat landscape, giving criminals more avenues and opportunities to perpetrate fraud. There is too much at stake in our personal and commercial lives to let network security slip. So, what types of network security are there?What Are the Types of Network Security?There is a whole arsenal of network security tools, methods, and practices available for cybersecurity professionals. Here’s a high-level overview:SoftwareSecurity software resources include anti-virus, anti-malware, and anti-spyware. These tools are available as suites or as subscriptions, updated continuously by the hosting vendor to keep up with the latest threats. These applications monitor your network, blocking intruders, malware, and viruses.As an aside, it’s extremely wise to opt for a security subscription as opposed to getting a suite and loading it in-house. Subscription providers/vendors are in a better position to deal with the constant changes to the cyber security landscape. There seems to be a new cyber threat or virus emerging every day, and your software won’t defend against threats it doesn’t yet know exist. That’s why it’s better to leave that heavy lifting to the subscription provider.Password ProtectionThis is such a simple measure but is extremely important. Strong passwords are an inexpensive yet effective way of keeping systems, applications, and networks safe, and you don’t have to be a seasoned cybersecurity professional to put strong passwords into practice. And when we say “strong” passwords, we don’t mean ridiculous ones like “password” or “99999”.FirewallsIf you picture your network as an exclusive nightclub, then the firewall would be the bouncer, working the door and keeping out undesirables. They filter traffic (incoming and outgoing), based on predetermined policies, preventing unauthorized users from coming in. Anyone who’s tried to work remotely but was locked out of their company’s main systems due to not having the right authorization, has experienced first-hand the effectiveness of a firewall.Email Security SoftwareEmail is a very vulnerable point in any network. Cybercriminals love to send bogus emails that look like correspondence from legitimate companies and financial institutions. But just one click of a link embedded in these fraudulent emails could be enough to compromise your system. To that end, email security software can not only filter out incoming threats, but it can also even prevent certain kinds of data from being transmitted.Segmented NetworksThis process sorts and divides traffic based on specific established criteria. Segmented networks are especially useful for limiting users to just one area, specifically the one they need to do their work while keeping these users out of the data that’s outside of their wheelhouse. Restricting users like this helps decrease the overall network’s weak spots.Which are the Best Network Security Certifications?Before you can make big bucks in the network security field, you need to learn the tools and skills. That’s where network security training comes in. Network security certification courses not only give you the essential knowledge for these positions, but they also give you that valuable certificate that shows prospective employers that you have the required qualifications.Let’s dig into some of the major network security certifications.1. CEH: Certified Ethical HackerAlso known as “white hat hackers,” these are IT security professionals whose job is to try and penetrate systems and find vulnerabilities. Businesses and organizations hire them to find weaknesses in the system and figure out how to fix them. When you consider how important cybersecurity has become, it’s unsurprising that this certification is such a sought-after commodity.2. CISSP: Certified Information Systems Security ProfessionalThis certification is for experienced security professionals who are responsible for the development and management of their organization’s security procedures, policies, and standards. It is perfect for IT security professionals who want to take their careers to the next level.3. CISM: Certified Information Security ManagerThis certification is a critical resource for IT professionals who have enterprise-level security management responsibilities. They manage, develop, and oversee security systems and develop organizational best practices.4. CCSP: Certified Cloud Security ProfessionalThis certification has become highly sought after thanks to many organizations increasingly migrating to the cloud. The course focuses on IS and IT professionals who apply best practices to cloud security architecture, design, operations, and service orchestration. If you work with cloud platforms, this is a must.5. CISA: Certified Information Systems AuditorThis certification target IS professionals who focus primarily on audit control, assurance, and security. It provides you with the skills required to govern and control enterprise IT and perform an effective security audit. 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What is Information Security?
unauthorized access. Information Security is basically the practice of preventing unauthorized access, use, disclosure, disruption, modification, inspection, recording, or destruction of information. Information can be physical or electronic. Information can be anything like Your details or we can say your profile on social media, your data on mobile phone, your biometrics, etc. This Information Security spans so many research areas like Cryptography, Mobile Computing, Cyber Forensics, Online Social Media, etc. During First World War, Multi-tier Classification System was developed keeping in mind the sensitivity of the information. With the beginning of the Second World War formal alignment of the Classification System was done. Alan Turing was the one who successfully decrypted Enigma Machine which was used by Germans to encrypt warfare data. Information Security programs are built around 3 objectives, commonly known as CIA – Confidentiality, Integrity, and Availability. Information Security is not only about securing information from Confidentiality – which means information is not disclosed to unauthorized individuals, entities and processes. For example, if we say I have a password for my Gmail account but someone saw it while I was doing login into my Gmail account. In that case, my password has been compromised and Confidentiality has been breached.Integrity – means maintaining the accuracy and completeness of data. This means data cannot be edited in an unauthorized way. For example, if an employee leaves an organization then in that case data for that employee in all departments like accounts, should be updated to reflect the status to JOB LEFT so that data is complete and accurate in addition to this only authorized persons should be allowed to edit employee data.Availability – means information must be available when needed. For example, if one needs to access information on a particular employee to check whether the employee has an outstanding number of leaves, that case, requires collaboration from different organizational teams like network operations, development operations, incident response, and policy/change management. Denial of service attack is one of the factors that can hamper the availability of information.Apart from this, there is one more principle that governs information security programs. This is Non repudiation. Nonrepudiation – means one party cannot deny receiving a message or a transaction nor can the other party deny sending a message or a transaction. For example, in cryptography, it is sufficient to show that message matches the digital signature signed with the sender’s private key and that sender could have sent a message and nobody else could have altered it in transit. Data Integrity and Authenticity are prerequisites for Nonrepudiation. Authenticity – means verifying that users are who they say they are and that each input arriving at the destination is from a trusted source. This principle if followed guarantees the valid and genuine message received from a trusted source through a valid transmission. For example, take the above example sender sends the message along with a digital signature which was generated using the hash value of the message and the private key. Now at the receiver side, this digital signature is decrypted using the public key to generate a hash value, and the message is again hashed to generate the hash value. If the 2 value matches then it is known as valid transmission with the authentic or we say genuine message received at the recipient sideAccountability – means that it should be possible to trace the actions of an entity uniquely to that entity. For example, as we discussed in the Integrity section Not every employee should be allowed to do changes to other employees' data. For this, there is a separate department in an organization that is responsible for making such changes and when they receive a request for a change then that letter must be signed by a higher authority for example Director of the college and the person that is allotted that change will be able to do change after verifying his biometrics, thus timestamp with the user(doing changes) details get recorded. Thus we can say if a change goes like this then it will be possible to trace the actions uniquely to an entity.At the core of Information Security is Information Assurance, which means the act of maintaining the CIA of information, ensuring that information is not compromised in any way when critical issues arise. These issues are not limited to natural disasters, computer/server malfunctions, etc. Thus, the field of information security has grown and evolved significantly in recent years. It offers many areas for specialization, including securing networks and allied infrastructure, securing applications and databases, security testing, information systems auditing, business continuity planning, etc.Read More