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Top 5 Network Security Best Practices in 2024

Written by
Cem Dilmegani
Cem Dilmegani
Cem Dilmegani

Cem is the principal analyst at AIMultiple since 2017. AIMultiple informs hundreds of thousands of businesses (as per Similarweb) including 60% of Fortune 500 every month.

Cem's work focuses on how enterprises can leverage new technologies in AI, automation, cybersecurity(including network security, application security), data collection including web data collection and process intelligence.

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Researched by
Ezgi Alp, PhD.
Ezgi Alp, PhD.
Ezgi Alp, PhD.
Ezgi is an industry analyst at AIMultiple. She specializes in firewall, firewall management and procurement technologies.

She has held various positions in academia and the finance industry. Ezgi holds a PhD in finance and a bachelor's degree in management. She has a background in publishing scientific articles and presenting at conferences.

Publications:
• Tanyeri A. B., and Alp E. (2022).
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In 2023, over 90% of organizations experienced at least one cyber threat or security breach, resulting in an average data breach cost of $4 million1,2.

To prevent and manage these unfortunate and costly network security threats, here are some network security best practices for organizations:

1. Embrace a holistic approach

Network risks are ubiquitous and touch many different parts of the organization.

Initial access in a security breach involves employing various methods that exploit diverse entry points to establish the initial presence within an organization’s network. The initial access vector denotes the specific point of entry into your network or system.

This image shows the top initial vectors in 2023 versus 2022. This is prepared for the network security best practice article.
Source: IBM

Figure 1. Top initial access vectors

Organizations can enhance their network security in such an environment through holistic approaches, employing strategic methods to fortify their network security measures against a variety of risks.

Security orchestration is a holistic approach that harmonizes and automates cybersecurity processes to effectively respond to and mitigate threats. It involves integrating diverse security tools, technologies, and processes into a unified framework, streamlining workflows, and enhancing the overall efficacy of an organization’s security posture.

2. Ensure resilience of network security

Incidents of attacks utilizing legitimate credentials have surged by 71% compared to the previous year3. Proactively developing network resilience is crucial for enduring successful attacks, as solely relying on preventive measures is insufficient; it necessitates a network architecture capable of anticipating potential breaches. Here are some different network defense methods:

2.1. Intrusion prevention system (IPS)

IPS actively identifies and prevents security threats, providing real-time protection by monitoring network traffic and taking action against suspicious or malicious behavior.

Advantages: IPS immediately blocks and reports malicious traffic, offering real-time protection against potential threats.

Disadvantages: Deployment of IPS as a hardware device may involve higher initial costs, and improper configuration may lead to false positives or negatives.

2.2. Network security policy management (NSPM)

NSPM involves continuous analysis and auditing of security rules, adapting them to changing conditions to ensure effective network security.

Advantages: NSPM optimizes network security rules and change management workflows, enhancing overall security posture based on real-life conditions.

Disadvantages: Some NSPM solutions may be resource-intensive and complex to deploy, requiring careful consideration of the organization’s needs.

2.3. Secure access service edge (SASE)

SASE is a technology that provides wide area network and security controls as a cloud computing service directly to the point of connection, rather than relying on a data center. It provides a comprehensive and integrated approach to network security, combining multiple tools and services into a managed WAN solution.

Advantages: SASE combines multiple network security tools into one solution, providing integrated security for diverse geographical locations.

Disadvantages: Transitioning to a SASE model may involve significant upfront costs and challenges in integrating existing network infrastructure.

Security functions included in SASE are as follows:

2.3.1. Network firewalls

Network firewalls act as a barrier between a secured internal network and external sources, allowing or denying data packets based on source and destination.

Advantages: Network firewalls efficiently regulate and inspect traffic, enhancing security by allowing or blocking data packets based on predefined rules.

Disadvantages: In some cases, firewalls can create bottlenecks and impact network performance due to the rigorous inspection of each data packet.

Here is a guide to finding the right firewall audit software for your network security needs.

2.3.2. Network access control (NAC)

NAC systems authenticate users and devices, determining their permissions within the corporate network. It enhances control over resources, roles, and access criteria.

Advantages: NAC provides granular control over network access, helping organizations enforce security policies and compliance standards.

Disadvantages: Implementation and management of NAC systems can be complex, requiring integration with identity and access management systems.

2.3.3. Secure web gateway (SWG)

SWGs have evolved to protect users from web-based threats, offering functionalities like URL filtering, decryption, and inspection of HTTPS traffic.

