How to Improve Your Company’s Network Security and Stay Safe in 2024

Data breaches have become progressively more common in recent years, with 1,802 incidents reported in the US alone in 2022, affecting over 422 million individuals. In fact, the average cost of a data breach has risen to USD 4.35 million, up 2.6% from the previous year.

Businesses can protect themselves by implementing strong authentication methods, encrypting sensitive data, keeping software up to date, and training employees on cybersecurity best practices.

Several recent high-profile data breaches serve as a reminder of the importance of network security measures. Slack, Deezer, and Twitter have all experienced significant data breaches, compromising the sensitive information of millions of users.

In response, these companies have taken measures to investigate and resolve the situation. Users of these platforms are advised to take steps such as resetting passwords, enabling two-factor authentication, and being vigilant for potential phishing attempts.

It’s essential to understand the severity of the consequences of data breaches, including financial losses, reputational damage, and legal liabilities. Taking proactive steps to secure networks and protect sensitive data is crucial to prevent such incidents from happening.

What is Network Security?

Network security is the process and practice of protecting networked systems, including hardware, software, and data, from unauthorized access or theft. In a business setting, network security is essential to keeping sensitive information safe from cyber criminals and ensuring compliance with industry regulations. 

There are many ways to improve network security, but some key practices include implementing strong authentication measures, encrypting data in transit, and regularly backing up data. By taking these steps, businesses can protect themselves from various threats and maintain a secure IT infrastructure.

How to Improve Network Security for Your Business

Here are the steps every business needs to take to improve their network security.

Understand your Current Network Security Posture. 

Assess your network security posture by conducting a vulnerability assessment and penetration test. Try to discover which systems and data are currently protected, what threats exist, and where your vulnerabilities lie.

Identify and Fix Vulnerabilities

Once you know where your vulnerabilities lie, you can work on fixing them. This may involve patching software, implementing new security controls, or changing processes and procedures.

Implement Strong Access Control Measures

One of the most important aspects of network security is controlling who has access to your systems and data. User authentication and authorization measures such as user IDs, passwords, and access control lists (ACLs) are all effective tools.

Encrypt Sensitive Data

This ensures that even if someone does gain access to your systems, they will not be able to read or use the data.

Monitor Network Activity

Keep an eye out for suspicious activity and investigate any incidents that do occur. Monitoring can be done manually or through automated tools such as intrusion detection systems (IDS) and intrusion prevention systems (IPS).

Install a Firewall

A firewall can help protect your network from outside attacks and control what traffic is allowed in and out of your network. There are many different types of firewalls available, so it’s important to choose one that will work well for your specific needs.

Use a VPN and a VLAN

A VPN (virtual private network) encrypts all of the data that is sent between your computer and the VPN server, making it harder for anyone to intercept and read. A VLAN (virtual LAN) allows you to segment your network into different areas, making it more difficult for unauthorized users to access sensitive data. By using both a VPN and a VLAN, you can significantly improve the security of your internet connection and protect your business from potential threats.

Use Antivirus Software

Antivirus software helps protect your computer from malware, viruses, spyware, and adware. Consider price, features, ease of use, and other user reviews when choosing the right software. 

Once you’ve chosen an antivirus program, be sure to keep it up to date by downloading the latest updates.

Take Care of Your Firmware Security 

Firmware is the most basic level of software on your devices, and it controls how they operate. Keep your firmware up to date to ensure you have the latest security features and bug fixes. Many companies offer automatic updates, so ensure this is turned on for all your devices.

Create Penetration Testing Processes 

Penetration testing, also known as pen testing or ethical hacking, is a simulated attack on your network to identify vulnerabilities. By finding and repairing these weaknesses before they can be exploited, you can greatly reduce the risk of a successful cyberattack.

Benefits of Improving Internet Security

By enhancing internet security, organizations can better protect themselves against malicious threats and prevent potential cybersecurity incidents. Here’s how:

Real-World Experience

Gain practical experience in dealing with real-world cyber threats, improving skills and expertise in managing security incidents.

Prioritizing Risks

Understand the severity and impact of various risks, allowing you to prioritize your organization’s resources and efforts to address the most critical vulnerabilities.

Uncovering System Vulnerabilities

Carry out proactive vulnerability scanning and testing to identify and fix potential weaknesses in systems, networks, and applications, preventing exploitation by malicious actors.

Buy-in for More Security Investments

Gain buy-in from stakeholders for increased investments in security measures to better protect against cyber threats.

Determining the Feasibility of an Attack Vector

Identify the feasibility and potential impact of different attack vectors, enabling you to implement effective defenses and countermeasures accordingly.

Ensuring Compliance

Comply with relevant regulations, laws, and industry standards, avoiding potential legal and financial consequences of non-compliance.

Running Post-Incident Analysis

You’ll be able to identify the root causes of what happened and implement corrective actions to prevent similar incidents in the future.

Increasing Security Response Time

You’ll be able to detect and respond to security incidents quicker and reduce their impact, thereby minimizing potential damages.

Understanding Lateral Movement

You’ll have a deeper understanding of the tactics used by cyber attackers for lateral movement within a network, allowing you to implement effective defenses and prevent unauthorized access to critical assets in the future.

Provide Training to Employees 

It’s no secret that employees are the weak link when it comes to network security. All it takes is a single person to click on a malicious email attachment or visit a compromised website for your entire network to be at risk. That’s why it’s so important to provide training to your employees on how to stay safe online.

Below is a list of a few key things you should cover in your employee training:

  1. Explain the importance of security and why they need to be vigilant.
  2. Teach them how to identify phishing emails and malicious websites.
  3. Show them how to use strong passwords and keep them secure.
  4. Instruct them on what not to do with company data (e.g., don’t share passwords, don’t download files from unknown sources).
  5. Stay updated and keep training relevant as new threats emerge.

