In October 1969, the – a “node-to-node” communication – was delivered from one computer to another. Over 50 years later, networks have come a long way, evolving to support the Internet we know today.
Modern networks have the power to bring people, enterprises, and nations together. But if they’re breached or compromised, the results can be grave.
Meanwhile, cybercrime continues unabated. Hardly a week passes without a high-profile attack making news headlines. Billions of dollars are lost or stolen every year.
Rather than putting the brakes on cybercrime, the pandemic only served to fuel it. Many attacks were directly related to lockdown-induced work-from-home arrangements and hybrid workplaces. As businesses accelerated the use of client portals and mobile and web applications, their risk of attack and network compromise increased.
The dire side-effects of such incidents played out in incalculable damage to brands and the erosion of public trust, not to mention financial loss. IBM’s 2021 Cost of a Data Breach Report recently found that the average total cost of a data breach is $4.24 million and moving in an upward trend.
The message couldn’t be clearer: Businesses must explore every available avenue to better secure their networks.
What is Data Network Security?
Data network security incorporates methods to help organizations protect their corporate networks from internal and external threats.
Network security includes components like:
- Hardware – like hardware firewalls, intrusion detection systems (IDSs), proxy servers.
- Software – like software firewalls, virtual private networks (VPNs), antimalware software.
- Policies, processes, and rules.
Data network security tools, measures, and approaches include but aren’t limited to:
- Firewalls. Operating at the perimeter of a network, firewalls use security rules to control incoming and outgoing network traffic. Firewalls inspect traffic and ensure that no harmful data enters a protected network.
- Intrusion detection and prevention systems (IDPSs). Organizations can deploy IDPSs right after firewalls as an additional layer of protection. While firewalls rely on security rulesets, IDPSs watch for known malicious patterns and anomalies in traffic to detect and prevent intrusion.
- Network Access Control (NAC). Network Access Control is a network security approach that unifies endpoint security, network security enforcement, and user authentication. With NAC, organizations can restrict or allow access to data based on the user’s identity and whether their device complies with established security policies and threat protection requirements.
- Antivirus and antimalware software. Antivirus and antimalware software prevents malicious data from entering corporate networks. Additionally, it continuously tracks files on the network to detect and neutralize malicious software that may have managed to penetrate the network.
- Virtual private networks (VPNs). VPNs serve as an intermediary layer between endpoint devices and the Internet. Traffic sent over a VPN is encrypted and thus has increased protection from attacks. Organizations can use VPNs to protect their data, as well as to gain more network visibility and allow employees to connect to their systems remotely.
- Data loss prevention (DLP). DLP measures are intended to prevent accidental or malicious data leaks from network-connected devices. Upon detecting policy violations, DLP software produces alerts, encrypts data, or prevents data transfer to unauthorized recipients.
- Cloud security. Cloud security solutions protect cloud-based systems and data. Components that cloud security solutions can safeguard include online IP, applications, services, and data. Cloud security can combine the security components listed earlier to increase protection levels.
Why is Data Network Security Important?
It’s a no-brainer that data network security is crucial to business longevity and competitiveness. However, you might struggle to visualize the specific benefits of network security and the potential harm that a poorly protected infrastructure can cause.
To help you understand the importance of data network security, here are some of the benefits it can provide:
- Uninterrupted business. Hacker attacks can disrupt business to varying degrees. In the worst case, you might need to shut down your entire digital infrastructure to secure your data and your operations. While network security measures cannot eliminate the risk of business interruptions due to hacker attacks, they can help you significantly reduce their likelihood.
- Reduced downtime after attacks. Good data network security isn’t just about keeping threats out – it’s also about efficiently managing attacks that are already happening. If your security policies and tools allow you to quickly detect, contain, and eliminate threats, you’ll be able to minimize downtime after an attack and restore your operations quicker.
- No costs and losses associated with data breaches. Data breaches can incur costs of millions of dollars due to downtime, damage to software and hardware systems, lost business opportunities, or even legal action. A strong data network security system can minimize the risk of data breaches. And even when breaches do happen, network security measures can help you reduce costs by minimizing downtime or reputation loss.