Advantages: SWGs protect users from malicious websites, offering URL filtering, decryption, and inspection of HTTPS traffic.

Disadvantages: Overreliance on SWGs may lead to increased latency in accessing web content due to the additional inspection process.

2.3.4. Zero trust architecture (ZTA)

ZTA challenges traditional network trust models by implementing strict access controls and verification mechanisms, ensuring security even in a potentially compromised environment.

Microsegmentation as a tool for ZTA, divides the network into smaller segments, preventing lateral movement of threats and minimizing potential damage by isolating different parts of the network.

Advantages: ZTA focuses on protecting assets rather than blocking external threats, providing a robust security architecture based on risk profiles.

Disadvantages: Implementation of microsegmentation may require significant planning and coordination, potentially impacting network performance. Implementing ZTA requires a paradigm shift in security culture and may face resistance from traditional security practices.

3. Adopt a robust authentication and authorization Framework

It is the process of verifying the identity of users seeking access to a system, network, server, application, website, or device. Here are some different authentication methods:

3.1. Passwords

Password-based authentication is the most frequently used authentication system for regular logins, commonly encountered during daily use of online services.

Advantages: Passwords are familiar and easy to use for most individuals, requiring minimal training or technical knowledge to implement and manage.

Disadvantages: Passwords are susceptible to various security risks, including theft, phishing attacks, and brute-force hacking attempts, especially if users choose weak or easily guessable passwords. Additionally, managing multiple complex passwords across various accounts can be challenging and may lead to password reuse or forgotten passwords, compromising security.

3.2. Multi-factor authentication (MFA)

It is an enhanced security measure requiring individuals to provide multiple credentials to access a service or network. In addition to their username and password, users must also provide a second factor, typically a one-time code received via phone or email.

Advantages: MFA enhances security by requiring multiple credentials, reducing the risk of unauthorized access, and protecting against password-related attacks.

Disadvantages: Implementation complexity, potential user experience challenges, and additional costs are drawbacks associated with MFA systems.

3.3. Biometric authentication

Biometric authentication utilizes unique physical attributes to verify user identity. This technology stores individuals’ physical characteristics in a database and compares them during authentication processes, ensuring secure access to devices or premises. Widely employed in high-security environments like airports and private organizations, biometrics offers both strong security and user-friendly convenience. Common methods include

  • fingerprint
  • retina/iris
  • facial
  • voice recognition

Advantages: Biometrics, highly resistant to faking, offer nearly foolproof authentication due to their specificity and uniqueness.

Disadvantages: The method demands specialized scanning equipment, posing challenges for certain industries and being cost-prohibitive for small businesses.

3.4. Certificate-based authentication

It is a network security method that relies on digital certificates to verify the identity of users, devices, or systems attempting to access a network or service. Each entity is issued a unique digital certificate that serves as electronic identification in this process. These certificates are signed by a trusted certificate authority, establishing the legitimacy of the entity.

Advantages: Certificate-based authentication ensures robust security by utilizing digital certificates and a trusted authority, reducing the risk of unauthorized access.

Disadvantages: The method’s complexity and associated costs, especially in setting up and maintaining a certificate-based authentication protocol, can be challenging for smaller organizations with limited resources.

4. Foster organizational culture focused on security

Cultivating an organizational culture centered on cybersecurity is crucial for safeguarding sensitive data and mitigating cyber threats. This involves instilling a mindset among employees that prioritizes security practices and awareness. Ways of establishing a secure-centered culture include:

4.1. Comprehensive security training sessions

The regular conduct of comprehensive security training sessions educates employees about potential threats, safe online practices, and the importance of adhering to security protocols. By providing practical examples and real-world scenarios, employees gain a better understanding of the potential risks and learn how to navigate the digital landscape securely.

4.2. Clear policies and guidelines

Clearly defined security policies provide employees with a roadmap for acceptable behavior, data handling practices, and response procedures in case of a security incident. Regular communication and reinforcement of these policies contribute to a strong foundation for maintaining a security-focused culture.

4.3. Promotion of collective responsibility

Emphasizing that everyone plays a role in maintaining a secure environment encourages employees to actively engage in network security practices. This collective mindset helps create a network of vigilant individuals who look out for potential threats and take proactive measures to prevent security breaches.