By providing employees with the knowledge they need to stay safe online, you can greatly reduce the chances of a successful attack on your network.

Phishing and Employees

According to the Federal Trade Commission, phishing is a type of fraud that occurs when an attacker poses as a reputable company or individual to trick victims into giving up sensitive information, such as login credentials or financial information. 

Unfortunately, phishing attacks can be difficult to spot, as attackers are constantly evolving their methods to appear more legitimate. Employees often fall prey to phishing attacks as they often appear to come from employees or people they know. Educate them about phishing as prevention is always better than cure.  

Some common signs of a phishing attack include:

  1. Emails or other communications that appear to come from a reputable source but contain grammatical errors or other red flags
  2. Unexpected requests for personal or financial information
  3. Links that lead to websites that don’t look quite right

If your employee thinks that they may have been targeted by a phishing attack, there are some simple steps they can do to protect themselves and the organization they work in:

  1. Do not respond to the email or click on any links. Instead, forward it to your IT department or security team so they can investigate.
  2. Do not give out any personal or financial information, even if the request seems legitimate. Reputable companies will never ask for this information via email.
  1. Be cautious of any attachments included in suspicious emails. These could contain malware that can infect the company’s network systems.

Employee Monitoring 

It is important to understand what your employees are doing in order to improve security and prevent data breaches. You can do this by using a monitoring tool. 

Perimeter 81 is a robust, easy-to-use, converged networking and network security platform that connects all users, in the office or remote, to all resources. A cloud-native service, it includes advanced capabilities such as Zero Trust Remote Access, Internet access control, malware protection, and firewall as a service. It also enables any business to build a secure corporate network over a private global backbone, without hardware, and within minutes. 

The entire service is managed from a unified console and backed by an award-winning global support team that has you covered 24/7. Additionally, our network security solutions are designed to deploy in minutes, providing your business the protection it needs to stay safe online. Finally, all of our products are easy to use and provide a high level of protection, making them a great choice for businesses of all sizes.

Encrypt Data in Transit and at Rest 

Data in transit is vulnerable to interception by third parties, so encryption is essential to protect it. Data at rest is also vulnerable to theft or loss, so encrypting it will help to keep it safe. 

Implement Unified Security Management 

Unified Security Management (USM) is a security management approach that combines all aspects of an organization’s security into a single platform. This includes everything from Malware protection and intrusion detection to firewalls, to ZTNA or Web Filtering. By consolidating all of these security functions into one platform, businesses can more effectively manage and monitor their network security.

Protect Your Endpoint with the Latest Software Updates 

Make sure you are using the latest version of the software. Older versions may not have the latest security features and can be more susceptible to attacks. Also, don’t forget to implement the latest security patches and use a reputable source for your updates. Be sure to download updates only from trusted websites or sources, such as the official website of the software vendor.

Keep Your Perimeter and Internal Network Up to Date 

Ensure you have the latest security patches installed on all devices and software, including routers, firewalls, servers, workstations, and laptops. Keep your antivirus software up to date and run regular scans. Install an intrusion detection or prevention system to help identify and block potential threats. 

Implement Single Sign-On 

One of the best ways to improve your network security is to implement a Single Sign-On (SSO) solution. SSO allows your employees to use one set of credentials (typically a username and password) to access multiple applications and systems. This greatly reduces the risk of password theft and helps to keep your data safe.

Create a Risk Assessment and Management Plan 

In order to improve network security, it is important to create a risk assessment and management plan that includes all information assets. This includes client lists, customer databases, financial details,  active business deals, pricing information, and product design or manufacturing processes. By including all of these elements in your risk assessment and management plan, you will be able to identify and mitigate risks to your network security more effectively.

Make Sure All Your Cloud Software is Secure 

When choosing a cloud service provider, look for one that offers robust security features. These may include two-factor authentication and encryption. Be sure to also read reviews to see what other users have to say about the security of the service. 

Additionally, don’t store sensitive data in the cloud. If possible, avoid storing sensitive data in the cloud altogether. If you must store sensitive data in the cloud, ensure it is encrypted before uploading.

Lastly, limit access to cloud-based data. Only give employees who need access to specific data permission to view or edit it. You can also limit what employees can do with the data by setting up user permissions. For example, you could allow some employees to view data but not edit it or download it onto their personal devices.

Use SSL Certificates for All Transactional Pages

SSL certificates encrypt data transmitted between a website and a user’s web browser. This ensures that any sensitive information, such as credit card numbers or login credentials, cannot be intercepted and read by third parties. For businesses that process online payments, using an SSL certificate is absolutely essential in order to protect both your customers’ data and your own reputation.

Even if you don’t take payments on your website, it’s still a good idea to use SSL certificates on any pages where users might input sensitive information, such as contact forms or registration pages.

Secure Employee Devices

One of the best ways to improve your network security is to secure your employees’ devices. Secure BYOD policies help businesses limit and control the amount of sensitive data stored on personal devices brought into the workplace.

Things to keep in mind when implementing a BYOD policy:

  1. Define what types of devices are allowed and what types of data can be stored on them.
  1. Require employees to use strong passwords and encrypt their data.
  1. Install mobile device management software to help you monitor and manage devices on your network.
  1. Educate your employees on the importance of following your BYOD policy and securing their devices.

Improve Your Network Security with Perimeter 81

As everything around us becomes increasingly digital, ensuring your network is secure is necessary. Taking some of the above simple steps and investing in a good network security solution can help keep your business safe from attacks.

Perimeter 81 offers a comprehensive, cloud-based network security solution that can help you protect your business from threats. With our easy-to-use platform, you can manage all of your security settings in one place, ensuring that your data and devices are always protected. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you improve your network security and stay safe online.