06 Mar Network Security Assessments: Everything You Need to Know
Countless cybersecurity attacks happen each day. Relying on traditional security measures and software is no longer enough to counteract these threats. Organizations today need a proactive approach to ensure their systems are safe from potential breaches.
Network security assessment provides companies the answer as it allows them to examine the overall security status of their networks. The approach is designed to identify gaps in security so that certain network components can be brought up to speed.
Let’s take a closer look at what network security assessment entails, what advantages it has to offer, and how organizations can apply it.
What is a Network Security Assessment?
In its most basic form, a network security assessment is basically an audit of the IT environment of a company. You can think of it as a review to determine how the security measures of a network are holding up and to see if there are vulnerabilities that need to be addressed.
These security gaps are scrutinized as they could be potentially used to expose sensitive data or harm organizational operations. When conducted appropriately, a network security assessment will provide its practitioner with in-depth insights on what steps it should take to address these vulnerabilities.
An assessment works by:
- Determining where vulnerabilities in network security abound to keep servers, applications, and files safe.
- Identifying any possible lapses in security measures that could be used as entry points for attacks.
- Provide tests to see if the network defense can sufficiently withstand incoming cybersecurity threat attempts.
- Knowing whether or not it’s possible for attackers to combine several lesser vulnerabilities to create a major weakness in existing security measures.
- Assessing and measuring the possible impact in case an attack is successful and how it affects the organization.
Importance of Network Security Assessment
Organizations today can benefit greatly from the right network security assessment approach as it allows them to determine the possible outcomes in case of a successful cyber-attack. Furthermore, it lets companies highlight key areas in which they can be exploited due to hidden vulnerabilities.
To help you further understand the importance of network security assessment, here are the main benefits to consider:
Network Vulnerability Identification
As mentioned earlier, the primary goal of network security assessment is in identifying possible cybersecurity gaps that could be exploited in an organization’s network. Internal scenarios such as rogue employees or external considerations such as hackers looking to steal data are all taken into account.
With the information obtained from network security assessments, organizations can make educated decisions concerning their security protocols.
Data Loss Prevention
The second most important benefit of network security assessment is helping prevent potential data loss due to breaches. This is especially crucial for companies that handle big data regularly.
Businesses that store sensitive information in various computing devices such as file servers, point-of-sale devices, and flash drives are easy targets for experienced cybercriminals. With network security assessments, companies can bolster their security to ensure data loss can be prevented through the right security measures.
Analysis of Existing Security Measures
Another important advantage of network security assessments is the fact that experts use them to review the current security protocols of an organization. These analyses are designed to reduce risks while improving existing frameworks.
By leveraging the data obtained during each assessment, organizations can begin developing action plans to minimize threat levels. The information also benefits companies by helping them stay compliant with federal and state regulations.
How to Conduct Network Security Assessment
To carry out a network security assessment, a proficient IT security team will have to follow certain steps to achieve positive outcomes. The example below is a general outline of what steps are normally taken:
Step #1: Documentation of Current IT Infrastructure
One of the first steps in any network security assessment is identifying the most valuable assets of an organization. Before IT security teams carry out the procedure, they must first document the current IT infrastructure.
Identifying what networks, data, devices, and other important assets are present is crucial. This allows IT teams to trace cyberattacks effectively in case of a breach.
Step #2: Asset Vulnerability Assessment
After the cybersecurity team has made documentation of all important assets, it’s time to assess each one to learn of any hidden vulnerabilities. This step is particularly important since security risks can come in the form of internal and external threats.
Incorporating a robust assessment process is, therefore, essential. It can include the following:
- Information security policy review: Such a review takes into account employee cybersecurity training, email usage, and personal devices.
- Third-party review: Hiring a third-party IT security team can help address internal vulnerabilities and help in reviewing overall network security.
- Scanning of networks: Experts perform a comprehensive scan of network services and wireless networks to detect areas that can be exploited.
