In today’s digital business landscape where everything is interconnected, establishing robust network security has become more critical than ever. As organizations handle exponentially greater volumes of data and operations move increasingly online, adequately protecting networks from rapidly evolving cyber threats is imperative.
This comprehensive guide will provide an in-depth overview of the fundamental pillars of network security along with the different types of technologies, systems, and protocols available to safeguard infrastructure and data from compromise.
Table of Contents
The Core Pillars of Network Security
At a broad level, effective enterprise network security aims to achieve three fundamental goals:
Confidentiality – Ensuring sensitive information like customer data, intellectual property, and financial information remains protected and is only accessible to authorized parties. Network security preserves confidentiality through access controls, encryption, and data loss prevention.
Integrity – Maintaining the accuracy and trustworthiness of data, software, and hardware assets across the network by preventing unauthorized or malicious changes. Tools like intrusion detection systems (IDS) and file integrity monitoring uphold integrity.
Availability – Guaranteeing that networks, systems, services, and data remain fully accessible and operational for legitimate users when needed. Ensuring adequate bandwidth, uptime, and redundancy preserves availability.
Accomplishing these core pillars requires systematically deploying layers of complementary security tools, policies, procedures, and protocols across infrastructure and environments.
Let’s Now Examine Each of the Primary Types of Network Security Available Today
Managing access to networks, systems, and data based on defined user identities and enforcing need-to-know restrictions is foundational. Access control regulates access through:
- Network Access Control (NAC) – Evaluates devices connecting to networks for security compliance and authorizes access accordingly. This prevents rogue or vulnerable endpoints from entering.
- Multifactor Authentication (MFA) – Requires additional factors like biometrics or one-time codes along with main passwords when authenticating users to verify identities. MFA blocks malicious account takeovers.
- Role-Based Access Control (RBAC) – Restricts user system and data access rights based on defined roles and responsibilities. This implements least privileged access.
Robust access controls make infiltration far more difficult by verifying users and permitting only approved access.
Anti-Virus and Anti-Malware Defenses
Detecting, blocking, and mitigating malware like viruses, worms, spyware, bots, adware, and ransomware is essential for protecting endpoints and servers across networks.
Anti-malware solutions take a broader approach to defending entire systems across networks by analyzing behavior patterns, assessing vulnerabilities, learning threat characteristics, and developing immunity.
Combining anti-virus and anti-malware capabilities provides layered protection against a spectrum of attack vectors that evade single-point solutions.
As web and mobile applications become lynchpins of the modern enterprise, securing apps across their entire development lifecycle has become paramount. Strategies like:
- Conducting code reviews and testing for vulnerabilities during design phases rather than just before launch.
- Performing penetration tests to identify flaws hackers could exploit.
- Embedding security directly into software via input validation, authentication APIs, encryption, and access restrictions.
- Monitoring traffic to and from apps for signs of misuse or DoS attacks.
Application security reduces the risk of vulnerabilities in software many enterprises rely on to conduct operations.
Analyzing patterns in network traffic, log events, endpoint activity, user behaviors, and communication flows enables identifying anomalies indicative of emerging threats, insider risks, or malicious actions.
Machine learning algorithms detect deviations from normal baselines that signal early stages of an attack or compromise. Behavior analytics provides actionable threat intelligence to security teams.
As migration to public and private cloud environments accelerates, applying robust security controls tailored to the cloud has become mandatory. Tactics include:
- Data encryption to protect sensitive information stored in the cloud.
- Granular identity and access management down to the individual workload level.
- Micro segmentation to isolate cloud workloads in walled-off network segments.
- Configuring security monitoring across cloud infrastructure elements.
- Enforcing strict security responsibilities in provider SLAs.
Cloud-specific measures secure critical data and applications entrusted to remote third-party platforms.
Data Loss Prevention (DLP)
Monitoring and controlling what data leaves systems and preventing unwanted disclosure or exfiltration of confidential digital assets provides another key layer of protection.
DLP systems scan content traversing networks via email, web channels, endpoints, cloud apps, and more. They block identified intellectual property, customer data, financial information, and other sensitive content from leaving the organization.
This safeguards critical information from insider and endpoint threats looking to maliciously export data.
Given how rampant phishing, business email compromise (BEC), and malware-infected emails remain, securing email has become imperative. Methods include:
- Email gateways that filter inbound/outbound messages for spam, viruses, phishing attempts, and defined content policies.
- Automated monitoring and analysis of communication patterns to flag risky anomalies.
- Sandbox environments where suspicious attachments are tested first before delivery to recipients.
Robust email security reduces an prime attack vector directly targeting employees daily.
Acting as the barrier between a private internal network and the open public internet, firewalls enforce predefined security policies by allowing or rejecting traffic based on factors like protocols, ports, IP addresses, and user credentials.
Firewalls provide foundational network perimeter defense, especially via next-gen models that incorporate threat intelligence to identify and block sophisticated attacks not caught by traditional firewalls.
Managed Detection and Response (MDR)
Providing 24/7 monitoring, alerting, investigation capabilities and expert incident response in conjunction with leading security vendors allows stretched security teams to benefit from outside specialists.
MDR services equip in-house teams with enhanced skillsets, visibility and threat intelligence leveraging integrated security technologies and experienced analysts.
Multi-factor Authentication (MFA)
In addition to main passwords, requiring a secondary factor like a biometric scan or one-time verification codes sent to a trusted device provides more robust identity verification when users attempt to access networks and applications.
