How To Design a Secure Network: A Step-By-Step Guide

Secure Network Design

Developing a comprehensive level of network security has grown increasingly more difficult over the last 20 years. As businesses move to remote solutions and turn to the cloud, the average attack surface is magnitudes larger than a few decades ago. Across endless user devices, security protocols, and software packages, many businesses struggle to keep up.

Secure network design allows businesses to regain full visibility over their attack surface. By documenting every point of connection that enters a company’s network, companies can begin to analyze their existing defenses and identify areas to improve their network security.

Considering the cost of cybercrime is set to increase from $9.22 trillion to $13.82 trillion in the next four years, there’s never been a better time to take control. In this article, we’ll explore exactly how to design a secure network and lay out every step your business should take.

Quick Takeaways

  • Visibility: As attack surfaces increase, businesses are struggling with full visibility over their network.
  • Network Design: Involving everything that connects to a company’s network, network design maps out your attack surface and all the technologies that it involves.
  • Cataloging: It’s vital to effectively catalog all of your systems, applications, platforms, and anything else connected to your network to improve visibility.
  • Physical Security: Don’t overlook physical security when planning and structuring your secure network
  • Training: Employee training will help to reduce the possibility of human error leading to security vulnerabilities. 

What is Network Design?

Network design is the process of evaluating your current IT infrastructure, identifying areas for improvement, and outlining new technologies you can implement in the future. At the end of this process, you will have a map of your network, detailing the various endpoints, security systems, and other IT architecture that connects to your business.

Secure network design helps to clearly visualize what connects to your business and helps identify any potential gaps in your security. From there, you can consistently improve your security posture to remove vulnerabilities and enhance your cybersecurity defenses. 

How to Create a Secure Network Design

Modeling a secure network design is an extensive process, but one that’s well worth it. A network design can help your business identify potential threats ahead of time, implement new technologies to mitigate risk, and improve your security posture. A network design also helps improve visibility in your organization, as it can map out every device, network asset, and security system your business has.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to creating a secure network design. 

#1. Risk Assessment and Threat Modeling

The first step to developing a secure network design is to catalog everything that connects to your network. Once you understand exactly what secure network architectures and systems you’re dealing with, you can determine how best to protect them. 

It’s also a good idea to document what forms of data each of the devices or systems deal with. For example, a server that hosts sensitive financial data may play a more important role than most other types of data you handle. With that in mind, you can prioritize risk management on all systems connected to any critical data.

This risk assessment stage doesn’t only have to look inward. On the contrary, you can also turn to industry reports to identify common threats or risks in your sector. The more information you have at this stage, the more comprehensive your model will be.

#2. Explore Your Defense in Depth

While your underlying architecture is important, the security systems that you have in place to protect them are even more critical to your business. At this stage, you should turn to every security feature, tool, and system that you have in place. Identify what you have and see if there are any gaps in your defenses. 

Where possible, create a layered security approach. Putting your eggs in one security basket, so to speak, might create vulnerabilities in the future. If you have layers of protection, you reduce the opportunity for a malicious actor to hack into your systems and breach your data.

For all security tools, make sure to document and test the failover mechanisms you have in place. If a system were to suddenly fail, what backups do you have in place to protect your company? Documenting failovers and filling in the gaps where you find a tool lacking will help to create a comprehensive network security design.

#3. Network Segmentation

Network segmentation is a security strategy that compartmentalizes areas of your network. When an attacker breaks through your defenses, a segmented network ensures they still only have limited privileges to your sensitive data, minimizing the potential for lateral movement.

Especially when your business deals with sensitive data, you should endeavor to create subsections of your internal network for each data type.

The more layers and segments you have, the less of an impact a security breach will cause.

#4. Access Control and Multi-Factor Authentication

Once your business has segmented its network, you can then construct more rigorous access control and authentication systems — so you can prevent any unauthorized access. Configure your permissions to prevent certain employees or guests from accessing your most sensitive data.

