Businesses need to pay close attention to the issue of computer network security. We are living in an age where businesses depend on their computer networks to conduct most of their routine affairs. This is an environment where a business’ activities can stall completely, if something happens to its computer network. Against that background, a business can’t afford to take matters to do with network security lightly. And, as such, it is understandable when businesses go to great lengths – and incur considerable expenses – to ensure that their computer networks are secure at all times.
Understanding the network security challenges
Before going any further with a discussion about computer network security for businesses, it is important to first have an appreciation of the network security challenges. This, in other words, is a question of trying to understand the problem, before we can propose solutions for it.
It turns out that some of the network security challenges are matters to do with deliberate attacks. It is possible for a business computer network to be deliberately targeted for attack, by cybercriminals and other saboteurs. (This is evident in the Equifax data breach case). The attackers may be targeting a business computer network with the intention of laying their hands on certain bits of information, which they can then use to scam the business or to commit further crimes. The attackers may also be targeting a computer network with the intention of bringing the network down, so as to interfere with the business’ activities. That can be an end in itself. As we noted earlier, modern businesses are dependent on their computer networks for execution of most of their activities. Thus, one of the easiest ways to sabotage a business’ activities is by attacking its computer network. If a saboteur is able to bring a particular business’ computer network down, they can be almost certain that the business’ activities will be hampered for the duration it takes to bring the network up again.
There are, of course, other network security challenges that are not necessarily related to deliberate attacks. In other words, there are other things, besides deliberate attacks, that can nonetheless have a detrimental effect on a business’ computer network. If, for instance, the networking software is accidentally corrupted, the ultimate effect will probably be a situation where the computer network goes down for a while, before the issue is dealt with. The net effect on the business would be a severe interference with routine activities: which would end up being just as bad as it would be if it was caused by a deliberate attack.
Mitigating against network security challenges
In trying to mitigate against business computer network challenges, there are various measures that can be put in place. The specific measures to be put in place will, of course, depend on the complexity of the specific business’ computer network. They may also depend on the nature and sensitivity of the data that goes through the business’ computer systems. Some of the measures that can be put in place to ensure the security of a business computer network can be categorized as being ‘complex network security safeguards’. Others can be categorized as being ‘simple network security safeguards’.
Simple network security safeguards
An example of a simple network security safeguard would be the setting up of proper authentication for network users. This could just be a question of putting in place a proper username-password authentication system, to ensure that unauthorized people don’t get access to assets in the computer network. Of course, there are ways to go round password-based authentication systems: which is why some businesses go as far as setting up the ‘two-factor’ authentication systems, with some even going the extra mile, and setting up biometric-based authentication systems.
Another example of a simple network safeguard would be that of putting in place physical barriers, to ensure that only authorized people are able to access the places where critical pieces of network infrastructure are stored. You can’t underestimate such measures: because saboteurs who are keen on bringing down a particular business’ computer network may be tempted to do so by simply cutting the cables, disconnecting and taking away the routers… and so on. Therefore, securing the network physically goes a long way.
Yet another network security safeguard that is considered to be ‘simple’ (though its working mechanism is relatively sophisticated) is that of putting in place good antivirus software. This should be done in all devices that are used in the network, and especially in the computers that act as ‘servers’ within the network. You can’t afford to take the use of antivirus software for granted, especially if you are working in a networked environment: where one infected computer can act as a ‘vector’ through which all others are eventually infected.
Complex network security safeguards
An example of a complex network security safeguard would be the setting up of a firewall. The actual procedure for setting up a firewall is not complex, but the mechanism through which a firewall works is a relatively sophisticated one.
Another example of a complex network security safeguard would be the use of a private virtual network, to facilitate the communication between the business computers in the office and those that are ‘out there’ in the ‘field’.
Yet another example of a complex network security safeguard would be that of establishing a mechanism for encrypting data, before it is transmitted through the network. The objective here is to ensure that the data is not intercepted, especially if it is data of a sensitive nature.
Investing in business network security
When all is said and done, a business needs to invest generously in securing its computer network. This is one of those areas where you simply can’t afford to be stingy. You have, for instance, to consider what the actual, practical impact of your business computer network being brought down would be. Then you need to do everything that is within your power, to ensure that network sabotage (deliberate or otherwise) doesn’t occur.
Of course, this is not just a matter of throwing money at the problem. It is also a question of seeing to it that the money you invest in business network security is actually well used, and that you get real value for it.
Ultimately, one area you may need to put some investment in may be something like hiring truly qualified personnel, to help you implement the network security measures. Another area you may need to put some investment in may be something like buying the necessary network security tools: such as the most sophisticated or the most effective antivirus tools.
In the final analysis, it is important to appreciate that network security is definitely something worth investing in.