Cybercriminals are perpetually looking for weaknesses in an organization's perimeter security. From the SolarWinds attack to the Colonial Pipeline breach, hackers have become highly skilled at finding new ways to penetrate corporate networks.
Recent research indicates that cyber criminals can penetrate 93% of the company networks they target in just two days. The costs associated with breaches are on the rise, adding fuel to the fire. In 2021, organizations experienced the highest average data breach cost in 17 years, with a whopping price tag of US$ 4.24 million.
Breaking into a corporate network enables malicious actors to gain access to confidential data and resources — so it's important for organizations to cover all their bases. In this blog, we outline the basics of network perimeter security, simple steps businesses can take to secure their networks, and the tools IT specialists use to keep corporate data secure.
What is Network Perimeter Security?
Comprised of complex firewall and browser isolation systems, perimeter security plays a pivotal role in actively protecting an organization's ecosystem. It involves implementing proven techniques at the corporate network perimeter to keep intruders out.
A network perimeter is the boundary between the private side of a network (a company's intranet) and the public side (typically the Internet). A company's private network includes employee computers, servers, printers, and networking equipment (like switches and routers).
The Evolution of the Network Perimeter
Historically, an employee's device needed to be physically connected to an organization's internal network to access its data. The network perimeter was a physical boundary. To steal internal data, a hacker would need to enter a business's physical premises or enlist the help of an employee.
Now, employees can access corporate files, data, and applications over the Internet — from any device or physical location. Users can check their email or edit documents using cloud services, such as Gmail or Outlook 365. Cloud-based services have blurred network perimeter lines, thereby making it possible for attackers to penetrate corporate networks from a distance. While cloud products come with plenty of bells and whistles, their default security settings aren't always ideal.
The onus of configuring cloud-based apps to enhance security falls on the organization. One central aspect of app configuration is identity protection — which has become a critical component in safeguarding company data. Identity verification enables employees to access their company network from any device, without compromising their organization's security.
Actionable Network Security Tips
As a business's best defense in stopping a breach before it passes the main gates, perimeter security is considered a necessary evil. A managed services provider (MSP) can deploy various network perimeter tools to keep threats at bay — but organizations can also make a difference by taking some of the actionable steps outlined below.
- Encourage your employees to use company devices rather than personal ones to connect to your corporate network. Personal devices are likely unpatched, shared with others, insecure, and potentially compromised. Using company laptops upholds corporate security governance.
- Prevent employees from sending company emails or files to uncontrolled locations. If an employee emails a confidential file to their personal email account — or drops it into a non-company email drive (e.g., a personal Google Drive) — the data is moved to co-located backup sites. Once information is shared in these locations, it’s notoriously difficult to erase.
- Discourage employees from using guest Wi-Fi to access your corporate network. Airports, coffee shops, and other public areas typically have insecure Wi-Fi connections, which can lead to compromised devices.
- If possible, discourage employees from printing confidential documents at home, as they can wind up in their personal trash bin.
- Ensure your employees connect to your company network through an encrypted virtual private network (VPN) with multifactor authentication (MFA). Without these two critical security measures, your organization’s data will likely become compromised.
- If your team members work remotely, consider implementing a digital workspace solution. Digital workspaces are designed to deliver and manage apps, desktops, and data on your network, while safeguarding your network and devices.
- Ask each employee to make sure their personal Wi-Fi router is password-protected, and its firmware is up to date. They can simply call their Internet provider if they require assistance.
- According to the World Economic Forum, 95% of cybersecurity issues can be traced back to human error. Training your team to spot and navigate phishing attempts will decrease the chances of them unknowingly infecting their devices (and your network) with malware. Check out our blog to learn more about how end-user awareness can bolster your organization’s cybersecurity.
Network Perimeter Security Tools
Perimeter security involves placing an assortment of security tools at various points of an organization's private network. An MSP can mix and match the below tools to arrive at a strapping security solution that evolves in lockstep with cyber threats.
Border Router: The first line of defense in an organization's gateway. Border routers serve as a barrier between a private network and the Internet. A router directs traffic through, out of, and into a network.
Firewall: A filtering mechanism with a set of rules that specify which public traffic sources can pass through and which cannot. A firewall usually steps in where a border router falls short to filter traffic more precisely.
Next-Generation Firewalls: Offer identity awareness, web filtering, advanced malware detection, and application control. Next-gen firewalls can identify concerning patterns of behavior, and are more advanced than their binary counterparts — which simply allow or block traffic.
Identity and Access Management (IAM): A framework of policies, technologies, and processes that enable organizations to control access to critical information. IAM includes single sign-on functions, privileged access management, two-factor authentication, and multifactor authentication.
Intrusion Detection System (IDS): An alarm system for your network; IDSs detect and flag suspicious activity to prevent a security breach. Specialists can place a collection of IDS sensors at strategic points within a company's network to strengthen its defenses.
Intrusion Prevention System (IPS): Allow or block data packets and automatically defend an organization's security without human intervention. Rather than simply notifying administrators of a possible threat, an IPS can take direct action against it.
Deep Packet Inspection (DPI): Reviews data transmitted across a network and screens it for compliance violations. DPI systems flag spam, viruses, trojans, and other threats.
Data Leakage Prevention (DLP): Exist in three basic levels: data at rest; data in motion; and data at endpoint. These products track sensitive data (rather than security threats) and flag suspicious behavior. For instance, a DLP will create a flag if a user outside of the payroll department views an employee's payment information.
Secure Your Network Perimeter
While many organizations are taking basic measures to defend their network perimeter, default cloud-based and firewall security settings are far from ideal — and they can put your organization in hot water.
The key to fortifying your network's defenses lies in the configuration of its perimeter. A trusted managed services provider will configure your network perimeter using proven best practices, while optimizing your network and cloud-based service settings.
Our specialists will implement innovative techniques to safeguard your data and resources. At Riverstrong, we stay ahead of cybersecurity developments to bring you effective solutions that make a tangible difference.
To learn more about how we can augment your permitter security and keep your business protected from malicious intent, connect with us today!