The rate of all cyber incidents caused by security misconfigurations is 35%.1Companies that handle a large number of complicated security rules and firewalls, each with its own set of rules and policies, fail to govern complex network security policies.
This article covers network security policy management, its key elements, benefits, and use cases to address the inherent complexity of their multi-device environments.
What is security network security policy management?
Network security policy management is the process of establishing, implementing, and maintaining rules and guidelines that protect a company’s network and data from illegal access, use, unnecessary data sharing, change, or loss.
Network security policy management is executed by defining policies, a set of rules for the usage of network devices and traffic, to establish a network perimeter across network resources (e.g. databases: D1 and D2).
Figure: A trusted network residing inside a network perimeter established by a set of network policies
Network administrators frequently leverage network security policy management (NSPM) tools to execute network security policies, analyze network traffic, and offer a consistent administration interface for both logical and physical networks.
The key objectives of a network security policy management approach are:
- Determining the authorized usage of network resources against network threats (e.g. insider threats).
- Describing rule-based (e.g. role-based access control (RBAC) security practices for company-specific cases.
Why is security network security policy management important?
Independently administering each security technology without using a network security policy management practices causes various security risks:
- Human-related risks can lead to network vulnerabilities.
- Firewall rules that have not been changed in years frequently oppose one another, leaving the network vulnerable to attackers.
- Network configuration updates are frequently performed manually and cannot be automated.
Read more: IT security automation.
Figure: CIA triad: confidentiality (C), integrity (I), and availability (A)
Source: Ekran system3
Network security policy management solutions help organizations build a CIA triad: confidentiality (C), integrity (I), and availability (A) approach to configure and control hundreds of policies while providing insight into the entire network infrastructure from a single panel in real-time.
Following is a summary of the key deliverables of network security policy management :
- An overview of the policy’s objective and objectives.
- A list of users and their responsibilities in developing and implementing a policy.
- Scope of internal data and resource management.
- A list of detected categorized security concerns.
- Guidelines for controlling and reducing recognized threats.
Parts of the security policy
A security policy specifies a collection of rules with particular matching circumstances and actions. After accepting a transmission, security tools across the network (e,g. firewalls) compare its properties to the matching requirements of the security policy. If all requirements are met, the request effectively meets the security policy, and the firewall processes the packet and follows bilateral traffic by the action specified in the security policy.
1. Matching criteria
A security policy’s matching criteria specify traffic characteristics and are used to eliminate traffic that fulfills the conditions. A security policy consists of a set of matching conditions:
- A network user who transmits traffic.
- Source and endpoint traffic, containing security zones, Internet Protocol (IP) addresses, and VLANs.
- A location is a geographic area defined by an Internet Protocol (IP) address.
- Services, apps, or groups of URLs to be visited.
A security policy has two main actions: permit and deny, which allow or prohibit traffic from passing through.
Permitted action: If the action is permitted, users can execute deeper content security checks (e.g. such as antivirus, data cleaning, application behavior control, file blocking, mail filtering, DNS filtering, intrusion prevention system (IPS), URL filtering)
Denied action: If the response is denied, users may provide feedback messages to a host or user to stop connections.
3. Unique policy identifiers
Network security policy management tools leverage Policy IDs to control policy configurations, these IDs include:
Name: Distinguishes a specific policy.
Description: Stores details regarding a security policy such as the number of the software process that activates the security policy. This allows users to grasp the context of the security policy during routine audits, such as when it was created or who applied it.
Policy groups: Contains several security policies that serve the same goal, making maintenance easier. Users can change, enable, or deactivate policy groups.
Tag: Filters policies with the same features, users may add more than one label to a security policy such as corporate application and vulnerable software with a uniform prefix (security_policy_1XY).
Network security policy management example
The web UI is used to configure a network security policy, as seen in the example below.
Figure: Establishing a security policy to enable devices on network segments 192.168.1.0/24 and 192.168.2.0/24 in the Trust zone to access the Internet.
Read more: Network security policy configuration example by role-based access control (RBAC).
