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As your network environment grows and changes with your business, internal and external threats are also evolving to counter the security protocols you have in place. The process of evaluating your network’s security hardware, software, and processes and then making the appropriate adjustments to strengthen them is called "network hardening." True hardening must be done on the inside as well as the outside. Remember, many attacks occur internally so equal consideration must be given to that possibility.
At the heart of the network hardening concept is the need to be consistent in evaluating your network layout and configuration. Consistency also implies staying ahead of the curve so to speak. Ensuring that you're never in a position where you're struggling to keep up with current security trends or technologies. Security threats thrive on exploiting the vulnerabilities of environments with out-of-date hardware, software, and security protocols. Remember it takes only one loose thread to unravel a sweater.
The proper evaluation of your current network requires detailed research and a sense of urgency. You must be purpose-driven and methodical as you determine which components and/or practices need to be "hardened." It would not be cost effective to use a shotgun approach and upgrade everything at once. This approach would not only be inefficient but extremely risky as proper testing is essential before you implement new components or practices into your environment. A botched upgrade could actually weaken security rather than harden it. Don't be hasty and skip the testing phase! Since the concept of network hardening calls for consistent and frequent evaluation, it would be beneficial to setup a test environment where you can properly evaluate planned network upgrades and modifications.
So now that you've been given a very brief overview of the concept of network hardening, let's start to dig deeper. It seems common sense to want to make your network as secure as possible. However, what other benefits can network hardening offer your small business? Cost savings? Customer peace of mind? Absolutely! Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series: Making a Business Case for Network Hardening.
Network Hardening: Part 1
Like all things dynamic, change is inevitable. Such is the case with your network environment. Upgrades and modifications to the network architecture can sometimes expose (or create) security holes. As such, it is important to consistently evaluate the integrity of your network infrastructure.