Network Performance | August 7, 2023
By Keith Bromley : Sr. Manager, Product Marketing
We tend to emphasize that network attacks’ intensity, severity, and frequency are continually increasing.
Today is no different! Let’s look at network security management and how it can fit into your overall cybersecurity strategy.
Network security management, not to be confused with network performance management, involves the management of network firewalls and other appliances (like intrusion prevention systems, intrusion detection systems, web application firewalls, unified threat management systems, security information & event management systems, etc.) as well internal policies to monitor access across the network.
Network administrators who manage large numbers of complex security tools and firewalls, each with their own use policies and best practices, can be a weak point for large organizations. Security misconfigurations can lead to massive network failures. So, let’s look at some of the best practices to avoid human error, remove confusion, and use network security management to keep your network safe.
Why Centralize Your Network Security Management?
Centralizing network security management offers numerous advantages, making it a preferred approach for many organizations. Centralized network security management provides a unified view of the entire network infrastructure. This visibility allows security administrators to monitor all network activities, identify potential threats, and respond quickly to security incidents. Having a centralized dashboard or console simplifies managing security policies, configurations, and access controls across multiple devices and locations.
Similarly, with a centralized approach, security policies, updates, and configurations can be consistently applied throughout the network. This reduces the risk of misconfigurations or security gaps in a decentralized environment. Standardization also makes enforcing compliance with security protocols and industry regulations easier.
Centralization optimizes the utilization of security resources and personnel. Instead of having separate security teams for each location or department, a centralized team can efficiently manage security for the entire organization. This consolidation results in cost savings and ensures that skilled security experts are distributed where they are needed most.
Centralization enables a swift and coordinated response during a security incident or breach. A centralized management system allows security personnel to analyze the incident from a centralized perspective, identify its scope, and take immediate action to contain and mitigate the impact.
Centralized network security management facilitates auditing and reporting processes. Compliance audits become more manageable as all security-related information and logs are consolidated in one place. This simplification aids in meeting regulatory requirements and providing accurate reports to stakeholders.
Robust Network Design for Security
A secure network begins with a well-thought-out design that prioritizes security at its core. When architecting the network, consider the following principles:
Network Segmentation: Implement network segmentation to divide the infrastructure into isolated segments, limiting the lateral movement of threats. This containment strategy helps prevent the spread of cyber-attacks across the entire network.
Defense in Depth: Employ a defense-in-depth approach by layering multiple security measures at different network points. This strategy ensures that even if one layer is compromised, other security layers can still provide protection.
Redundancy and High Availability: Design the network with redundancy and failover mechanisms to maintain availability despite hardware failures or DDoS attacks.
Access Control and Authentication
Controlled access to network resources is essential to prevent unauthorized entry and protect sensitive data. Access control includes several aspects, such as robust authentication methods, role-based access control, privileged access management, and other zero-trust methodologies.
Traditional username and password combinations are no longer sufficient to protect against today’s cyber threats. Strong authentication methods add an extra layer of security to verify the identity of users attempting to access the network.
Multi-factor Authentication (MFA) requires users to provide multiple forms of verification before gaining access to the network. This typically includes something they know (e.g., a password), something they have (e.g., a mobile device or smart card), and something they are (e.g., a fingerprint or facial recognition). By combining these factors, MFA significantly reduces the risk of unauthorized access, even if one factor is compromised.
Another option includes biometric authentication, which uses unique physiological characteristics, such as fingerprints, iris scans, or facial recognition, to verify a user’s identity. These biometric traits are difficult to forge, providing an additional layer of security. Another option is hardware tokens. Hardware tokens generate one-time passwords or codes that users must enter with their regular credentials during login attempts. These tokens add an extra level of security, particularly when users don’t have access to their mobile devices or in high-security environments.
Role-Based Access Control (RBAC)
RBAC is a critical access control model that assigns permissions and privileges based on a user’s role or job function. The central idea is to provide employees with only the necessary resources to perform their specific tasks.
By limiting access to sensitive resources to only those who require it, RBAC minimizes the attack surface and potential points of vulnerability. RBAC also simplifies access management by defining permissions based on predefined roles. This makes it easier to maintain access controls as employees change roles or leave the organization. Finally, RBAC aids in meeting regulatory compliance requirements by ensuring access privileges align with job responsibilities. Auditing access becomes more manageable and transparent.
