What Is Network Security?
Network security is a broad field, encompassing various processes, policies, rules, standards, frameworks, software, and hardware solutions. Its primary goal is to protect a network and its data from various threats, including intrusions and breaches.
A network security program typically utilizes a combination of access controls, application security tools, virus and antivirus software, network analysis, firewalls, virtual private network (VPN) encryption, endpoint protection, web, and wireless security.
While it’s difficult to predict the most important risks, the following threats are considered top priority by almost every organization and network security professional, and are likely to grow in importance in 2023.
Ransomware is malicious software (malware) that locks the data on a victim’s machine, typically through encryption, and demands payment to decrypt the ransomed data and return access to the victim. The ransom payment is usually fulfilled using cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, enabling the cybercriminal to remain anonymous.
Ransomware is becoming more and more common due to the availability of ransomware kits and Ransomware as a Service (RaaS) on the dark web. These products and services enable cybercriminals to affordably purchase and use tools to create ransomware with certain capabilities. Common ransomware types include scareware, encryption malware, master boot record ransomware, and mobile ransomware.
These attacks attempt to use Application Programming Interfaces for malicious purposes. Threat actors target APIs because they facilitate web-based interactions and can help launch the following attacks:
- Injection – occurs when threat actors embed malicious code into unsecured software. Common injection techniques include SQL injection (SQLi) and Cross-Site Scripting (XSS).
- Denial of Service (DoS) or Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) – enable threat actors to slow a targeted system down or make it unavailable entirely to its intended users by flooding it with fake traffic.
- Data exposure – web applications often process and transfer sensitive data like passwords, session tokens, private health information (PHI), and financial data like credit and debit card information. A lack of security controls can expose this data.
These attacks use psychological manipulation techniques like trickery and coercion to manipulate a victim to assist in an attack. Phishing is a common social engineering technique that attempts to trick a person into taking a particular action, such as opening a malicious attachment, clicking a malicious link, or divulging private information, like login credentials.
Phishing communications are typically sent using email, corporate communications apps, or social media. When the threat actor uses SMS text messages, the attack is called smishing (SMS phishing), and when the attack is conducted over the phone, it is called vishing (voice phishing). Spear phishing is another common technique that targets a specific person or group.
Supply chain attacks exploit an organization’s relationships with external connected parties. It involves taking advantage of established trust relationships like third-party access provided to suppliers and vendors, trusted external software allowed to deploy updates, and third-party code like open source components used by the organization.
A supply chain attack can cause significant damage to many parties simultaneously. A trusted entity on a supply chain with authorized access to many companies affects all these parties if compromised. For example, the SolarWinds attack of 2020 allowed a threat actor to insert malicious code into a SolarWinds update deployed to all SolarWinds customers, affecting connected data and critical systems.
Fileless malware is a type of malware that does not rely on the traditional method of installing a file on the victim's computer in order to execute. Instead, it uses existing tools and processes on the computer to carry out its malicious activities. This can make it more difficult to detect and remove, as it does not leave a trace of a malicious file on the system.
Fileless malware can be delivered through various means, such as phishing emails or through drive-by downloads, where the victim's computer is infected simply by visiting a compromised website. Once it is activated, it can execute code in memory, modify registry keys, or use legitimate tools like Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) or PowerShell to carry out its attacks.
Because fileless malware does not leave any files on the system, it can be difficult to detect using traditional security solutions that rely on scanning for known malware files.
The following three solutions are gaining popularity, and are likely to become mainstream network tools in 2023 and beyond.
Extended Detection and Response (XDR) is a security strategy that focuses on cyber threats in real-time. It involves the use of advanced technologies, such as machine learning and artificial intelligence to analyze and monitor network traffic and activity for signs of suspicious or malicious behavior, and to remediate the threats.
XDR solutions are designed to provide a more comprehensive view of an organization's security posture and help security teams identify and respond to threats more quickly and effectively. They typically include features such as log management, event analysis, and incident response capabilities, as well as the ability to automate certain tasks and processes.
XDR can be used in conjunction with traditional security solutions, such as firewalls, antivirus software, and intrusion detection and prevention systems, to provide an additional layer of protection against cyber threats. It is particularly useful for organizations that need to monitor and protect large, complex networks with a high volume of traffic and activity.
In a traditional network security model, network traffic is typically divided into trusted and untrusted categories, with some segments of the network being considered more secure than others. In contrast, the zero trust model assumes that all traffic is untrusted and must be verified before it is allowed access to network resources. This approach is designed to protect against threats that originate from inside the network, as well as external threats.
To implement a zero trust model, organizations typically use technologies such as multi-factor authentication, network segmentation, and micro-segmentation to control access to network resources and limit the spread of threats. The goal of Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) is to reduce the attack surface of a network, making it more difficult for attackers to compromise.
A ZTNA system considers a variety of contextual factors when deciding whether to grant access to network resources. These factors can include:
- The identity of the user or device requesting access.
- The location of the user or device.
- The type of device being used.
- The network resources being accessed.
- The security posture of the user or device.
SASE is a new security category that provides network security as a managed service. It enforces security policies for remote users and cloud services without routing traffic through the organization's data centers.
SASE is based on a Software-Defined WAN (SD-WAN) infrastructure and is delivered as a cloud-based service. It includes several managed security solutions, such as Firewall as a Service (FWaaS), Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB), Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA), and Secure Web Gateway (SWG). As a cloud-based and distributed offering, it can support large organizations and provide unified policy management and secure access across hybrid environments.
Network security is a critical aspect of cybersecurity, and it is essential for protecting networks, systems, and data from unauthorized access, attacks, and other malicious activities. There are many different network security threats that organizations need to be aware of, including ransomware, social engineering, supply chain attacks, and API attacks. To defend against these threats, organizations can implement a variety of network security solutions and technologies. By implementing these measures as 2023 gets underway, organizations can reduce the risk of network security breaches and protect their sensitive information and assets by taking actions to protect themselves against some of these common attacks.
About the Author: Gilad David Maayan is a technology writer who has worked with over 150 technology companies including SAP, Imperva, Samsung NEXT, NetApp, and Ixia, producing technical and thought leadership content that elucidates technical solutions for developers and IT leadership. Today, he heads Agile SEO, the leading marketing agency in the technology industry.
LinkedIn: Gilad David Maayan
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this guest author article are solely those of the contributor, and do not necessarily reflect those of Tripwire, Inc.