MFA adds another barrier to prevent unauthorized logins even if credentials are compromised or stolen in data breaches.
Dividing larger networks into smaller isolated segments and restricting communication between them limits lateral threat movement and containment in the event of breaches. Strategies include:
- Subdividing networks using VLANs based on departments, data sensitivity levels, applications, etc.
- Implementing tight firewall rules and access control lists between segments to allow only essential flows.
- Requiring heightened security controls and inspection of any inter-segment traffic.
Proper network segmentation reduces risks and minimizes potential damage if threats penetrate perimeter defenses.
Running untested programs like suspicious email attachments in an isolated sandbox environment before introduction to corporate systems enables inspecting code and activity for risks safely.
Advanced sandboxes simulate production systems to observe malicious behaviors like system file changes, network activity, and vulnerability exploits the program attempts to identify threats.
Zero Trust Model
The zero trust model assumes that all users, endpoints, networks and workloads pose a potential threat until rigorously verified. It leverages:
- Universal multifactor authentication and granular access controls
- Continuous inspection of device health and identity credentials
- Microsegmentation isolating systems and encrypting data
- Activity monitoring to baseline acceptable behaviors
By implementing least privilege access, zero trust minimizes risks from inevitable breaches.
Security Information & Event Management (SIEM)
SIEM platforms aggregate and analyze security event logs, threat alerts, network activity, user behaviors, and system telemetry.
Sophisticated correlation, automated incident response plans, and threat hunting empower IT security teams to quickly detect, investigate, and neutralize adversaries.
As the gateway to the internet, securing web traffic offers critical protection. Methods include:
- Allowlisting trusted sites and blocking known malicious domains
- Scanning inbound/outbound web content for embedded threats
- Filtering sensitive data leaving via web channels
- Inspecting encrypted traffic via SSL/HTTPS inspection
- Analyzing web activity patterns to identify command and control communications
Robust web security ensures external internet use does not jeopardize infrastructure and data.
Protecting corporate Wi-Fi networks presents unique challenges enterprises must address through measures like:
- Strong WPA3 encryption to prevent snooping and MITM attacks
- Disabling default SSIDs and using non-revealing Wi-Fi names
- MAC address filtering to allow known devices only
- Network segmentation and firewalls to isolate Wi-Fi traffic
- Continuous monitoring for rogue access points or tapping attempts
Securing wireless access has become vital as mobility and IoT devices that rely on Wi-Fi proliferate.
Making the Right Network Security Choices
With so many options available, selecting the ideal types of network security controls for your specific environment involves:
- Performing risk assessments to systematically identify vulnerabilities and prioritize corresponding threats.
- Mapping available solutions to effectively mitigate the dangers posed by each high priority risk.
- Considering budget limitations and prioritizing tools with the best ROI.
- Leveraging managed service providers to assist selecting and implementing complex security systems.
By adopting a layered, defense-in-depth strategy combining controls selected through structured evaluations of unique risks and resources, organizations can develop robust, optimized network security postures.
The Road Ahead
As cyber risks grow exponentially in frequency and sophistication, leveraging emerging techniques will become essential:
- Deception technology like honeypots distracts attackers from real assets by offering decoys and false trails to expose methods.
- User and entity behavior analytics (UEBA) identifies insider threats through intelligent monitoring of privileged user activity patterns.
- Security orchestration, automation and response (SOAR) solutions accelerate threat mitigation via structured automated playbooks.
- Artificial intelligence algorithms autonomously adapt security to address the advanced tactics of future cyber attacks.
The scope of network security is vast and demands continuous adaptation. But by mastering both the bedrock and cutting edge concepts covered here, IT teams gain a foundational and strategic grasp.
In today’s hyperconnected world, network security is paramount to organizational success and resilience.
A multi-layered approach spanning access governance, traffic inspection, endpoint protection, activity monitoring and managed detection and response represents the state of the art.
New attack vectors open constantly, making eternal vigilance mandatory. Partnering with specialized managed security providers enables access to elite expertise and threat intelligence.
With both strong security foundations and emerging innovations, companies can take on digital transformation with confidence despite increasingly sophisticated cyber risks. By implementing overlapping safeguards selected based on specific risks, networks and data can stay secured well into the future.
The 5 core types of network security include:
Firewalls – Filters incoming and outgoing network traffic based on security rules.
Intrusion prevention systems (IPS) – Scans traffic to block cyberattacks and threats.
Endpoint security – Anti-malware and threat detection on devices accessing the network.
Access controls – Manages access to networks and systems based on user identity.
VPNs – Encrypt network connections to secure remote access.
Network security refers to the policies, controls, and technical measures enacted to protect the confidentiality, integrity and availability of computer networks and data transmitted across them from unauthorized access, vulnerabilities and attacks.
The 4 key elements of network security are:
Firewall – Perimeter protection filtering inbound and outbound traffic.
Intrusion detection system (IDS) – Monitoring that identifies and responds to malicious network activity.
Vulnerability assessment – Regular scanning and audits to identify weaknesses.
Security policy – Defined guidelines users must follow for access, data, systems.
Ongoing reviews of policies, user access, configurations, vulnerabilities, and patching are needed to adapt defenses to a changing risk landscape. Annual audits provide more formal assessments.
Start with essentials like a firewall, endpoint protection, access controls, backups, employee security training and a managed service provider for expert guidance.
No. Just as you wouldn’t rely on a single lock to secure your home, using only one security method leaves numerous vulnerabilities attackers can exploit. Depth is critical.