A broad and nebulous term, "network security" encompasses all activities and practices used for protecting your personal or company system: usability, reliability, integrity, and safety of devices and data from outside threats. Network security is not a one-step solution, however, and a layered approach must be taken to combat all exterior and interior threats. Viruses, phishing schemes, and hacking evolve with technology, and your network must be configured and secure enough to block all malware and similar threats.
Network security is implemented through hardware and software, in addition to regular updates and management. Antivirus and antispyware software, firewall intrusion prevention systems (IPS), and virtual private networks (VPN) are some of the common tactics used for protecting a personal or business network.
Businesses, in particular, are required to have a network security plan in effect. Industries like health care and banking need to follow mandatory regulatory compliance standards to protect customer information and to prevent identity theft. Regulations vary with each industry, but all generally require a business to protect customers' data from exploitation.
A network security plan needs to guard against all outside intrusions, but as small and medium-sized businesses are the most susceptible to attacks from viruses and hackers, here are some of the common threats network security must combat:
Viruses and worms are malware that, once entering a system, insert a malicious code, which spreads and often disables network security; once the system is open, more threats can enter. Viruses are typically spread by attachments, and worms, not needing to be attached, can simply be contained in an email.
Trojan horses are another malware attack that enters a system through a seemingly-harmless file. A Trojan horse enters a network through one of several approaches: embedded in a website (adult content, gambling, and gaming are the most common), free downloadable software, or a link that may or may not lead to a website. Because Trojan horses are easier to keep out than to remove, network security practices may include a list of blocked programs or a white list of approved sites.
Spam, although one of the less harmful threats, may cause a network to crash by taking up bandwidth and targets users through emails.
Phishing often begins with an email that appears to be from your bank, eBay, or PayPal account requesting your information. As such emails often look legitimate, the user is tricked into providing account or card information and passwords.
Packet sniffers are another threat to data. Capturing data streams over a network, a packet sniffer picks up passwords, usernames, and card or account numbers and may cause a loss of customer data, records, or money. An external source, such as an individual computer or another network, monitors and records this information and entices internet users through "honey pots" – unsecured wireless points usually in a public place. A cause of identity theft, packet sniffing can result in a lawsuit against the company.
Malicious websites, which seem like any harmless webpage, are sources of Trojan horse attacks, key loggers, adware and spyware, cookies, and "drive-by downloads," which can put spyware or malware on a system. Once the security of your system is breached, passwords and account information can be stolen. Although malicious websites come in all forms, a site appearing to be for charity donations is a common exterior.
Zombie computers correspond with malware and spam. Once malware is planted onto your computer, the device sends out thousands of emails, and the action is difficult to detect. Spamming and phishing schemes, click fraud, denial of service attacks, and pump and dump stock schemes often originate from zombie computers. If your computer is more sluggish than usual or crashes often, however, it might have been attacked and transformed into a source of spam.
To identify these threats, a network security audit is needed. Although not designed solely for removing threats, an audit troubleshoots by creating theoretical outside attacks that discover any weaknesses in a company's system. Penetration tests, interviews, vulnerability scans, examining operating system settings, and researching historical data are all techniques that may be used in an audit. Once the audit is finished, the company, such as Robrige, performing the scan releases a report of all problem areas and solutions for fixing them.