Cyber attacks are a common threat to organizations today. Whether you are a small business or a major corporate entity, you need to have an IT network. The upside to a network is that it helps an organization become more productive, efficient and profitable.
The downside is that a network hosts information and data that is vital for an organization. It has details about the customers, the daily communications of the organization, linked hardware assets and more. So it offers an entry point for intruders and attackers.
If the network of your organization is compromised, it puts your organization’s data and reputation on the line. A breach of network security can lead to financial losses, lawsuits from customers and even legal problems for an organization. This is why it is critically essential to secure the IT network of your organization.
IT security personnel are typically tasked with the security of an organizational network. In this position, you are to create network security policies, take suitable measures and decisions, and train the employees on the desired security behaviors.
Even if you have solid network security in place, you can still improve upon it by adding new security measures. In this guide, we share some excellent desired behaviors and measures you can use to ramp up network security at your organization.
1. Sensitive Data Handling
Sensitive data can include customer information, financial details and other business secrets. Basically, it is anything that can be used by a malicious outsider to hurt your organization. When sensitive data is shared over your organizational network, it is important to ensure that it stays in the hands of authorized persons only.
To ensure this, you can create network security policies related to file sharing and email forwarding. Use these policies to block emails and files containing sensitive data from reaching unauthorized individuals. You can also set up a flag for additional confirmation when such data is shared by the network users.
If your organization uses cloud services, and it very probably does, make sure you include the cloud in your data handling policies.
2. Stronger Passwords and Password Managers
Stronger passwords are vital for a solid network security. And yet network users often create weak passwords that are too small, too simple or too easy to guess. To prevent this, you can create network policies that require the employees to create stronger passwords by default.
For instance, ask for a combination of symbols, alphabets and letters when a network user creates a password. You can also ask the user to choose a password of at least 10 to 15 characters to ensure better security and prevent the chances of a brute force attack by a hacker.
For more sensitive aspects of the network, you may require the users to change passwords frequently.
A common problem with passwords is that they can be hard to remember. This is especially true for longer, more complex passwords.
If the users on your network need help with remembering passwords, encourage them to use a good password manager. Password managers make it easier to keep track of all the passwords while ensuring that no unauthorized persons access them.
3. 2FA Adoption
Two-factor authentication, or 2FA, uses two factors to authenticate a network user. It is a significant improvement over the single-step password-only type of verification. 2FA uses a combination of something the user knows, something the user has and something the user is, to verify the user in two steps. It is particularly effective in countering phishing and session hijacking.
To implement 2FA on your organizational network, you can use an email code, a one-time SMS password, a personal question or any other identifier in addition to the standard password.
Make sure to consult with the stakeholders at your organization before deciding the two factors you use in 2FA implementation. The factors you use for verification must be easily accessible for network users and unique to them.
4. VPN Use
Most hackers target data traffic that flows between an organization’s network and its registered users. This is particularly true today when employees use smartphones, tablets and a variety of other devices to remotely access an organization’s network.
If the data traffic is compromised, a hacker can launch session hijacking or man-in-the-endpoint attack. He can masquerade as the registered user and access the network as well as all assets on the network. This is why it is crucial to secure the data traffic or the communication lines between the network and its users.
This is where VPNs come in. Quality VPNs are able to encrypt all communication taking place between a user and the network. However, in order for a VPN to work perfectly, both the network and the user must be using it at the time of communication.
A VPN almost makes it impossible for an attacker to launch a man-in-the-middle attack. It also counters other phishing attacks quite effectively. However, it is important to use a quality VPN with a sound reputation. A good example is NordVPN. To weigh the pros and cons of NordVPN, check out this review.
5. Safe Browsing
Safe browsing is the cornerstone of a good network security. You can train the employees at your organization on best practices related to safe browsing. Some of these include:
- Use a well-known and up-to-date browser
- Use anti-virus software with file scanning before downloading
- Turn on Pop-Up Blocker
- Avoid using public Wi-Fi
- Check emails and email sources thoroughly before clicking any links
- Verify URL authenticity especially when entering sensitive information
- Be very careful when sharing credit card info and other personal details
You can alternatively implement some of these measures as network-wide policies. This way, when your users are browsing the web while connected directly to the network, alerts can be used to prompt them on safe browsing habits.
6. Secure USB Usage
USBs are a very handy and portable form of data. In a business workplace, sharing data between colleagues is very convenient with a USB. That being said, a USB can easily bring malware, viruses and other security threats into an organization’s work. So it is essential to have a network security policy relating to the USB use.
For a start, make sure all USBs used within your organizational workplace are secure. Strong encryption keys ensure that any data loss can’t be deciphered and misused. Also, use specialized mechanisms to scan USBs before they can be used to make sure they are clean.
If possible, limit the use of USBs to only the most essential occasions. On these occasions, use strict policies to monitor, regulate and scan the use of the USBs.
7. Anti-Phishing Measures
One of the most common security threats for organizations and employees are phishing attacks. Hackers masquerade as an authoritative or familiar person, tricking employees into clicking on malicious links. Once this happens, hackers then find a way to infiltrate the organization’s network.
Apart from awareness and security training, you can use network and email policies to mitigate the risks of phishing. Encourage employees to use other forms of confirmation from the purported sender before clicking a link in the email. Use white-listed email addresses to separate trusted email addresses and unknown addresses.
The security of an organization’s IT network ultimately rests on the policies and best practices of the employees and IT security personnel. The guide above provides some handy tips in the right direction. But make note that these are only a starting point and you should explore other ways to enhance the security of your own organizational network.