With more and more businesses wholly depending on IT for their growth and revenue, it has become vital for them to ensure that their network infrastructure is well-secured from the plethora of dangers on the Internet. Hackers and malware authors have become more sophisticated in their methods than ever before, posing great dangers to businesses both small and large.  Data theft and system infections can be devastating if your company isn’t following at least a baseline of network security best practices.

Though it can be difficult, time-consuming, and or cost prohibitive to close all security loop holes (one might argue the plausibility of a 100% secure network), taking the necessary precautions will create a network infrastructure that is more resistant to cyber-attacks and security breaches.

The following are the basic ways in which your business can help secure its network from such hazards.

Firewall

A firewall appliance is the first line of defense when approaching your network from the outside in, and it protects networks from malicious attacks, unauthorized access, and any unauthorized attempt to penetrate the network. Many firewalls are also capable of providing useful features such as failover internet connections and VPNs to allow secure access by remote users.

Endpoint Anti-Malware

At the other end of your network (we’re looking from the inside out now), you’ll have your “endpoints”: desktop computers, laptops, smart phones or tablets. For example, an employee connecting to the corporate network from home using his or her own laptop can comprise the safety of the overall network.  To counter this, best practices for security include endpoint security software installed on each device.  Effectively, this makes each device a component of your overall security solution, reducing exposure to your entire network ecosystem in the event one endpoint is compromised.

Virtual Private Networks

VPNs allow users to connect remotely to the company’s network through an encrypted connection. Because the connection is encrypted, any transmission between the server and the client is much more safe from network sniffing, cross-site scripting exploits and the like. This method also helps to avoid the opening of unnecessary ports in the firewall.

Data Encryption

Theft of data can have destructive and far-reaching consequences for a business, from severe losses to litigation, or even closing its doors for good. This is why encrypting sensitive data is very important to safeguard sensitive data. Encrypted data is only viewable by authorized personnel who possess the decryption key.

Intrusion Prevention System

If your company has a higher profile on the Internet than average, then having a purpose-built intrusion detection/prevention system is worth considering.  Intrusion prevention systems often work in tandem with your firewall, and can be one or more of several types:
• Network-based intrusion prevention system or NIPS – monitors the network layer for suspicious activity
• Wireless intrusion prevention systems or WIPS – monitors wireless networks for suspicious activity
• Network behavior analysis or NBA – monitors activities that generate unusual traffic flows, such as Denial of Service (DOS) attacks.
• Host-based intrusion prevention system or HIPS – software that monitors a single host for any suspicious activity

Content Filtering / Web Filtering

Web or content filtering solutions are designed to block websites and other Internet services such as chat or peer-to-peer file sharing on a company’s network.  This is a very effective proactive measure, since it can prevent a malicious infection or payload from even getting a foothold on a machine.  Filtering works at a level just underneath the company firewall, well above the endpoints.

Planning and Implementation

It is advisable that a professional IT security consultant be allowed to survey a company’s network infrastructure and derive a specific, customized plan that would meet the needs of the particular network setup and provide maximum possible protection. Securing a network is not a one-time task; rather, it is an ongoing service to your system that requires proper vigilance and updates to cope with the increasing threats of malicious activity.

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