What you need to think about when implementing a network security strategy

What you need to think about when implementing a network security strategy

Hackers love to target SMBs, and so having a solid network security strategy in place is crucial for the survival of any business that relies on IT. However, it’s not always easy to get the balance right between security effectiveness, performance and ease of use. To simplify things, you should take a systematic, top-down approach to drawing up a suitable network security strategy. This process can take a while, but it will help ensure that nothing important is forgotten.

Inventory management and auditing
Formulating a network security strategy starts with a thorough audit of your existing network infrastructure while also defining a list of potential security holes. Start by taking a detailed inventory of all your network assets, such as routers, switches, terminals, servers, printers and hardware firewalls. In addition to physical hardware, you’ll also need to consider your software inventory, so be sure to make a note of which operating system and firmware versions your devices are running. Finally, consider what sort of data travels through your network, such as online applications, data transfers, communications and any potentially sensitive information like intellectual property and trade secrets.

Risk management
The way your business categorizes and identifies crucial information assets and the risks they face is a crucial step to building a solid security strategy. If these assets were stolen or attacked, could you recover from the financial impact? Also think about other ways your business would be negatively affected.

Risk management starts with conducting a thorough evaluation to determine and categorize your information assets, such as customer information, intellectual property, payment details and confidential corporate information. By appropriately categorizing the types of data your network handles, you’ll be better positioned to prioritize your security protocols and create a disaster response plan.

Policy awareness
Every company should have a set of written rules that all relevant employees are familiar with. Your policy document should clearly explain how your network assets should be used while also outlining any access restrictions and other rules. Policies must be carefully controlled, enforced, and updated whenever necessary. If you don’t have a clear policy in place, then you don’t have a proper security strategy at all. Your security policy should educate your employees in proper use of the business’s IT resources. For example, it should list any restrictions on using third-party software, visiting non-work-relevant web resources, and connecting external devices, such as flash drives.

Defining user issues
Network security measures are only ever as effective as the degree of enforcement they’re backed up by. When defining user issues, you should consider factors like accountability, staff training, and areas of expertise. No security strategy can function properly unless your team is aware of the risks and understands how your security policy is tailored to help them meet important business objectives. Business IT security is becoming an increasingly complex issue, so both you and your team need to know whom to call and what to do should a problem arise. You'll also need the necessary in-house expertise to handle network security matters; otherwise, consider outsourcing through a managed services provider.

Network management
You’re aware of the risks, you have a solid policy drawn up, and you are ready to enforce the rules laid out by it. But how do you go about actively protecting your network? Your network security strategy will also need to provide a list of security controls pertaining to network access policies, software updates and integrity, configuration of secure assets, and data backup. You’ll want to update this regularly, too. Think about which antimalware and firewall solutions you’re going to use to protect your networked assets. Will you invest in an in-house solution or outsource everything to a managed security service to help ensure that threats never have a chance to reach your network in the first place?

Physical security
These days, data is often a company’s most valuable asset. As such, physical security is often overlooked. However, ensuring that your networked assets are physically secured is every bit as important as running the latest antimalware solution. The real risk in having a computer stolen, for example, isn’t in the value of the hardware, but rather the potentially sensitive data that might be stored on it. Now that many businesses allow their employees to work from home and on the move using company-provided laptops and mobile devices, it has become even more important to think about physical security. You’ll also want to control physical access to all essential hardware assets like servers and routers.

If you’d like to learn more about this topic, read our long-form post: Everything SMBs should know about cybersecurity in 2018. However, if you’re ready to improve your network security and continuity planning today, give us a call.