network-securityNetwork security has had a lot of time in the limelight recently. Last year, several major international companies, including Dropbox, Skype and Sony, experienced network security breaches that resulted in gigabytes of sensitive and confidential information being leaked onto the internet.

Thanks to social media and some quick reactions from the businesses in question, the impact of these data leaks was minimised, but the damage done to the public’s perception of network security has left a permanent mark. The following five tips will help to ensure that your network is secure and stable at all times:

  1. Build a strong network foundation

It might seem obvious, but if your network isn’t built on stable foundations, your network security will be shaky at best. An estimated 95% of network security breaches can be put down to poor configuration – not faulty equipment or enterprising cyber-criminals. Each device that connects to your network should be profiled and set up individually. Additionally, encourage staff to use strong passwords, as one compromised device is enough to jeopardise your entire network. File sharing and download sites should also be controlled to minimise risk – consider using one file sharing provider throughout the organisation.

  1. Automate everything you can

No matter how careful you are, mistakes happen from time to time. Leaving boring or laborious tasks to your staff opens your network to the risk of human error – fortunately, computers are far better suited to dealing with monotonous tasks than we are. Neglecting to capitalise on this is a disservice to your company. Automating network security processes has little impact on network performance, and will free up valuable time for your staff. Don’t forget that computers are not substitute for interpreting data, so you’ll still need some human input for your network to run properly.

  1. Be meticulous about managing devices

In today’s office environment, it’s safe to assume that every employee brings at least one device (other than their computer) to work every day. This can present a serious risk to network security, as most of these devices will go home with your staff and connect to networks that you have no control over. Even sharing USB drives between staff could constitute a network security risk.

Your organisation’s size and budget will inform your device strategy, as it might make more sense to provide staff with company phones to minimise the number of different device types. At the very least, you’ll need to regularly audit the entry points to your network and make sure no devices are compromising your network security. Consider changing your router’s default IP range to further minimise security breaches.

  1. Choose administrators responsibly

Don’t underestimate the responsibility you’re bestowing on someone when you give them administrator rights on your network. Improper use of administrator privileges is one of the major causes of network security compromises, as the consequences of picking up malware or attacker content on a computer with administrator rights. Email attachments or websites could contain code that automatically executes and takes over the user’s computer completely. The software can then install anything from keystroke loggers, sniffers or remote control software that could compromise your entire organisation’s network security.

Think carefully before assigning administrator roles – make sure to select someone who has networking experience, and always give your network administrators sufficient training before giving them admin permissions.

  1. Keep track of the results

The amount of data that network security and monitoring tools generate is staggering. With sufficient insight, this data can be used to tell you everything you need to know about your network at a glance. The needs of your company will inform you of how in-depth your monitoring and reporting strategy should be, and it’s important to select the most valuable data for the context of your company in order to get the best results.

Perform regular audits of your network and devices so that problems can be dealt with proactively. Without a comprehensive audit logging strategy, attacks may go completely unnoticed and leave your network security compromised without you knowing.

Being prepared is the best line of defence against any potential network security breach. Once you’ve set up a comprehensive network security programme, all that’s left to do is monitor consistently and make sure everything ticks over as it should. For more information on how you can create a stable, secure and highly effective network for your business, download a complimentary copy of the IRIS Network Manager’s Guide to a Stable and Highly Available Network here.

Image Credit: Michelle Group