Network Security Best Practices for US Enterprises

Harry Markham

Network Security Best Practices for US Enterprises

As businesses face the growing and evolving cyber threat landscape, implementing effective network security measures is crucial for the protection of US enterprises. In the 2021 Security Report, it was highlighted that threat actors are opportunistic, taking advantage of vulnerabilities in VPNs and increasing phishing attacks during the shift to remote work. To enhance cyber security, experts recommend adopting a cyber security mindset and implementing five best practices: changing security settings from detect to prevent, securing networks, mobile, endpoint, and cloud, consolidating security for better visibility, implementing the zero trust model, and being cyber-aware and using threat intelligence to advantage.

Network Security Best Practice #1: Segment, Segment, Segment

When it comes to network security, one of the most important best practices is segmenting the network into zones. This involves creating segregated areas within the network to isolate it from external networks. By implementing this segmentation strategy, organizations can enhance their network security and establish the foundation for the zero trust model.

Segmenting networks allows for the implementation of least privileged access across zone boundaries, increasing the overall security posture. This means that only authorized individuals or systems have access to specific network zones, reducing the risk of unauthorized access or lateral movement within the network.

Internal network zones can be defined based on functional or business group attributes, such as HR, finance, and research and development. This allows for more granular control and ensures that sensitive data is accessible only to those who need it.

In addition to enhancing security, network segmentation also aids in data classification and protection. By dividing the network into zones, it becomes easier to identify and categorize different types of data based on their sensitivity levels. This allows organizations to apply appropriate security measures and safeguards to protect valuable information from unauthorized access or compromise.

Benefits of Network Segmentation:

  • Enhanced network security by isolating segments
  • Least privileged access across zone boundaries
  • Better control and management of sensitive data
  • Easier identification and categorization of data
  • Improved protection against unauthorized access or compromise

By implementing network segmentation as a best practice, organizations can strengthen their overall network security, reduce the potential impact of a compromise, and safeguard their sensitive data.

Network Security Best Practice #2: Trust but Verify

Implementing the zero trust model is an essential network security best practice. In this model, access to data is granted only to individuals, devices, systems, and applications that require it for their defined role. To verify access, role-based access controls and identity management systems are employed. These systems use multi-factor authentication, ensuring device compliance, and utilize certificates to identify applications and systems.

Monitoring connection context and devices for any changes is crucial in detecting exploitation attempts. Intrusion detection and prevention systems play a crucial role in this process, providing additional layers of security to the network.

Network Security Best Practice #3: Secure IoT

As the number of IoT devices continues to rise, securing these devices is crucial to ensure overall network security. Many IoT devices are connected to the network without proper approval, making them vulnerable to exploitation by malicious actors. To mitigate these risks, it is essential for organizations to discover and classify all IoT devices connected to the network.

One effective approach is to automatically segment the IoT devices using firewall policies. By creating separate segments for IoT devices, organizations can isolate them from other parts of the network, limiting the potential impact of a compromise. This segmentation helps prevent unauthorized access to sensitive data and restricts the ability of attackers to move laterally within the network.

Furthermore, organizations should take steps to prevent exploits targeting known vulnerabilities in IoT devices. Regular patching and firmware updates are essential to address any security vulnerabilities. Additionally, implementing strong security controls without impeding the normal functions of these devices is crucial.

This best practice of securing IoT devices is particularly relevant in industries such as healthcare, manufacturing, and utilities that heavily rely on sanctioned IoT devices. These sectors need to adopt comprehensive security measures to protect critical infrastructure and sensitive data from cyber threats.

Network Security Best Practice #4: Enable Security

When it comes to network security, one of the most critical best practices is to enable security measures that are tailored to the specific data, devices, users, or systems being secured. By taking a proactive approach to enable security, organizations can effectively safeguard their network infrastructure and mitigate potential cyber threats.

