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What is Network Security? Explained and Explored!

Cyber security protected

Computers have made a remarkable difference in our lives. The internet has created an information highway that people a generation ago couldn’t have conceived of. The web has helped people and businesses to connect in countless positive ways.

But there can be a price to be paid if we’re not careful and the growing threat of hackers and malware should raise the question “What is network security and how do we protect ourselves?”

What is Network Security?

Everyone agrees that network security is important but what is it exactly? There are different types of network security but all exist to protect the network from breaches that would allow theft, misuse, and unauthorized access.

It is a secure infrastructure that includes hardware, software, and rules around who uses your network and how they use it.

The Importance of Network Security

As we answer “What is network security?”, we also have to think about why it’s so important.  Without some sort of protective infrastructure, data can be compromised. This includes material like health information, personnel files, and intellectual property.

A poor network security infrastructure can also allow malicious attacks on transportation systems, government operations, and the military. From the individual to the largest corporation, network security is a must.

Source: Pixabay

The Layers of Network Security

There are different types of network security that provide various layers of protection. Each layer must be designed to be able to take on threats because an attack can happen at any layer. Hackers and malware search for weaknesses in your network security and will take advantage of deficiencies at any level.

Let’s take a brief look at the layers of network security.

  • Technical network security:  Technical network security protects the data stored in your systems and it provides a security escort as that data travels inside and outside your network. Technical security systems will authenticate a user’s login and the data they are accessing or sharing.

A solid technical security system will identify any security loopholes – critical as data has shifted to cloud drives and handheld devices like phones and tablets.

  • Physical network security: The controls at this layer keep people from unauthorized access to your systems and they prevent serious loss or damage. This layer also includes protection during catastrophic events like fires, floods, or earthquakes.
  • There are many ways to set up physical network security including biometrics, controlled access, locks, surveillance, ID card scanners, and even employee microchips! Physical barriers like fire doors, secure points of entry, and sprinkler systems are included in this layer.
  • Administrative network security: This is the layer that controls human behavior in an organization and who can access the resources and information contained in the network. Policies around least privilege, BYOD (bring your own devices), and password management fall under administrative network security.
  • Network security courses and awareness programs also play an important role in administrative network security as do incident response plans. As you can see, administrative controls focus on the human factor and develop the policies and procedures to manage that.

Source: Pixabay

What are the Types of Network Security?

To completely understand the answer to “What is network security?”, we need to take a look at some of the types of network security that are available.

  • Firewall: A firewall has predetermined and defined security rules that control incoming and outgoing traffic. Think of the firewall as a barrier between your trusted internal network and an unknown, untrusted external one. Specialized firewalls are particularly important for blocking malware and attacks designed to attack multiple layers.
  • Workload Security: A workload is an application, service, or a defined amount of work that can be completed in a cloud or hybrid environment. The attack surfaces of workloads are much larger than typical networks and require specific security. Workload security is one of the specialized types of network security that is designed to protect businesses as they share data on the cloud without slowing down their ability to exchange information.
  • Intrusion prevention systems: Intrusion prevention systems are like soldiers who continually scan the horizon for threats. They block any that they detect including brute force attacks and Denial of Service (DoS) attacks. Attackers will scan systems, waiting for a vulnerability to be announced. Before the attacker can exploit that vulnerability, the intrusion prevention system will block and repair the vulnerability.
  • Network segmentation: When a network is segmented it becomes more difficult for attackers to be successful. The network is divided into smaller sub-networks, each with its own security controls. Access rights to each segment can be clearly defined, keeping unnecessary personnel from accessing parts of the network they don’t need.
  • VPN: VPN stands for Virtual Private Network and is particularly helpful as more people are working from home. Remote workers connect to their workplace network through a VPN that encrypts the data between the two points and needs authentication from the employee before their device and the workplace network can communicate.
  • Access control: Controlling who accesses your network and its different parts are extremely important in the discussion around “What is network security?” Access controls limits who has access, how they access it, and on which devices they access.
  • Application security: Software is necessary to run your businesses and networks but even the best software can have weaknesses and vulnerabilities that attackers will take advantage of. Application security develops, adds, and tests security features within the software to protect it from attacks.

Closing Thoughts

There is a great deal to consider when it comes to thinking about “What is network security?” The idea of attackers and malware can seem intimidating, particularly since the threat seems to be growing as they learn to adapt quickly.

The great news is that the types of network security are keeping in step with the threats. With some careful planning and an ongoing commitment to the safety of your network, you will be able to defend against malicious attacks!