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Network Security Monitoring

5 Factors That Affect the Security of a Network

November 18, 2021

5 minutes

Holographic ball with line intersections and data points

Enterprise security for an IT network is a top priority for the modern business, but for many, there are several factors that affect the security of the network and inhibit their ability to protect themselves from cybersecurity threats.

While organizations often cite cybersecurity—half of c-suite executives view it as a high priority—as an important aspect of their approach to technology implementation and makeup.

Today, we’re going to be taking a look at some common factors in organizations that can negatively affect the security of a network.

Improperly Configured Hardware and Devices

When security professionals install the necessary software to fulfill a cyber strategy, whether through pushing it via a remote MDM (mobile device management) system or locally, they must ensure that the correct protections have been afforded to the correct devices.

If network entry points have not been properly configured, they present potential vulnerabilities and increase its attack surface (the opportunity for hackers to gain access).

Here are some examples of the types of vulnerabilities that can be expected through a poorly configured hardware setup: • File and directory permissions that are not setup correctly • Server software that hasn’t been updated or security issues yet to be patched • Accessible admin debugging functions • Admin accounts that have poor password controls • Improperly configured SSL certificates and encryption settings

The security of a network is only as good as the people who are managing it, and if these basic aspects of security maintenance are not being monitored correctly and devices and hardware are left misconfigured, then that’s a big vulnerability for an organization’s network.


Undereducated Workforce

Even if a network is configured correctly—even if it has every protection possible—it will not be able to stop an end user being hoodwinked into unwittingly handing over sensitive information.

An overwhelming majority of cyberattacks occur because of human error, and this is a vulnerability that is caused by end users simply not being prepared to deal with social engineering attacks.

Cybercriminals rely on pursuing the path of least resistance when they attempt to breach an organization.

They understand that they will not be able to successfully breach everyone they target, but they do understand the law of averages—that is to say: at some point someone will click on a link they’re not supposed to or download an attachment they shouldn’t.

Social engineering cyberattacks, like phishing, are the primary way hackers gain access to networks, and these rely exclusively on preying on those who do not know what to look for when being targeted—most often via email.

As a result, the workforce itself is the biggest vulnerability to a network, and this means businesses should take great efforts to ensure the probability of one of their staff accidentally handing over sensitive information is minimized as much as possible.

This is done through security awareness training, a solution which educates end users in what to look out for and how to deal with malicious social engineering attempts.

Outdated Software

Much like having a network which relies on improperly configured hardware creates a big vulnerability for organizations, outdated software can also mean danger lurks around the corner.

Zero-day attacks are cyberattacks where malicious actors discover a vulnerability in a piece of software and then attempt to take advantage of that vulnerability before it is fixed by the application's developers.

These are known as exploits and are very dangerous. The window of opportunity is small, but if a hacker can use this exploit to their advantage, they can gain access to networks, data, and information.

Software developers will provide updates to end users and recommend to download them to avoid zero-day attacks as much as possible, but users who do not update or take time to update will be vulnerable to potential attacks.

This can usually be avoided through mobile device management (MDM), a solution whereby IT staff can remotely “push” updates to users and effectively force them to update their software applications.

MDM platforms also give complete oversight of all the devices under network, allowing them to see who’s up to date and who is not; making this process significantly easier and providing full visibility.

Poor Access Controls

Access controls are a fundamental aspect of information security and concern the question of who should have access to what.

In an organization with poor access controls, they may by default allow all end users in a network access to sensitive data when they needn’t do so.

Information security works off the premise of only providing access to data to those who cannot perform their jobs and responsibilities without it.

The benefit of this is that data is handled only by those who need it, and this reduces the number of vulnerabilities and the attack surface by a large degree.

For companies that are yet to enforce access controls in their network, they should consider implementing the correct protocols as soon as feasible.

In addition to this, information security is a big part of many modern compliance regulations, which legally restrict who has the right to access certain types of data—this is particularly the case in fields such as finance and healthcare.

Lack of Compliance Protocols

New regulations regarding the use and storage of data (especially as they pertain to customers) are coming into force every year.

California has CCPA, New York has SHIELD, and a number of other states are implementing similar measures which aim to ensure businesses are appropriately safeguarding data.

Because of this, compliance standards are increasingly needing to be met, and those who are not in compliance are putting themselves and their network in a position of vulnerability.

Many compliance standards address aspects that can be found in cybersecurity strategies offered by managed security service providers (MSSP) like DOT Security.

CMMC, for example, bases its practices on the NIST framework.

Businesses should conduct a risk audit and a gap analysis to understand what regulations they need to be in compliance with and what network vulnerabilities they currently have as a result of not meeting these compliance standards.

Bottom Line

There are several factors that can affect the security of a network and these vulnerabilities exist in many organizations today.

These can range from poorly configured hardware to end users not prepared to deal with targeted social engineering attacks.

In addition to this, the importance of ensuring these risks are reduced are exacerbated by the fact the compliance regulations legally mandate that businesses are following proper standards.

Companies that do not have a cybersecurity program in place or that have not recently had an assessment conducted should have a risk audit and gap analysis performed to understand exactly what their vulnerabilities are and what policies and solutions to implement to minimize their risk.

If businesses are uncertain about where they stand with regards to their cybersecurity practices, policies, and solutions, it’s a good idea to have a managed security service provider conduct a risk assessment to determine what they need to do next to shore up their security capabilities.