Network security is an important aspect of system administration. The article focuses on the purpose of network security, the kind of threats that it faces and the implementation of a security strategy.
A Brief Introduction to Networks and Network Security
Everyone in the connected world knows what a network is; it is a system of interconnected computers. The basic idea of networks is allow people remote access to geographically distant resources without having to be physically present. It has also been designed to send data back and forth, to stay connected.
There are large networks and small networks, but size is irrelevant in terms of importance of network security. The purpose of network security, quite simply, is to protect the network and its component parts from unauthorized access and misuse. Networks are vulnerable because of their inherent characteristic of facilitating remote access. For example, if a hacker wanted to access a computer not on a network, physical access would be vital. However, with networks in the picture, it is possible to bypass that particular security aspect.
Therefore, it is vital for any network administrator, regardless of the size and type of network, to implement stringent security policies to prevent potential losses.
The Importance of Network Security
The purpose of network security is essentially to prevent loss, through misuse of data. There are a number of potential pitfalls that may arise if network security is not implemented properly. Some of these are:
Breaches of confidentiality: Each business will identify with the need to keep certain critical information private from competitor eyes.
- Data destruction: Data is a very valuable commodity for individuals and enterprises alike. It is a testament to its importance when the proliferation of backup technology available today is considered. Destruction of data can severely cripple the victim concerned.
- Data manipulation: A system break-in may be easily detectable, as some hackers tend to leave tokens of their accomplishment. However, data manipulation is a more insidious threat than that. Data values can be changed and, while that may not seem to be a serious concern, the significance becomes immediately apparent when financial information is in question.
There are many more potential threats that can cripple a system.
Threats to network security usually fall into one of two main categories – logic attacks or resource attacks.
Logic attacks, as the name implies, is an exploitation strategy used to bend any weakness within the system to will. These weaknesses can include anything from software vulnerabilities, like backdoors, to security lapses in code. The aim is to break into the system, either to crash it or to grant access to an unauthorized individual.
Resource attacks, on the other hand, aim to overwhelm network resources to the point of collapse. This was a common trick in the 90s, but is slowly becoming less popular. The idea of resource attacks into force the system to crash, and therefore become vulnerable. These attacks are carried out in a number of ways; most easily by flooding a server with more service requests than it can handle. Some resource attacks involve the installation of malware on the network, causing it to become vulnerable.
Implementing Network Security
The best approach to implementing a good network security strategy is to be well-prepared for attacks. There is a four-step process:
- Secure: Ensure that all the components are well-guarded with adequate authentication and authorization policies.
- Examine: Constantly monitor network activity and safeguards erected.
- Test: Assess the vulnerabilities of network security policies by having them attacked by a trusted entity. If the safeguards can be breached, it is time to implement more stringent techniques.
- Enhance: Based on all the preceding phases, collect data and use it to build better safeguards.
It is important to keep in mind that a good network security strategy involves constant review and maintenance. It is certainly not enough to create security policies and leave them to do their job. Attackers constantly keep themselves updated, and network administrators should really follow suit.