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Identity And Access Management

Your Guide to Hardening Network Security

November 24, 2021

4 minutes

Man sitting at a desk operating on three screens | Hardening Network Security

Cyberattacks have been on the rise in recent years, and have been spurred on further by the COVID pandemic, which saw remote work take a more prominent role and workers operate outside of secured networks en masse.

This, in addition to a general trend of increasing cyberattacks—particularly those aimed at small and medium-sized businesses—has necessitated organizations of all sizes to seriously consider whether or not their network security is sufficient to protect the data they hold.

Because of this, hardening network security is a critical factor in ensuring companies can stay safe today.

What Do We Mean By “Hardening Network Security”?

When we talk about hardening network security, we’re referring to reducing the “attack surface” of a network to the extent that malicious actors like cybercriminals find it significantly more difficult or even impossible to penetrate it.

The size of an organization’s attack surface is dependent on many factors.

For example, a network that does not use any form of endpoint security is at a greater risk of being infiltrated through smart devices or personal devices used by staff to handle data.

A network that has no email filtering is at risk of unnecessarily exposing staff to spam email.

Both of these examples, in addition to many others, demonstrate how neglecting to harden network security can lead to an increased attack surface and a greater chance of being breached.

It also gives us a launching off point for discussing how hardening network security can reduce the size of an organization’s attack surface, which is what we will be talking about in this blog.

How Can Businesses Harden Their Security?

There are a number of things organizations can do to shore up their network security and give themselves the best chance of avoiding a data breach.

General Recommendations

The following are some general recommendations for what you can do to keep yourself from harm.

• Ensure the latest OS version on each device is installed and up to date.

• Patches that are installed should be tested so that stability is maintained.

• Enforce a security policy for all devices connected to the network.

• Backup configuration files.

• Do not share configuration files using unsecured means.

• Disable unused services and implement access controls for active services.

• Perform periodic security tests for network devices and compare their configuration against original configurations to verify them.

Access Control and Identity Management

A lack of proper control standards and identity management is a key reason data and information can find its way into the wrong hands.

Access and identity management, IAM for short, is all about reducing the chances of this happening.

In short, IAM works off of the principle that all information should have specified users who are allowed access to it to perform a task critical to their role.

For example, folder access to sensitive information on a network should have access controls that restrict who is able to interact and handle it.

In addition to this, there are a number of other things that should be done regarding access control. The following should be undertaken:

• Use multi-factor authentication.

• Use out-of-band management to divide network admin and user traffic.

• Restrict access to the console port.

• Limit simultaneous management connections.

• Utilize the strongest encryption available on IoT devices on the network.

• Apply IP address access control lists to reduce the risk of exposing admin interfaces to user traffic.

• Restrict physical access to routers and switches and apply access controls for remote access.

• Monitor and log all attempts to access network devices.

Understanding Your Vulnerabilities and Solving Them

The recommendations laid out in this blog post are a good starting off point for organizations looking at hardening network security and giving themselves a better level of protection.

To have a full understanding of exactly what is needed to ensure a secure network, it is highly recommended that businesses have a risk assessment conducted to see exactly what their vulnerabilities are and how they can be remediated.

This will done by performing penetration testing and vulnerability scanning and is typically undertaken by a managed security service provider (MSSP) like DOT Security.

Using these methods, they are effectively playing the part of a cybercriminal (white-hat hacker) to determine what an organization’s weak spots are and guide the strategy in effectively hardening the network.

Bottom Line

Hardening network security is a crucial aspect of a modern cybersecurity strategy.

Cyberattackers operate on a law-of-averages approach, meaning their victims are invariably those who have not afforded themselves the protections necessary to effectively avoid being breached.

Because of this, companies that are unsure of where they stand or feel they need support for their cybersecurity efforts should consider having a risk assessment done to understand what solutions and practices must be adopted to harden their network.

Learn more about DOT Security's network security monitoring services today or contact us to speak with a network security expert.