Especially for larger organizations, job-level-based permissions will help prevent a hacked account from turning into a problem. If a malicious actor manages to phish login details from an employee (and establish to get an unauthorized access), your permission controls will prevent them from accessing all of your company documents and data. 

#5. Encryption and Data Protection

Adding layers of encryption to your data stores will help further shield them from the impacts of a potential data breach.

You should also encrypt any backups you create, helping to maintain a high level of data security across the board. Data protection strategies, like data loss protection, will help to block any attempts to access your data from unauthorized parties. Also, make sure to set strong password policies for all employees accessing your private network.

Plus, don’t forget to use a strong antivirus software to deal with suspicious activity.

#6. Monitoring and Logging

To sustain your defenses and build a secure network achitecture, your business should put in place systems to monitor your security and report on potential findings. 

At a minimum, these monitoring and logging systems should include: 

  • Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS): Identify and isolate suspicious traffic in your outgoing network traffic.
  • Security Information and Event Management (SIEM): Analyze security events, detect patterns, and log them to your records to identify threats. 
  • Software to Log and Audit Network Activities: Be sure to log access, device connection history, events from your firewall, and any log data that may help spot potential threats or anomalies.

Coupling effective monitoring and logging with your existing security architecture will help reduce the possibility of malicious parties breaking through your defenses. 

#7. Patch Management and Vulnerability Assessment

Building a secure network design is one thing; sustaining it is another. It’s vital to update all software that your business uses regularly. A vulnerability can come from anywhere in your business. Even small applications that only a few employees use can become a security risk.

Organizations should implement a system that automatically updates and pushes update requests to user devices. Patch management will help remove known vulnerabilities and provide your business with up-to-date security defenses. 

#8. Physical Security Measures

When discussing secure network design, most businesses focus on the digital world. Of course, the majority of your security defenses will be digital, meaning this is an important aspect of the process. However, your office spaces, physical servers, and other real-world infrastructure can also become a vulnerability.

Having a solid security policy and documenting the physical security measures, like remote access badges, security cameras, and security staff will help to map out your real-world defenses. 

#9. Training and Awareness

It’s a well-known fact in the cybersecurity industry that humans will always be a company’s biggest liability. You could have the best systems in the world, but if an employee accidentally shares their login credentials in a phishing scam, you could be in trouble. According to the 2023 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report, nearly 82% of breaches are due to human error. 

Running regular cybersecurity training, penetration testing, and seminars that help people identify the components of threats and report them will help reduce the likelihood of human error impacting your security.

#10. Compliance and Regulatory Requirements

The final stage when charting your secure network design is to ensure you have the correct compliance frameworks and regulations in place. Every business needs to contend with regulation on several levels, such as local laws, regional privacy compliance, and data protection within any areas they do business with. 

If you’ve effectively implemented monitoring and logging features, regulatory compliance should be fairly straightforward. Your network will already have security features that meet compliance requirements. You will then need to monitor and maintain logs that you can audit if needed. With effective compliance planning, you’ll seal a comprehensive and dynamic secure network design.

Build Better Secure Network Systems with Perimeter81

Improving network security is an ongoing battle. Businesses need to constantly monitor their active systems, refine their defenses, adopt new technologies, and trace potential threats. A secure network infrastructure plan helps improve visibility over these processes, helping organizations to better tackle their cybersecurity.

Perimeter 81 helps your business improve its security posture, offering Firewall as a Service, business VPNs, zero-trust network access, and more. Organizations across the globe are already streamlining their security and bolstering their defenses with Perimeter81.

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What is a secured network?
A secure network is the overall network security infrastructure that protects your business and all of its data.
What is security in network design?
Security in network design refers to all of the security systems, tools, and protocols that you use to keep your business safe. 
Why is secure network design important?
A secure network design boosts your company’s visibility over its attack surface, contributing to a higher degree of security vigilance.
How to get started with secure network design
The first step toward securing your network is to determine what you already have connected to your network. Outlining your entire attack surface is a great place to begin. 
How can I improve security through network design?
Network design can help to pinpoint oversights or areas of weakness in your cybersecurity posture. You can use this map to then outline how to remedy each of these weaknesses. 

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