Building a Secure Network

Network security is essential to organizations reliant on digital processes for product and service delivery, protecting data against cyberattacks that could undermine reputations, limit productivity and diminish profits.

Companies looking to ensure that their networks are secure should implement best practices like hardening routers and switches, restricting services offered, enforcing strong password policies, backing up configurations regularly and testing for vulnerabilities.

1. Encryption

Encryption is one of the most effective network security strategies, providing protection from unapproved access and maintaining the integrity of sensitive information. Furthermore, encryption can play an integral role in compliance and brand reputation management – helping companies build trust among both their customers and employees.

Encryption transforms sensitive data into unreadable ciphertext that can only be decoded by those authorized to view it, using mathematical functions that scramble it into letters, numbers or symbols that cannot be deciphered from its original format. It is widely used across video chats and e-commerce transactions to keep personal details secure while protecting financial transactions from being exposed publicly.

Encryption can become useless if its keys are lost or compromised, and for this reason it is crucial to have a secure key management system to protect against malware attacks or natural disasters that compromise servers and expose encryption keys to hostile attackers. Furthermore, training your teams on how to recognize phishing attempts and avoid unencrypted data transfers is key in mitigating accidental disclosure risks – the primary cause for 84% of cybersecurity breaches!

2. VLANs

VLANs provide network administrators with an efficient method for segmenting physical networks logically for more streamlined work flows, streamlining communication among devices regardless of their physical locations and providing remote workers access to tools and data without jeopardizing security.

VLAN technology can be implemented on network switches to divide hosts into distinct broadcast domains, thus protecting sensitive information from falling into the wrong hands and relieving congestion and optimizing performance. This ensures increased security while alleviating congestion and optimizing performance.

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To create a VLAN, it’s necessary to tag network Ethernet frames with the VLAN ID of the desired network segment. A switch then uses these tags to route traffic among VLANs through trunk ports allowing multiple networks to share one physical connection without interfering with one another. Furthermore, MAC-based VLANs allow devices to move freely among ports while still staying within their broadcast domain, which improves scalability and management while decreasing IT logistics expenses by requiring less involvement when reconfiguring network connection maps.

3. Network Segmentation

Network segmentation allows businesses to organize systems, devices and users based on risk and trust assessments in order to protect critical assets such as customer databases, financial records and intellectual property which form the “crown jewels” of any business. A common way of implementing network segmentation is using perimeter-based segmentation with VLANs or network addressing schemes as filters between internal and external resources.

This type of network architecture assumes that attacks come from outside and seeks to secure its perimeter with firewalls and intrusion detection systems. If an attacker manages to breach one or both, however, their success could spread lateral across systems within an organization resulting in additional vulnerabilities and breaches being opened within.

Software-defined networking (SDN) segmentation requires significant knowledge and planning to ensure virtual network segments don’t overlap or pose security risks, making implementation and monitoring more challenging than its simpler counterparts. The finer the segmentation becomes, the harder it is to monitor effectively.

4. IPSec

IPSec (Information Protocol Security) is one of the primary tools used by companies to secure data transmissions. IPSec serves to authenticate connections, verify data integrity and conceal sensitive company data at network level – without it, attackers could intercept and potentially modify it.

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To accomplish this goal, IPSec wraps each packet with an additional IP header that contains information identifying its connection and policies that will be employed to secure data. This information is only accessible by hosts involved in that particular connection.

After this initial step is completed, hosts begin an informal negotiation to establish basic terms for their connection. At this time they may also choose AH for managing IP authentication or ESP to secure data encryption.

Once both hosts have reached an agreement on a policy, they form a Security Association (SA). Each SA has its own set of parameters that will govern future communication; these may include an agreed-upon key and methods used to protect data as well as IP filtering or routing restrictions.

5. Firewalls

Firewalls are essential network security tools that monitor and filter incoming and outgoing network traffic based on the security policies defined by an organization. They serve as a protective barrier between internal networks and the Internet to block unwelcome communication from external sources.

Basic packet-filtering firewalls act as checkpoints at traffic routers, inspecting data packets based on IP addresses, protocol type and port numbers without opening them in order to examine their content. They’re highly efficient while incurring minimal performance impact; however they’re easy enough for malicious actors to bypass.

Stateful inspection firewall upgrades use more context to analyze incoming and outgoing traffic, recording details like origin address, packet type and destination before permitting or blocking future connections. While stateful inspection firewall upgrades may be more complex, stateful inspection is an integral component of enterprise networks and next-generation firewalls (NGFW) combine traditional firewall capabilities with IDS/IPS capabilities and application control measures in order to stop modern threats such as advanced malware attacks; virtual or cloud firewalls provide another form of NGFW that optimize for virtualized environments.

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