Because of ever-changing threats and updated industry compliance, network security is now more important than ever for businesses and organizations. Not doing so makes your company’s files and information vulnerable to outside attackers, those who can illicitly enter, steal, and exploit your property. Aside from no longer maintaining industry compliance, your company likely loses business, as customers no longer trust your strategy or, worse, serve you with a lawsuit.
A network security strategy, on the other hand, goes far beyond antivirus software and a firewall. In fact, all aspects of your electronic information should be updated, recorded, and saved with security in mind.
Nevertheless, audits are an essential aspect of such a strategy, and a certified professional can conduct one, if no one on staff has the credentials to do so. Such professionals do an internal and external vulnerability audit, examining the perimeter and interior for weak points an intruder can enter; a penetration test on all vulnerabilities; and social engineering to examine the non-technical sides of your system.
Vulnerability scanning identifies hosts and their various attributes, be it outdated software, missing patches or configurations, applications, and compliance. All aspects are compared with a database of known vulnerabilities, and any targets then serve as points to address in a penetration test.
A penetration test involves ethical hacking techniques. A trained professional, one well-versed in such simulated attack protocol, must do this. During the test, he or she identifies all places an intruder could get through or around, and once identifying the vulnerabilities, he or she launches an attack on the system. As an attack progresses, the professional takes note of how well a system handles the intrusion, the complexity of techniques needed to break through the perimeter or exterior, the measures in place to reduce a system breach, and how such instances are identified and defended.
Penetration tasks have four stages: planning, discovery, attack, and reporting. Planning and discovery are preparation and encompass vulnerability scanning. The professional also gathers IP addresses, employee names and contact information, and application and service information. The attack stage verifies the vulnerabilities and ethically exploits them. For a successful attack, the professional recommends safeguards to reduce these instances in the future. However, vulnerabilities are often grouped together, and attacking one leads to another not previously identified. The attack and discovery stages, in this case, loop back and forth through the process.
Social engineering addresses the non-technical side of network security – mainly, that employees are not always aware of the latest threats. In exploiting the human side of vulnerabilities, a network security professional has conversations and interviews in person, over the telephone, instant message, or email. The professional is essentially launching a phishing scheme, attempting to get employees to unwittingly reveal usernames, passwords, account number, and other company information.
At the end of a security scan, the professional provides a report, listing all vulnerabilities and offering guidance for reducing all potential risks.