Implementing Advanced Threat Prevention Technologies:

  • Sandboxing: Implementing sandboxing technologies can help organizations create a secure environment for safe internet access. By isolating potentially malicious files or programs in a controlled environment, sandboxing ensures that any potential threats are detected and neutralized before they can cause harm to the network.
  • Content Disarm & Reconstruction (CDR): CDR technologies are designed to remove potentially malicious elements, such as embedded malware or hidden scripts, from files being accessed or downloaded from the internet. By reconstructing the files without compromising their usability, CDR technologies provide an additional layer of protection against cyber threats.

Protection against Targeted Spear Phishing Attacks:

  • Spear phishing attacks are highly targeted and personalized phishing attacks that attempt to deceive individuals into revealing sensitive information or performing malicious actions. To prevent these attacks, organizations should implement robust email security solutions that can detect and block suspicious emails, as well as educate employees about the risks and best practices for identifying and handling phishing attempts.

Data Loss Prevention (DLP) Technologies:

  • Preventing the inadvertent loss or leakage of sensitive data is crucial for maintaining network security. DLP technologies help organizations identify and protect sensitive data by monitoring and controlling the flow of data both internally and externally. By implementing DLP solutions, organizations can prevent unauthorized access, accidental data exposure, and ensure compliance with data protection regulations.

Securing Laptops, Mobile Devices, and Endpoints:

  • Securing laptops, mobile devices, and endpoints is essential for maintaining a robust network security posture. Organizations should implement comprehensive security measures such as endpoint protection software, anti-ransomware solutions, and encryption technologies to safeguard these devices. Regular software updates and patch management should also be enforced to address any known vulnerabilities.

Ensuring Secure Cloud-Native Architectures:

  • As more organizations adopt cloud-based solutions, ensuring the security of their cloud-native architectures is crucial. Implementing robust cloud security measures, such as identity and access management (IAM), data encryption, and continuous monitoring, can help protect sensitive data and resources stored in the cloud. Additionally, organizations should follow best practices for cloud configuration and regularly review and update their security controls.

By enabling these security measures, organizations can significantly enhance their network security and protect against a wide range of cyber threats. With the ever-evolving threat landscape, it is essential to stay vigilant and proactive in implementing and maintaining the best practices of network security.

Network Security Best Practice #5: Security is a Process, not a Product

When it comes to network security, it is crucial to understand that it is not a one-time effort but an ongoing process. Protecting your network requires consistent effort and a multi-faceted approach. By following best practices and adopting a proactive mindset, organizations can enhance their network security and stay one step ahead of cyber threats.

One key aspect of network security best practices is creating and communicating a comprehensive security plan to employees. This plan should outline the importance of network security, the role each employee plays in maintaining it, and the measures in place to protect sensitive data. By raising awareness and fostering a security-conscious culture, organizations can create a strong line of defense against potential threats.

Building resilient security systems is another critical element of network security. This involves implementing a layered security approach that includes firewalls, intrusion detection and prevention systems, and secure access controls. These measures work together to identify and block malicious activities, ensuring the integrity and confidentiality of data.

Performing regular security audits

Regular security audits are also essential to network security. By conducting thorough assessments of the network infrastructure, organizations can identify vulnerabilities and address them before they are exploited by threat actors. Security audits help to uncover potential weaknesses in configurations, compliance issues, and outdated software or firmware that may put the network at risk.

Maintaining security systems is crucial to ensure their effectiveness over time. This includes applying software updates, patches, and security fixes regularly. It is important to keep up with the latest security developments and address any emerging threats promptly. By regularly maintaining security systems, organizations can minimize the risk of breaches and stay ahead of evolving threats.

Implementing a change control process is another key aspect of network security best practices. This involves carefully managing and documenting all changes made to the network infrastructure. By doing so, organizations can prevent unauthorized modifications and maintain the integrity and stability of the network. A well-defined change control process also helps in identifying any security-related issues that may arise during the implementation of new technologies or policies.

It is important for organizations to be proactive in identifying and mitigating potential threats. This includes continuously monitoring the network for suspicious activities and staying informed about the latest security trends and vulnerabilities. By doing so, organizations can take timely actions to prevent security breaches and mitigate the impact of any incidents that do occur.