Table: Network security policy example
|Source Security Zone
|Destination Security Zone
|Allow inbound traffic
|telnet (TCP: 23)
|Allow outbound traffic
|telnet (TCP: 23)
|Allow transmit traffic
|telnet (TCP: 23)
Figure: Adding and configuring a network security policy
Benefits of network security management
Scalability: Network security policy management offers the capacity to oversee up to several hundred firewalls and VPN routers in addition to an equivalent quantity of intrusion detection system (IDS) sensors on your network.
Network monitoring: Enables users to specify network-wide monitoring for any security policy breaches.
Network auditing: Network auditing gives up-to-date data on network policy incidents (e.g. AI auditing). Users may set up notifications to suit their requirements, from creating planned reports on other relevant incidents to receiving real-time alerts on critical events.
Centralization: To enhance newrk performance on the Internet and extranet settings, users can employ a centralized policy management framework (e.g. administrators and high-level management receives control over the network policies and endpoints).
9 key network security policies
1- Access control policy
An access control policy details how to give and restrict access to network resources. The key objective of the policy is to ensure that only people with permission have access to particular information and applications.
The access control policy includes the following information.
- Usernames, passwords, or smart cards for authenticating user identification are required before getting access.
- Reported security risks associated with access restrictions.
- Access control technologies include two-factor (2FA) and multi-factor authentication (MFA).
- Multiple levels of access categorize users according to their jobs and activities.
- Policies for withdrawing access rights when employees depart or change responsibilities.
2- Device control policy
Device control policies define rules based on user privileges, profiles, and software across communication and monitoring devices across the network.
The following policies can be established to govern device security:
- Security updates that are sent regularly to vendors.
- Access-control list (ACL) is updated frequently.
- Deactivation of unused outdated services on devices.
3- Account management policy
An account management policy establishes the rules and processes to govern user accounts on the network such as:
- Instructions for generating new user accounts.
- Authentication techniques for verifying user identities.
- Procedures for changing user accounts such as license updates or role changes.
- Policies for restoring access to user accounts.
4- Network usage policy
A network use policy establishes the permitted use of network assets to guarantee the ethical reliable use of the devices such as:
- Prohibited network activities include online communities, private messages, informal means of communication, and shadow IT tools.
- Rules for the proper usage of network bandwidth.
5- Remote access policy
A remote access policy outlines how the organization will ensure cybersecurity when customers access data remotely. This covers what users can anticipate when accessing that data, how to create secure connections, when policy waivers may be allowed, and the likelihood of legal action for breaches.
A remote access policy delivers:
- A list of people who are permitted to access the network’s resources remotely.
- The acceptable techniques to build a remote connection (e.g., Remote desktop protocol (RDP) or VPN).
6- Firewall security policy
Companies may include the following in their firewall and network security policies:
- Policies and settings for both software and hardware firewalls.
- Categories of permitted and prohibited traffic.
- The configurations for that monitor network traffic logging activity for indicators of malicious activity (e.g. intrusion prevention and detection systems, microsegmentation tools).
- Rules for network segmentation, including a breakdown of each segment‘s security needs (e.g. microsegmentation, VPN).
7- Network monitoring and logging policy
- Network monitoring objectives such as discovering and minimizing security events, and improving network efficiency.
- Policies for monitoring bandwidth usage, latency, and stability.
- Detailed descriptions of the various kinds of received logs.
8- Data encryption policy
This policy guides the use of encryption technologies to secure information, files, and confidential information during storage or transmission.
- Any applicable data protection rules or data compliance criteria.
- Data types are classified according to their sensitivity and relevance.
- Encryption algorithms that have been approved.
- Techniques for creating, storing, and controlling encryption keys.
- Policies for encrypting data in transit between networks.
9- Password policy
A password policy controls the allocation, administration, and usage of passwords on the network to guarantee that passwords are strong and updated.
Common password policy includes:
- Instructions for creating secure and complicated passwords such as using capital and lower-case letters, and symbols.
- The shortest length of passwords.
- Rules for password renewal.
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