4.4. Integration into daily operations

This involves embedding security practices into standard operating procedures and workflows. By making security an integral part of routine tasks, employees are more likely to incorporate protective measures into their daily activities, reducing vulnerabilities and enhancing overall cybersecurity.

5. Perform regular network audits

A comprehensive network security audit is crucial for identifying and addressing potential issues within the network infrastructure. To effectively enhance security, organizations should adopt best practices, including

  • regular inventory checks of all devices,
  • utilizing security devices for network assessment and performance analysis,
  • identifying and replacing obsolete devices,
  • conducting vulnerability scans,
  • ensuring up-to-date security patches,
  • implementing a robust logging system,
  • evaluating network connections,
  • assessing internal policies and processes,
  • managing passwords and encryption,
  • reviewing user access levels,
  • testing data backup and recovery strategies,
  • auditing Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies,
  • monitoring network bandwidth,
  • conducting regular security audits,
  • synchronizing network devices to a central time server for accurate audit logs.

These practices contribute to proactive issue resolution without causing disruptions to business operations.

Important network security software to build a strong cybersecurity posture

Network security audit tools: Identify threats, vulnerabilities, and malicious activity to help companies mitigate cyber attacks and follow compliance with regulations.

Microsegmentation tools: Divide a network into granular segments and implement security controls based on the needs of each segment.

NCCM software: Monitor information about your organization’s network devices by documenting network device configurations.

DSPM vendors: Provide network visibility into where to find sensitive data, who has access to it, and how it has been used across the cloud.

Network security policy management solutions (NSPM): Protect network infrastructure using firewalls and security policies against all threats.

SDP software: Deliver a software-defined perimeter (SDP) across the cloud to determine who gets access to what resources.

FAQs for network security best practices

  1. What are the basics of network security?

    Network security involves safeguarding networks from potential threats, utilizing both software and hardware to identify and thwart malicious entities. This comprehensive protection encompasses access control, network structure, and the implementation of security policies.

  2. How is network security monitored?

    Network security monitoring software gathers metrics related to client-server communications, network payload, encrypted traffic sessions, and other network operations to identify cybersecurity threats. Additionally, the software enables the detection of patterns within network traffic flows.

External References

Cem Dilmegani
Principal Analyst

Cem is the principal analyst at AIMultiple since 2017. AIMultiple informs hundreds of thousands of businesses (as per Similarweb) including 60% of Fortune 500 every month.

Cem's work focuses on how enterprises can leverage new technologies in AI, automation, cybersecurity(including network security, application security), data collection including web data collection and process intelligence.

Cem's work has been cited by leading global publications including Business Insider, Forbes, Washington Post, global firms like Deloitte, HPE, NGOs like World Economic Forum and supranational organizations like European Commission. You can see more reputable companies and media that referenced AIMultiple.

Cem's hands-on enterprise software experience contributes to the insights that he generates. He oversees AIMultiple benchmarks in dynamic application security testing (DAST), data loss prevention (DLP), email marketing and web data collection. Other AIMultiple industry analysts and tech team support Cem in designing, running and evaluating benchmarks.

Throughout his career, Cem served as a tech consultant, tech buyer and tech entrepreneur. He advised enterprises on their technology decisions at McKinsey & Company and Altman Solon for more than a decade. He also published a McKinsey report on digitalization.

He led technology strategy and procurement of a telco while reporting to the CEO. He has also led commercial growth of deep tech company Hypatos that reached a 7 digit annual recurring revenue and a 9 digit valuation from 0 within 2 years. Cem's work in Hypatos was covered by leading technology publications like TechCrunch and Business Insider.

Cem regularly speaks at international technology conferences. He graduated from Bogazici University as a computer engineer and holds an MBA from Columbia Business School.

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AIMultiple.com Traffic Analytics, Ranking & Audience, Similarweb.
Why Microsoft, IBM, and Google Are Ramping up Efforts on AI Ethics, Business Insider.
Microsoft invests $1 billion in OpenAI to pursue artificial intelligence that’s smarter than we are, Washington Post.
Data management barriers to AI success, Deloitte.
Empowering AI Leadership: AI C-Suite Toolkit, World Economic Forum.
Science, Research and Innovation Performance of the EU, European Commission.
Public-sector digitization: The trillion-dollar challenge, McKinsey & Company.
Hypatos gets $11.8M for a deep learning approach to document processing, TechCrunch.
We got an exclusive look at the pitch deck AI startup Hypatos used to raise $11 million, Business Insider.

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