Step #3: Perform Tests
Testing cybersecurity measures is an important step in network security assessment as it helps organizations understand how their networks can withstand potential attacks. To ensure it’s done the right way, the test needs to be carried out by a reliable third-party provider.
Doing so helps ensure that all security protocols and risk avoidance methods are actually effective in thwarting attackers while keeping your network safe.
What Tools Are Used in a Network Security Assessment?
There are numerous tools available today that can streamline the network security assessment process. However, not all of these systems are made equal – some offer more security features than others.
To give you an idea, here are the top programs available today to perform top-notch network security assessments:
Network Mapper (Nmap)
Network Mapper, simply known as Nmap, is an open-source tool designed to facilitate network assessments and organizational security auditing. Experts also use this program for monitoring service uptime and managing network inventories.
Nmap works by using raw IP packet data to seek out available network hosts, what services are available, and what operating systems are being used. It also takes into account the firewall that is currently being used.
Nessus is a vulnerability scanning program designed for UNIX systems. Its developers are still continuing to update the tool with numerous plugins to improve its functionality.
Available in both free and paid versions, Nessus allows users to scan for vulnerabilities, create policies, and embed scripting language for customized plugins.
This Software-as-a-Service vulnerability management tool offers an in-depth knowledge base for identifying vulnerabilities. IT security experts can use this database to provide them with up-to-date information on the latest security threats today.
With QualysGuard, users can proactively keep track of all access points in their networks so they can scan, identify, and resolve vulnerabilities quickly. This allows companies to prevent exploits from happening due to hidden vulnerabilities in their networks.
Furthermore, QualysGuard offers detailed reports on threats that include threat information, potential consequences in case of an exploit, and recommendations to resolve them.
Wireshark is a well-known tool for performing packet analyses. This open-source program is an ideal debugging tool that developers use when developing network applications.
Real-time traffic analysis, live data reading, decryption support, and display filters are just some of the main features available with Wireshark.
Core Impact is another network security assessment tool in analyzing and testing vulnerabilities within organizational networks. It offers users a database containing recent exploits and is constantly being updated by its developers.
Additionally, Core Impact allows for penetration testing thanks to the controlled environment it offers for mimicking cyber attacks.
Other Network Security Protections That Can Help Assessments
A network security assessment is an excellent solution to identify security concerns within a company’s network. However, these assessments can be paired with other network security protections to hinder cybercriminals from exploiting gaps while they are being resolved.
These types of protections include:
- Network segmentation protocols
- Access control configurations
- Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS)
- Cloud network security
- Hyperscale network security
Additional Tips for Ongoing Network Security Assessments
For organizations with ongoing network security assessments, here are some bonus tips to consider:
- After an assessment, it’s important to always follow the best practices when analyzing the data to reveal previously unknown loopholes.
- Handle each potential threat differently since not all of them are created equal. Assigning priority levels can help.
- Incorporate the right metrics and information with each security assessment to guarantee their thoroughness.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Do I Get From a Network Security Assessment?
The main benefit of a network security assessment is to improve the security of your network by identifying potential security gaps that cybercriminals can exploit.
What Should I Expect From an Assessment?
Our experts will scan your network infrastructure to check for vulnerabilities and faulty policies. They will then analyze the data and prepare a detailed report of their findings. From there, they will provide recommendations to reinforce your network’s security.
Why Should I Get a Third-party Provider To Perform a Network Security Assessment?
A third-party network security assessment provider can supply you with an unbiased view of how hackers can penetrate your networks. This can give you more details that you would otherwise have missed if you relied on internal security teams.
Network security assessment plays a crucial role in ensuring the safety and security of an organization. It allows IT security teams to identify vulnerabilities within their systems and address them before cybercriminals exploit them.
Other important benefits of network security assessment include:
- Identifying gaps in cybersecurity that can be acted upon by internal or external actors
- Preventing data loss due to cybersecurity vulnerabilities that weren’t accounted for
- Helping analyze existing security measures to bolster and improve their effectiveness
To conduct network security assessments the right way, companies today should get help from an experienced provider to ensure maximum success.