Trends in Technology

Uncovering the Crucial Elements of Network Security

July 21, 2020 by Bobby J Davidson
Read similar articles in: Cybersecurity

Network security is a major problem for businesses of all sizes these days, and the entire IT landscape has transformed in the last couple of years. What was once a client-server environment has completely shifted towards one driven by digital transformation. That has enhanced the interaction of cloud resources and mobile devices like IaaS and SaaS, as well as IoT.

All that innovation has had a revolutionary effect on the ability of people communicating with devices. However, there is one thing that has remained constant, and that is the network. No matter what form it takes, it must protect the integrity and usability of network resources.

IT organizations throughout the world have spent over $20 billion on hardware and software over various network security components. It has been forecasted in research from Doyle Research and Security Mindsets that the spending will top $25 billion by the end of 2024. There are dozens of suppliers whose sole focus now is on unique security capabilities, and most major organizations are using different vendors and elements of network security to shore up their defenses.

As network security and intelligence moves towards the cloud, suppliers have continued to refine their network security capabilities. There are new categories of network security that have emerged, and this will continue to morph as vendors start moving from hardware appliance offerings towards an as-a-service business model. Apart from virtual appliances, new product types, and using cloud services to perform network security functions, this market is going to continue the integration of additional capabilities for supporting IoT, AI, and software-defined WAN.

What Is Network Security?

Network security is a combination of software and hardware products that operate in Layers 3 and 4 of the OSI stack. Their primary function was to manage access to the corporate network and other network-embedded resources. Network security mainly acts as a gatekeeper that permits entry to authorized users and helps detect and prevent anything that infiltrates the network to compromise data or causes them harm.

It’s important to note that network security isn’t suited to fit all networks because it comprises of different elements, some of which we will be exploring in detail to determine their roles in security. So, here are the crucial elements of network security that must be part of any solid security strategy:

1.      Intrusion Prevention System (IPS)

Network IPSs are software products that offer continuous monitoring of the network or system activities and analyze them for signs of policy deviations and violations from malicious activity or standard security practices. They not only log but also alert and react to discover any issues.

The role of IPS products is to compare current activity with a list of signatures that are known for representing threats or using alternative detection methods like behavioral detection, heuristics, anomaly, and protocol analysis to learn about suspicious network activity. Complex IPSs use machine learning and threat intelligence to enhance accuracy.

2.      Network Firewall

In network security, firewalls are the first line of defense, and these network devices or applications control and monitor the flow of incoming and outgoing network traffic between internal and external networks (trusted & untrusted). You must evaluate network traffic on the state, port, and protocol to filter decisions made on static rules and administrator-defined security policies.

Firewalls can be divided into subcategories that were based on their underlying technology like stateful inspection, proxy, next-generation, or deep inspection. Next-generation firewalls tend to perform all the functions of other firewalls but add intrusion prevention and application-level inspection and use threat intelligence from outside the firewall.

3.      Unified Threat Management

A Unified Threat Management product will integrate multiple network security and networking functions into a single appliance with consolidated management. These UTM devices should include firewalling, gateway antivirus, network intrusion prevention, and network routing.

Generally, they provide other security applications like remote access, VPN, quality of service, and URL filtering. Unified management of these functions is necessary because the converged platform is designed to enhance overall security and reduce complexity.

4.      Network Access Control

Network Access Control, NAC is an approach to network management and security that continues to support access management and network visibility. It includes procedures, tools, policies, protocols, and applications that will regulate, define, and restrict what any individual component can or can’t do on a network. These NAC products allow compliant, trusted, and authenticated endpoint devices and nodes for accessing network infrastructure and resources.

5.      Network Behavior Anomaly Detection

NABD products offer real-time monitoring of network traffic for any deviations in standard trends, activity, or events. The tools complement traditional perimeter security systems with their ability to stop suspicious activities and detect threats that are unknown or designed specifically to avoid standard detection methods.

Whenever NABD products detect suspicious activity, they will generate an alert that offers details and passes it on for further analysis. To be optimally effective, NABD must establish a baseline for normal user and network behavior over a period. Once these parameters are defined as normal, it can then easily flag any departure from one or more of these parameters.

6.      Distributed Denial-of-Service Mitigation

DDoS mitigation is a set of hardening processes, techniques, and tools that enable a network, IT environment, or information system to mitigate or resist the effect of DDoS attacks on networks. DDoS mitigation activities generally conduct an analysis of the environment, network, or underlying system for known and unknown security vulnerabilities.

That requires identification of normal conditions through traffic analysis and the ability to identify incoming traffic to separate human-like bots and human traffic from hijacked web browsers. DDoS mitigation uses connection tracking, deep packet inspection, whitelisting, blacklisting IP reputation lists, or rate-limiting to mitigate attacks and filter traffic.

Most organizations have their DDoS mitigation needs covered by specialist service providers, but the biggest companies prefer using DDoS mitigation in-house.