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Network security best practices – 5 ways to make your company network secure 

Business networks are under more pressure than ever before. Cyber security threats are increasing, and the complexity and sophistication of the attacks mean that network security cannot and must not be taken lightly. The risk of a network breach for organisations large and small is too great. 

Cybercriminals are becoming more sophisticated in the way they target networks and one thing that is making things more difficult for Network Managers and security teams to control and manage is the number of devices that are connected to the network. 

From personal mobile devices to wireless speakers, connectivity continues to grow exponentially, and this adds to the number of applications and platforms being accessed in the workplace. Monitoring and securing all these devices is problematic. Not only do you have to manage the devices of all the people working within your business, but also anyone that connects to your business network (e.g., visitors, contractors etc). 

All this added connectivity increases the vulnerability of your network to a security breach and cybercriminals are using a huge range of methods to capitalise on these vulnerabilities to breach networks. 

Securing your company network 

Whilst good network security requires businesses to invest in the appropriate network and cyber security solutions, good network security starts with getting the fundamentals right. 

Businesses need to create a security-centred culture and that starts with the staff. Training and education are an essential part of building a secure network environment and they should be an integral part of any onboarding process for new staff members as well as including regular updates as part of staff training programmes. 

Whilst you can try to manage your network security through software solutions, without the buy-in from staff, you will always be fighting a battle to stay on top of your network security.  

It is important to create a culture that is devoted to network security, where the first thought people have before they connect a device, click a link, or share a file is “is this a secure way to do this?” 

The only way to achieve this culture is through training and education. Training should cover off key security threats that are most likely to impact individual staff such as password security, phishing emails, suspicious activity on their devices and regularly updating the software of any device that connects to the network. 

Training needs to be top to bottom as well: from the CEO to the cleaning team, every member of staff must undertake compulsory training as it is likely that they all connect to the network in some way and anyone is capable of carrying out an action that increases the threat to the security of the network. 

5 ways to make your business network secure 

Whether you work for yourself, run a small business or are responsible for the security of a large enterprise network, there are some basic network security steps you should take in order to cover the fundamentals of network security and ensure you have a first line of defence against potential threats. 

Of course, network security requirements will be determined by the number of devices connecting to the network and if you are a large enterprise with potentially thousands of connected devices on your network, there are going to be many more steps you need to go through in order to protect and secure your network.  

These five steps, however, will help to form the foundations of a secure network: 

Perform a network audit 

Whenever you are trying to improve any aspect of your business, the first step is usually to carry out an audit so you can evaluate your current position and put in steps to improve areas that are underperforming. This is also true with network security. 

It’s impossible to improve your network security without first knowing your weaknesses. The goal of a network security audit is to identify and assess the following: 

  • Potential security vulnerabilities
  • Strength of your firewall 
  • Anti-virus and anti-malware software 
  • Backup history and schedule 
  • Unused or unnecessary applications running in background 
  • Overall health of servers, software and applications 

The size and depth of your network security audit will, of course, be dictated by the size of your organisation and the number of connected devices and applications running on your network.  

A network security audit is a subset of your overall cybersecurity processes and policies and has a specific focus on the network itself. Staff members or visitors walking out with data on a memory stick or sharing proprietary information with a social engineering hacker falls under Cybersecurity, whereas network security, being a subset, covers what that user does on the network itself.    

The results of a network security audit will help you to put a plan in place to improve the areas identified as weaknesses in your audit and this can either be done internally or through a third-party network security provider. 

Update anti-virus/anti-malware software 

We’ve already touched upon the importance of anti-virus and anti-malware software and it is not enough to simply ensure that all devices connected to the network have sufficient protection from such software. 

Most businesses will purchase anti-virus and anti-malware software that can be deployed at an enterprise level. This means all staff devices – desktop or laptop computers, mobile phones etc – will have this software added to them when a new device is assigned. 

Over time, however, that software becomes outdated and in a lot of circumstances, users never update the software again, creating network vulnerabilities every time they connect. 

Updating your anti-virus and anti-malware software should be a priority, however, it should also form part of a regular and ongoing schedule for updating all user software on connected devices across the network as this is one of the most common breach points for cybercriminals. 

Invest in a VPN 

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) encrypts your network to ensure online privacy for all your users. VPNs mask your internet protocol (IP) address, so your online actions are virtually untraceable. Most importantly, VPN services establish secure and encrypted connections to provide greater privacy than even a secured WiFi hotspot. 

A VPN blocks your activities, data, browsing history, communications, and other personal information from prospective hackers. As mentioned above, it also helps to protect your files when using a public WiFi network. If you have staff that work remotely and regularly connect to public WiFi networks (in cafes, restaurants, airports etc), then a VPN is an essential line of defence. 

Set up a firewall 

Like a VPN, a firewall is an essential line of defence for your network and if you don’t have one in place already, you should make this a priority. A firewall can be installed on individual devices and your anti-virus or anti-malware software may include firewall protection, however, in addition to protecting individual devices, a firewall can also be set up as a web application firewall (WAF). 

A WAF helps protect web applications by filtering and monitoring HTTP traffic between a web application and the Internet. By deploying a WAF in front of a web application, a shield is placed between the web application and the Internet. While a proxy server protects a client machine’s identity by using an intermediary, a WAF is a type of reverse proxy, protecting the server from exposure by having clients pass through the WAF before reaching the server. 

A WAF is particularly important for e-commerce businesses that sell products online or store customers’ confidential information. Installing a WAF will help to protect all your stored data. 

Establish a network security maintenance system 

Whilst your initial network security set up is essential, it’s equally important to put in place a network security maintenance schedule. This schedule should cover key actions including: 

  • Keeping software up to date 
  • Set up a schedule for the regular updating of network names and passwords 
  • Updating user passwords periodically
  • Running regular activity reports 
  • Performing regular backups 
  • Scheduling training on latest security developments 

These are just a few of the most basic steps that should be included in your maintenance schedule. Depending on the size and complexity of your organisation, it is possible there will be many more elements included in your maintenance schedule in order to keep on top of potential threats to network security. 

It is essential to remain proactive – network security is not a “set and forget” process. Establishing a maintenance schedule ensures you keep on top of the latest threats and importantly, you keep your staff up to date with all potential threats. 

Summary 

Most network security breaches occur due to a lack of systems and processes. It would be rare for a business, no matter how big or small, not to invest in some sort of cybersecurity solution to protect both their devices, but also their network. The software is only part of the solution, however. You must continually invest in the people within your business as users are more often than not the biggest threat to your network, usually unwittingly. 

NEC New Zealand partners with strategic vendors to provide best-in-class Cyber Security solutions to our customers. Our expertise in Cyber Security and next-generation security platforms enables protection against advanced cyber security threats to protect today’s networks

NEC provide core products that include advanced firewalls and cloud-based offerings that extend those firewalls to cover other aspects of Cyber Security. We tackle Cyber Security problems at a strategic level, providing solutions that tackle the increasingly complex Cyber Security threats that businesses face in their daily business dealings. Our Cyber Security solutions include: 

• Firewall 

• Unified Threat Management (UTM) 

• Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS) 

• Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS) 

• Endpoint Protection 

• Web Application Firewall 

• Network Access Control (NAC) 

• Identity and Access Management (IAM) 

Talk to the team today and learn more about our network and cybersecurity solutions. 

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