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A guide to securing the network

$740,000 – that’s the cost of a typical unplanned network outage in a data center according to Ponemon Institute 2016 report on Cost of Data Center Outages. The first point of securing IT infrastructure in an organization is always the network. The objective of network security management is to ensure that the organization’s internal infrastructure networks, LANs and WANs, are protected from access by unauthorized entities. Because once hackers gain access to the network, then they can easily manipulate, destroy or prevent access to applications and data which are a company’s lifeblood.

While almost all companies pride themselves in focusing on IT security and complying with regulatory standards, when it comes to network security, the Top-tier IT professionals focus on strategic goals such as IT agility and making IT a strategic asset for their organization. This is according to ReRez Research who conducted the Infoblox 2016 Network Protection Survey. In my opinion, securing the network has to be driven from a strategic objective. Focusing on the nuts and bolts in isolation will only result in disconnect between the organization and IT leading to issues such as underinvestment in the right technologies and failure to prioritize the critical assets needing the highest level of protection.

Who are the main players in network security?

Research and Markets’s The Best of Network Security 2016 lists companies that have earned recognition for best practices. IBM and Qualys make the grade in Network Security, while Cisco Systems, Intel Security, and TippingPoint topped in Perimeter Defenses. IBM and Sailpoint were highly rated in Identity and Access Management, and Arbor Networks and Akamai listed in Internet Property Defense. Other categories included Knowledge-Based Security and Cool Innovations.

I note that while some companies are mentioned in several categories, it is obvious that for network security, reliance on a single vendor is not a good guarantee. As vulnerabilities change with every passing hour, it is better to have a multi-layered pool of solutions from different vendors to ensure a higher chance of stopping any intrusion. The benefits of a managed service provider such as NIC are truly useful here.

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Network security focus

There is a whole host of network security threats, both internal and external, which an organization must be prepared to deal with. From disgruntled or compromised employees or contractors, to malicious hackers and enemy states, threats such as viruses, malware, ransomware, Trojans, DDOS Attacks, Identity Theft, or data intercept and theft can emerge. It is for this reason that the network has to be secured with the right solutions that can deal with this variety of threats.

Network security components will generally be composed of anti-virus and anti-spyware software solutions, firewalls, IPS/IDS and VPNs. However, unless security is factored in the design of the IT security and environment, I am sure it is unlikely to help much if bolted on as an afterthought. Whether it is logical segmentation, DMZs, external connections management, anti DDOS services or wireless access control, network security has to be a prime consideration in the holistic design of IT services. In addition security event monitoring using SIEMs has to be put in place.

Best practices in network security

The RESILIA guidance from Axelos lists some best practices for network security which I believe all IT organizations need to put in place regardless of the infrastructure or environment. They include controlling access to the network using authentication and device screening; designing of access controls based on the minimum access, least privilege and need-to-know principles; instituting a JML process in conjunction with HR; implementing multifactor authentication and monitoring logon activity proactively. This basically means that a comprehensive network security approach must consider people, processes and technology in order to provide effective results.

Putting it all together

Managing the required cyber security skills, a variety of network security solutions, and ensuring that your network security meets the needs of the business is a difficult task for any IT security manager. An option would be engaging the services of a specialist security managed service provider. NIC’s team of highly rated security experts will guide you in creating and deploying the right network security solution for your business. Contact us and get to understand the best value and experience a peace of mind that comes with employing a best in class secure network for your organization.