- Avoidance of fines and legal consequences. Depending on the severity and nature of a data breach, businesses may have to face legal consequences for negligence or mishandling of data. Focusing on compliance and well-thought-out network security can help you avoid legal issues.
Top 8 Data Network Security Best Practices You Should Implement Today
The range of measures you can adopt to reinforce your network security is endless. To keep things simple, we’ll take a look at the top 8 best practices you should follow to secure your corporate network.
1. Segment Your Network
First up, if you haven’t done so already, segment your network. Breaking down your network into small chunks can give you finer-grained control over the trust settings of different sub-networks. Not only that, but isolating networks from each other can help you prevent the spread of security incidents from one sub-network to another.
2. Use an Enterprise Messaging Solution
Are your employees using an enterprise messaging solution to communicate with each other? Because if they’re still stuck to consumer messaging apps like WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, you have a problem.
Consumer messaging applications aren’t designed for business use and don’t provide adequate protection or control of employee communications. In contrast, enterprise secure messaging tools can help you track where your corporate data is going and whether or not your employees stay compliant with internal and external security policies.
3. Back Up Your Data
Data backups can help you reduce downtime after a data breach. Backups can protect you from data loss, and they can even help you safeguard yourself from ransomware attacks. Even if ransomware does manage to lock you out of your data, you could tap into your backups to restore access to it.
Of course, there are good and bad ways to do data backups. For the best results, keep your backups in multiple locations – including offline – and make backups as frequently as you can. You’ll need to find a balance between backup frequency and storage costs, but, if possible, do backups more often.
4. Encrypt Your Data
Your business data should be encrypted while in transit over your network and while at rest on storage devices. This can help you protect your data if your network is compromised or if an employee loses a device connected to your network.
When it comes to encryption, one of the things that businesses should start thinking about is quantum-ready encryption. Quantum computers will become a real threat to classical encryption algorithms sooner rather than later. You can use security platforms like our QiSpaceTM to future-proof your network against quantum threats.
5. Keep Your Security Software Up to Date
Software updates aren’t always seamless, but if you want to maintain the highest degree of protection, you must ensure that your cybersecurity solutions are updated to their latest versions.
No matter how quickly we patch vulnerabilities, threat actors will always come up with new tricks and hacks to breach our networks. Fortunately, cybersecurity experts are equally as inventive as hackers and can usually develop security patches fairly quickly. But to be able to leverage the latest threat intelligence, you must install software updates as soon as they become available.
6. Have a Disaster Recovery Plan
Extending beyond just the discovery and neutralization of threats, data network security also incorporates post-breach crisis management and recovery. Rather than figure out solutions on the go and hope for the best, you should develop a clear disaster recovery plan that will guide your employees and your operations should a disaster happen.
Among other things, a disaster recovery plan can help you:
- Establish effective communication protocols
- Recover key operations and processes quicker after a cyberattack
- Clarify how your employees should carry out operations at a limited capacity
7. Update Your Security Policies
Your security policies should reflect the latest trends in the cybersecurity landscape. Updating your policies once a year isn’t enough – you should adapt your approaches to cybersecurity as soon as you detect changes in how hackers operate and what tools they’re using. If you do this, your employees will be able to protect themselves from the most recent threats and follow the newest cybersecurity best practices.
8. Conduct Awareness Training
Unaware or negligent employees often fall prey to phishing attacks and social engineering techniques. In fact, over 80% of data breaches are caused by human error. Employees can fall for scams due to being distracted, tired, or just because they think the scams look legitimate.
Regular cybersecurity awareness training can help employees better identify scams and stay on top of the latest cybersecurity threats. Gamified awareness training with elements like red teaming and simulated phishing attacks can be especially effective thanks to their quick feedback and high engagement.
Zero Trust Meets SASE
In our modern digital business environment, ensuring robust data network security is made more challenging by the fluid and hybrid nature of our systems. Data exists in a blend of on-premise infrastructure, in the cloud, and anywhere in between at any point in time.
It’s no longer easy to define precisely what’s “inside” or “outside” your network. To use an analogy: in the past, a business could seclude and defend its sensitive and confidential data by building an impenetrable “fortress” (the corporate perimeter) surrounded by an untraversable “moat” (firewalls and other physical security protocols.)