Some other tactics are helpful, like Just-In-Time (JIT) Privileged Access! Implementing JIT access allows administrators to request temporary access to privileged accounts for specific tasks only. This minimizes the time these accounts remain active and reduces the risk of misuse.
Network Monitoring and Intrusion Detection
Continuous monitoring after perimeter security data inspection tools (like an IPS or WAF) have done their job, is vital for identifying real-time anomalies and potential security breaches. Critical elements of network monitoring include:
An IDS is often the frontline defense, monitoring internal network traffic for suspicious patterns or activities. The IDS can quickly detect potential threats and generate alerts by analyzing data packets and comparing them against known attack signatures. This rapid detection allows security personnel to respond promptly, isolate the affected areas, and contain the threat before it escalates, preventing potential damage and data loss.
A SIEM, on the other hand, acts as the centralized intelligence hub of the network security framework. It aggregates data from various sources, including logs, security devices, applications, and network infrastructure, providing a comprehensive view of the network’s security posture. SIEM solutions continuously analyze this data using predefined correlation rules and machine learning algorithms. This analysis helps identify patterns, anomalies, and potential security incidents that might not be evident with a standalone IDS.
By combining the power of IDS and SIEM, organizations gain the ability to respond effectively to threats and security incidents. SIEM’s real-time analysis and alerting capabilities complement IDS’s swift detection, enabling security teams to take immediate action and investigate potential threats promptly. Moreover, SIEM assists in post-incident investigations, providing valuable insights into the sequence of events leading to the incident and understanding its impact.
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Tying all of these security systems together is a network packet broker. The packet broker aggregates and filters data across the network and then sends that “optimized” selection of data packets to inspection tools, like an IDS. This allows the IDS to work faster and better as it has a smaller, focused amount of data to analyze instead of a massive pile of data packets (of which most would have been benign and a waste of time for the IDS to analyze).
The packet broker can also be automated to respond to REST commands from a SIEM device. This means the packet broker can be told which packets to capture and how to filter them with minimal to no human intervention, allowing for faster response times.
In today’s hyperconnected digital landscape, network security management is a formidable shield against the relentless tide of cyber threats. As organizations increasingly rely on technology to streamline operations and connect with a global audience, the importance of robust network security cannot be overstated. Throughout this article, we have explored the multifaceted world of network security management, from understanding its core components to delving into best practices and emerging technologies.
Secure network design lays the foundation for a resilient infrastructure, incorporating network segmentation and defense-in-depth principles. Access control and authentication mechanisms reinforce this foundation, ensuring only authorized users gain entry while limiting potential attack vectors. Integrating strong authentication methods, role-based access control, and privileged access management empowers organizations to fortify their digital fortresses against unauthorized access and data breaches.
Continuously monitoring the network and leveraging Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS) and Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) provides crucial real-time insights into potential threats. This proactive approach enables security teams to detect and respond to incidents swiftly, mitigating their impact on the network and business operations. Regular security audits and penetration testing further bolster the network’s resilience, helping identify and address vulnerabilities before adversaries can exploit them.
As cyber threats evolve, so must network security management. Embracing emerging technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Blockchain, opens new frontiers in fortifying networks against sophisticated attacks. These cutting-edge solutions provide enhanced threat detection, decentralized data protection, and streamlined security processes, reinforcing an organization’s cyber defense strategy.
Ultimately, network security management is an ongoing journey, not a destination. Organizations must cultivate a security-first mindset and foster a culture of vigilance and collaboration among all stakeholders. Organizations can confidently navigate the ever-changing cybersecurity landscape by prioritizing security awareness, investing in skilled personnel, and staying abreast of the latest threat trends.
In conclusion, a comprehensive network security management approach is paramount for safeguarding sensitive data, preserving customer trust, and ensuring business continuity. With a fortified digital fortress and a proactive defense strategy, organizations can confidently embrace the boundless opportunities of the digital era, knowing that their networks stand resilient against cyber adversaries. The pursuit of network security excellence is a commitment to a safer and more secure future in an interconnected world.