Improving network security is a top priority for every business and organization today. If we look back to the history of network security starting around 1950, the topic began as soon as people started realizing that there was intrinsic value in data. This happened in a series of events as the Information and Digital Age unfolded in the second half of the 20th century.
In the late 1960s and into the early 1970s, digital storage became a reality. Large, room-sized mainframes were responsible for storing this information and access to those storage repositories was granted by plugging directly into the mainframe itself or accessing the mainframe’s data from one of many terminals inside of the building. Early adopters of digital storage technology didn’t have a problem protecting company sensitive information as you actually had to be inside the building to get to the information.
Less than a decade later, as more and more data was stored, there was a shift in thinking: Data had value and included large volumes of personally identifiable information — credit card data, bank account numbers, profit and loss statements, personal details, demographic information on large population groups. It was during this shift that information started becoming a commodity.
These were just the early beginnings of the future of network security as the data revolution would continue and drive changes in security strategies. Consider that just five years from now, our collective data worldwide will reach 175 zettabytes — hard to imagine how large a zettabyte actually is, but as a multiple of the unit byte for digital information, just picture 175 followed by literally 21 zeros. This enormous volume of digital data will include databases, videos, photos, all types of apps, and much more.
The rapid proliferation of digital data brought with it the unprecedented risk of the most sensitive information ending up in the hands of the wrong people.
The introduction of online access and the Internet also accelerated this risk. Not only did companies have large amounts of personal information on employees and customers, they also started sharing, marketing, selling, and repackaging this data, introducing even greater risk and security concerns.
As data became a highly valued commodity, both the genesis of cybercrime began and the modern approach to cybersecurity protection came about. Anything with value can be bought, sold, and most importantly, stolen. Companies now had to face the new reality that their sensitive information needed to be kept safe from cybercriminals.
In fact, research today shows that by 2023, more than 33 billion data records will be stolen by cybercriminals — an increase of 175% since 2018.
What is the future of network security?
The modern approach to defend against cyberattacks and threats is to have as many layers as it takes to keep the cybercriminal from getting at your most important and sensitive information. This is not unlike how medieval fortresses were constructed; the farmlands would be on the very outside and multiple layers of walls would deter the enemy, with the very most important possessions and nobility behind the last wall.
This layered security strategy, today referred to as Defence in Depth, is critical for businesses and organizations. While it’s challenging for any IT network to be completely protected from cyberattacks, by using multiple layers of security in contrast to relying on just one layer of protection, you can make it more difficult for cybercriminals to penetrate your network. The key is considering and securing all potential access points to your network.
For example, large enterprise organizations often have an extensive combination of security layers — firewalls, content inspection appliances, endpoint antivirus, proxy servers, and more, protecting business and customer data. For a cybercriminal, each of these represent a layer that must be beaten, often prior to encountering the next layer. Make it past the firewall and there might be another layer of defense waiting behind that to stop the malicious code from executing. Beyond that, there could be other content inspection processes waiting behind that as well.
IT must not only consider the strength of the layered fortress against cybercrime, but also the constant internal threats to an IT network.
Prior to COVID-19, employees were frequently taking laptops home and working from home offices — now experts predict remote work may be here to stay. All of this raises the internal threat risk.
Workers are connecting to multiple business and personal devices from new locations, outside the corporate network. This could bring an active malware infection into a company. A Defense in Depth strategy that includes DNS-level protection in the form of a firewall or secure web gateway is critical to prevent malicious code from downloading or executing in today’s distributed, work-from-home environment.
What does a modern technology stack include?
In the modern technology stack, network security continues to be the highest priority. For businesses that handle very sensitive information, compliance standards also must be met. These standards stipulate that a minimum level of protection must be applied. These standards are nearly 100% reliant on the technology stack which is designed to keep criminals from breaching network security defenses.
Network security can be strengthened by first assessing a company’s attack surface — the number of access points through which an attacker could try to enter an IT environment — and identifying and prioritizing the most impactful risks across the network, and then using a combination of solutions and processes to ultimately develop the right technology stack and cybersecurity strategy.
Therefore, risk assessment is a powerful first step in defining the proper strategy. After assessment, it’s important to choose an effective, as well as manageable, number of security services. Best practices advise using the fewest tools and processes possible to solve high-priority IT challenges for maximum efficiency and speed. Your network security stack should include threat intelligence and prevention services that not only deliver the right amount of protection but ensure today’s busy IT administrator can manage the technology stack and activity.
These network security tools may include:
- Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS) to scan and alert when unauthorized access or threats have been detected.
- Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS) to scan for malicious traffic that has made it behind the firewall.
- Endpoint protection products such as antivirus or email protection software to deliver a frontline defense for devices connecting to the network as well incoming or outgoing communications.
- Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) tools to allow IT administrators to configure specific alerts attached to specific actions, increasing visibility into the stack.
- Network Access Control tools to enhance an IT administrator’s visibility with policy governance, user governance, and automated reactions to common intrusion attempts.
- Cloud Security tools to remotely manage devices, data, and networks from a central location.
- Physical and Digital Access Control Tools to allow only authorized people or devices access to company property, networks, or information.
A Defense in Depth strategy with layered, effective and manageable security measures, can make all the difference when it comes to protecting networks.