5 Network Security Threats And How To Protect Yourself
The significance of cybersecurity in today's context stems from the widespread reliance on technology, whether for collaboration, communication, data collection, e-commerce, or entertainment. Organizations providing services to customers and employees find it imperative to safeguard their IT infrastructure, including all applications and connected devices, ranging from laptops and desktops to servers and smartphones.
In the past, these components typically resided within a single "corporate network." However, modern networks are often composed of individual devices and their interconnections, spanning across the internet, occasionally through VPNs, reaching the diverse locations where people work, such as homes and cafes, and extending to the cloud and data centers housing essential services. This shift prompts an exploration of the potential network threats faced by this modern network.
Cybersecurity threats vs network security threats
Numerous technical terms are often used interchangeably, such as cybersecurity and network security. However, cybersecurity serves as the overarching umbrella term, encompassing the protection of all elements within a network, including endpoint devices, data, and the infrastructure connecting them, whether through cables or airwaves.
In the past, network security mainly dealt with protecting the network structure that helps different systems and applications. However, when someone tries to attack a network, they're actually trying to get into its apps and sensitive data to cause trouble for the business or steal important information.
The bigger picture
The evolution of the 'network' concept has rendered traditional network security thinking outdated. The protective boundary is no longer limited to the conventional on-site network; it now encompasses SaaS applications crucial for business tasks and the home office networks employees use to connect to company resources remotely. Data is now scattered across numerous services, devices, applications, and individuals.
This contemporary "network" is commonly referred to as your attack surface. Due to its larger and more dispersed nature, it faces constant threats and is challenging to safeguard. Consequently, network security has shifted to a 'zero trust' approach, assuming the absence of a perimeter and rejecting the notion of a 'threat-free' environment. This approach mandates authentication and authorization for all users before they can reach applications and sensitive data, regardless of their access point.
Even when adopting a zero-trust approach, your network is still susceptible to attacks. It's crucial to comprehend the nature and location of your network security threats. Let's delve into them with more detail.
As per recent research by Verizon, 14% of data breaches are attributed to misconfiguration errors and misuse. Misconfiguration errors happen when adjusting system or application settings in a way that makes them less secure. This occurs either through altering settings without a full understanding of the implications or by inputting incorrect values. Such mistakes can lead to significant vulnerabilities. For instance, a misconfigured firewall might permit unauthorized access to an internal network, or a wrongly configured web server could unintentionally disclose sensitive information.
2) Outdated software
Software and app developers regularly issue updates containing patches to address vulnerabilities found in their code. Applying these patches throughout an organization's entire network of devices can be a challenging and time-consuming process, but it is crucial. Failing to update your software, firmware, and operating systems to the latest versions leaves your network security vulnerable to threats. A vulnerability scanner provides a real-time inventory of software requiring updates and identifies misconfigurations that may compromise your security, allowing you to maintain the highest level of security possible.
3) DoS attack
The preceding network security threats typically exploit vulnerabilities to infiltrate networks and pilfer information. In contrast, a Denial-of-Service (DoS) attack aims to disrupt your network, rendering it inaccessible.
Various methods can achieve this, whether through malware, flooding the target network with excessive traffic, or transmitting information that triggers a crash, such as requesting overly complex queries that lock up a database. In any scenario, the DoS attack hinders customers or employees from accessing the expected services or resources.
Websites of prominent organizations like banks, media companies, and governments are often targets for DoS attacks. While these attacks typically do not result in data theft or loss, they can incur significant time and monetary expenses for mitigation. A well-configured content delivery network (CDN) can provide protection against DoS attacks and other common malicious activities for websites.
4) Application bugs
A software bug refers to an error, flaw, or fault in an application or system that leads it to produce an incorrect or unexpected outcome. Bugs can arise in code for various reasons, ranging from inadequate testing or messy code to communication gaps or insufficient specification documents.
Not all bugs pose cybersecurity risks or are exploitable by attackers to access the network and execute code remotely. However, certain bugs, like SQL injection, can be highly serious, enabling attackers to compromise your site or pilfer data. SQL injections not only expose sensitive data but also grant remote access and control over affected systems. While this is just one example of an application bug, various others exist.
Injections are common when developers lack adequate security training, make mistakes that go unchecked in code reviews, or when combined with insufficient continuous security testing by security teams. Despite efforts to address these issues, mistakes can still occur, which is why software bugs are consistently ranked as the #1 network security threat in the OWASP Top Ten Web Application Security Risks. Thankfully, many types of injection vulnerabilities and other application-level security bugs can be identified using authenticated web vulnerability scanners and penetration testing, particularly for more sensitive applications.
5) Attack surface management
Can you effectively secure your business if you lack knowledge of your internet-facing assets? Not likely. Without a comprehensive and up-to-date inventory of these assets, understanding available services and potential avenues for attackers becomes challenging. However, staying vigilant and ensuring consistent monitoring for vulnerabilities is no easy task, especially with the continuous growth and evolution of IT estates.
When companies attempt to document their systems, they often resort to manually updating a basic spreadsheet. However, due to configuration changes, the introduction of new technologies, and the presence of shadow IT, they frequently struggle to have a precise understanding of their owned assets and their locations. Yet, the identification, tracking, and protection of all these assets remain crucial components for establishing robust security measures in every business.
A vulnerability scanner is a dynamic, automated tool designed to monitor internet-exposed elements and eliminate anything unnecessary, such as that forgotten Windows 2003 box or a web server hastily set up by a developer who has since left the company.
Furthermore, it can consistently monitor cloud accounts and automatically include new external IP addresses or hostnames as targets. Additionally, it aids in 'asset discovery,' assisting companies in locating IP addresses and domains they might not even be aware of.
How does this apply to you?
Automated tools are employed by attackers to discover and take advantage of vulnerabilities, gaining entry to unsecured systems, networks, or data within organizations, regardless of size. The process of finding and exploiting vulnerabilities through these automated tools is straightforward. The mentioned attacks are cost-effective, easily executed, and frequently indiscriminate, posing a risk to every organization. The breach of just one vulnerability is all it takes for an attacker to gain access to your network.
Recognizing the locations of your vulnerabilities and weak points constitutes the initial and most crucial step. By identifying vulnerabilities early, you have the opportunity to rectify them before attackers can take advantage. A cloud-based vulnerability scanner is a service that detects security vulnerabilities in computer systems, networks, and software. Offering continuous monitoring, vulnerability scanners search for network threats and vulnerabilities, ranging from weak passwords to configuration errors or unpatched software. This allows you to address these issues proactively, preventing potential exploitation by attackers.
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