Today, these defined corporate perimeters or “fortresses” have given way to dynamic environments. Networks now operate more like busy airports or train stations at peak hours.
Trying to protect and defend your data from attack using a static “moat” is an approach that’s no longer fit-for-purpose. This is where the thoughtful unification and application of two modern security principles –SASE and zero trust – becomes the sensible choice.
Zero trust operates on the assumption that you “don’t trust anybody,” and they’ll only be granted access to your network and the data residing within it once they’ve proven that they’re authorized to do so. Users and devices must pass rigorous identity verification and access management tests to be afforded this trust.
SASE (Secure Access Service Edge) is an approach that unites comprehensive WAN capabilities along with advanced network security functions to support organizations’ dynamic secure access needs. It’s effective in protecting cloud services, networks, and the data and apps that run over them – from the corporate headquarters to the users at home to the edge (including sensors and IoT devices in manufacturing facilities and smart buildings, for example.)
When SASE meets zero-trust, businesses have a far better chance of fending off unauthorized attempts to access their data and other assets, irrespective of the configuration or design of their network architecture.
This is what enterprises need at the very least in a world where cybercriminals are swiftly side-stepping multiple authentication layers.
But there’s more…
Solving the Password Problem
One more issue needs to be addressed: the password and credentials conundrum.
Today, too many traditional authentication and authorization approaches still use and depend on passwords and user credentials. These can be lost, stolen, shared, or reused, rendering them unsound and unreliable mechanisms to base identity and access management.
Most security breaches result from compromised credentials. Remember the May 2021 ransomware attack against the Colonial Pipeline, which significantly impacted the flow of refined oil across the country? Hackers breached Colonial’s systems using a single compromised password. This allowed them to enter the company’s networks through a virtual private network (VPN) account.
As soon as cybercriminals have accessed credentials and passwords, they can use them to skip through authentication steps. Worse still, their presence often goes undetected for months, during which time they’ve had the opportunity to cause untold damage or loss.
Passwordless authentication and authorization allow businesses to bypass these issues. They pave the way for secure logins without the need to secure user passwords, thanks to their use of advanced encryption algorithms.
Data Network Security: Where to Next?
With so many devices connecting and communicating with one another over wired, wireless, and cellular networks, effective data network security isn’t a nice-to-have; it’s imperative.
It’s worth noting that responsible and future-looking businesses recognize that even today’s more modern data network security and authentication systems that use encryption algorithms (rather than passwords) have a limited ability to defend against the next data network security specter looming large on the horizon – the quantum security threat.
Quantum computers can process information at speeds exponentially faster than classical computers. But the downside is that this also gives them the power to potentially crack existing encryption algorithms that protect so much of the world’s Internet-based data.
At some point, better and more complex algorithms simply won’t be enough. Quantum computing is changing the rules of the cybersecurity game. We need to change with it or risk getting blown away.
NIST in the USA has been spearheading an open program to identify and develop new approaches that will help form the basis of network security in the years ahead. The current efforts around Post Quantum Cryptography can be found here.
Quantropi Can Help
At Quantropi, we’re firm proponents of future-proofing cybersecurity. Rather than react to changes in the cybersecurity industry as they happen, we believe that governments and businesses should adopt a forward-thinking approach to protect themselves against potential threats long before they become a problem.
QiSpace™ FREE Quantum-Security Trial
We’re the only cybersecurity company in the world providing the 3 prerequisites for cryptographic integrity: Trust, Uncertainty, and Entropy (TrUE). Powered by quantum mechanics expressed as linear algebra, our patented TrUE technologies establish Trust between any two parties via quantum-secure asymmetric MASQ™ encryption (coming soon); ensure Uncertainty to attackers, rendering data uninterpretable forever, with QEEP™ symmetric encryption; and provide Quantum Entropy as a Service (QEaaS) with SEQUR™ – ultra-random key generation and distribution to enable secure data communications. All Quantropi’s TrUE technologies are accessible via our flagship QiSpace™ platform.