Focus on incident response and continuous compromise

Organizations should also expect and plan for breaches, as no security system is foolproof. Focusing on incident response and continuous compromise helps organizations minimize the impact of security incidents and recover quickly. This involves establishing an incident response plan, training employees on their roles and responsibilities during a breach, and regularly conducting drills to ensure a prompt and effective response.

When it comes to network security, relying on trustworthy security solutions and expertise is crucial. Partnering with reputable security vendors, such as OpenText Security Solutions, can provide organizations with the tools and knowledge needed to establish and maintain a secure network environment.

In conclusion, network security is not a one-time effort or a single product. It is an ongoing process that requires continuous attention, regular audits, and proactive measures. By following best practices, implementing robust security systems, and prioritizing incident response, organizations can enhance their network security and protect their valuable data from evolving cyber threats.

Understanding the OSI Model and Types of Network Devices

Understanding the fundamentals of the OSI model and the various types of network devices is essential for building a robust and secure network infrastructure. The OSI (Open Systems Interconnection) model consists of seven distinct layers, each serving a unique purpose in facilitating communication between computers over a network.

  1. The Application Layer: This layer represents the interface between the network and the applications that utilize it. It provides services such as email, file transfer, and remote access.
  2. The Presentation Layer: This layer focuses on data formatting, translation, and encryption to ensure compatibility between different systems.
  3. The Session Layer: It establishes, manages, and terminates connections between applications and manages data flow control.
  4. The Transport Layer: This layer oversees the reliable and efficient delivery of data across the network, managing segmentation, sequencing, and error recovery.
  5. The Network Layer: Responsible for addressing and routing data packets, this layer ensures that data reaches its intended destination across different networks.
  6. The Data Link Layer: This layer provides error detection and correction, as well as flow control, between directly connected network devices.
  7. The Physical Layer: This layer deals with the physical transmission of data through cables, wireless signals, or other mediums.

Types of Network Devices

In addition to the OSI model, various network devices play critical roles in network architecture and security. These devices contribute to overall network defense and protection by enabling connectivity, managing network traffic, and enforcing security measures.

  • Hubs: Simple devices that connect multiple devices together within a network segment.
  • Switches: Intelligent devices that forward data packets to their intended destinations within a local area network (LAN).
  • Routers: Devices that connect multiple networks and efficiently route data packets between them.
  • Bridges: Devices that interconnect multiple network segments at the data link layer, enhancing network efficiency.
  • Gateways: Devices that serve as entry and exit points between different networks, often performing protocol conversions.
  • Load Balancers: Devices that distribute network traffic across multiple servers to ensure efficient resource utilization.
  • Web Filters: Devices that control and monitor internet access, blocking or allowing specific content based on predefined rules.

Each of these network devices possesses its own specific functions and capabilities, contributing to the overall stability and security of a network infrastructure. Understanding the OSI model and the roles of different network devices is crucial for network administrators and security practitioners to effectively design, implement, and maintain a secure and efficient network environment.

Seggregate Your Network

Network segmentation is a vital practice for enhancing network security. By dividing the network into logical or functional units called zones, organizations can limit the potential impact of a compromise and implement different security measures based on the classified data within each zone.

There are several methods to achieve network segmentation, such as using routers, switches, or virtual local area networks (VLANs). These methods help ensure that network traffic between segments is restricted, allowing for better control and monitoring of each zone.

Implementing segmentation strategies based on the sensitivity of the data and the organizational structure can greatly enhance overall network security. By categorizing different areas of the network and implementing appropriate security measures, organizations can effectively protect their critical assets from unauthorized access or compromise.

Network Defenses

Implementing various network defenses is crucial for protecting against cyber threats. Firewalls act as a first line of defense by isolating networks and preventing unauthorized access.

Intrusion detection systems (IDS) and intrusion prevention systems (IPS) enhance cybersecurity by detecting and preventing attacks. Network access control (NAC) restricts resource availability to compliant devices, while web filters prevent access to certain websites.

Proxy servers, anti-DDoS devices, load balancers, and spam filters are additional network defenses that contribute to overall network security. Each defense has its own specific function and role in safeguarding the network.

Harry Markham