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Are you using best practices for your network security?

NetworkTigers highlights best practices for good network security.

In today’s ever-expanding threat landscape, network security is of paramount importance. Previously only undertaken by specialized but disorganized cybercriminals, a range of cyberattacks can now be launched by anyone willing to purchase plug-and-play hacking tools or pay highly sophisticated criminal enterprises for phishing or ransomware campaigns.

With the speed of information working against them, network administrators must remain agile, willing to adapt, and quick to respond to emerging threats and vulnerabilities as they rear their heads.

Good network security

The best way to lay down a robust and resilient cybersecurity foundation that ensures data integrity and safeguards against unauthorized access to sensitive information or administrative privileges is to adhere to the following network security best practices:

1. Enforce good password hygiene

Implement a strong password policy across your network. recommends the following password tips:

  • Set a password minimum of eight characters.
  • Use passwords alongside additional means of authentication.
  • Do not permit the names of pets, relatives, favorite bands, sports teams, etc.
  • Don’t allow network users to reuse passwords across accounts or platforms.
  • Encourage or mandate regular password updates.

2. Multi-factor authentication

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) creates an additional layer of account protection that can dramatically reduce the likelihood of unauthorized access. While MFA is far from perfect, with criminals sometimes turning to tactics as simple as MFA spamming to overwhelm users into letting them in, using it responsibly is highly recommended.

3. Stay updated

From operating systems and firmware to the hardware itself, keeping every network component up to date with any recent patches or fixes is essential. Cybercriminals are swift to act on publicized exploits, meaning waiting to update puts your network at high risk from hackers scanning the web for unpatched entry points.

Opt into automatic updates for every app and platform so that when a critical bug is found, you can receive a fix for it the moment the developer pushes it. Regarding legacy hardware or software, discontinue using products without support. You can save a great deal of money by purchasing refurbished network equipment.

4. Use firewall protection

Firewalls let you filter incoming and outgoing network traffic, allowing you to note unusual activity or spikes that may indicate something malicious.

Firewalls are one of the oldest network protection protocols available. Still, their ability to stand the test of time and evolve to keep pace with current network demands speaks to their importance and reliability. 

5. Secure your wifi

Protect your wifi networks with strong passwords and encryption protocols like WPA2 or WPA3. Change all default router settings, including the network name and router login credentials. Cybercriminals compile lists of default logins that they can turn to gain access to networks without breaking a sweat, relying entirely on users not being aware of this critical lapse in security.

6. Train your employees

As organization leaders and IT administrators have prioritized sophisticated security techniques and protocols, criminals have remained undeterred, with many setting their sites on more “old-fashioned” tactics such as social engineering

Social engineering encompasses any means a threat actor convinces a victim to turn over login credentials or access to their device or network. At its most basic, it requires no technical knowledge and can be as simple as a phone call or text in which a criminal poses as someone the victim trusts or reports to. 

More advanced social engineering schemes may involve phony job interviews, surveys, and an in-depth understanding of a victim’s day-to-day interactions and activities. With the widespread adoption of machine learning technologies on the horizon, future threats will certainly even go so far as to include fake video and voice calls.

While nuts and bolts cybersecurity threats can be dealt with in kind, scams that play to people’s emotions or take advantage of overworked employees with little time to vet every incoming request require up-to-date training to identify fake messaging. 

7. Back up your data

Ransomware attackers depend on desperate victims to bend to their will. While a ransomware attack may still expose data, having a robust and reliable backup plan can take a significant portion of the wind out of an extortionist’s sails.

Backups should exist in multiple offline locations as well as in the cloud. Recovery tests should be undertaken periodically to ensure you can swiftly restore your system to functional status without catastrophic damage to business operations.

8. Segment your network

Segmenting your network allows administrators to contain unauthorized access and prevent hackers from moving into different parts of the system. Carefully determine how you wish to partition the various portions of your network and ensure that, if the time comes, you can lock down any compromised network segments before a full-scale attack is unleashed.

9. Secure your Internet of Things endpoints

In addition to the smart devices and computers that connect to your network, seemingly harmless Internet of Things (IoT) appliances can create holes through which criminals can wreak havoc. Any default passwords and device names should be changed. If possible, create a separate network used exclusively for appliances that can connect to the internet but are not essential for business. Make sure this network has no connections to your primary system so that it remains a dead end even in the event of an intrusion.

Good network security is an ongoing process

While these network security best practices cover the fundamentals of network safety, it’s important to understand that every system requires further security implementations that conform to its specific usage and needs. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to cybersecurity or a set-it-and-forget-it operation. Depending on the nature of your organization and the data it stores, transfers, or has access to, your cybersecurity initiatives may be the most in-depth aspect of your company’s activities.

Even small businesses would do well to stay vigilant regarding online risk by keeping up with cybersecurity news resources and ensuring that even employees with the lowest level of network clearance are informed of the tactics scammers use to pry into networks via the most unexpected means.

Enlisting a security consultant can help you build a system that works for you. Regular audits also help keep your data secure against evolving and emerging dangers and ensure compliance with any regulations that may apply to your industry.

Derek Walborn
Derek Walborn
Derek Walborn is a freelance research-based technical writer. He has worked as a content QA analyst for AT&T and Pernod Ricard.

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Are you using best practices for your network security?