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Network Security

Computers nowadays sell more than TVs do (CNET 1996), thus the need for more network security is ever-growing. A secure network environment is a must for every organization. A single flaw in an organization’s network can compromise all the confidential data within the network. And right now, information is indeed power. Corporations need to protect and ensure that their data are kept within their network. Network administrators are held responsible for any loss or compromises to these data. Weaknesses to the network have lead to the increasing number of identity theft and fraud cases worldwide.

What is security? The internet age has coined a new meaning to security. By convention, security means keeping undesirable elements out to keep honest people honest. Now, we can put security in the concept of networks, and add a new definition to it. Security means being able to maintain data integrity and provide authorised access while preserving data privacy. It does not merely mean keeping bad guys and malicious files off the network, however. A secure network should also have its means to prevent users from doing something they shouldn’t be doing.

Ensuring that users do not accidentally corrupt or delete any important files is as important as stopping a malicious user from intentionally infecting the network with viruses. The major concern of network security is targeted at privacy issues and data protection. A secured network does not mean it is totally invulnerable. It means that in a normal environment, the system is not easily vulnerable to privacy issues, data loss and other forms of attacks. There might be a few attackers who can infiltrate the system, but a secure network will make it difficult for them, and their attacks are easily detected by the network administrators.

Figure 1. A typical web server deployment scenario. Consider a setup in which a web server is configured to only allow specific users to access valuable documents. In the above scenario, a vulnerability issue can arise if there is a bug in how the system ensures the identity of the user. If the network does not have a reliable system to ascertain a user’s identity, it would then be possible for an unauthorized user to access confidential information. Network Security in Outsourced IT Organizations As we are nearing the first decade of the twenty-first century, outsourcing cannot be ignored.

Individuals in developed countries such as America and UK are losing their jobs to overseas workers. Outsourcing or offshoring, or whatever it is called, has been on the headlines of business newspapers for years now. Some individuals have indeed felt the devastating effects of outsourcing. The trends and figures on this phenomenon are indeed alarming. Outsourcing is a very popular and hot topic for debates in the media and in online forums. Outsourcing is another vulnerability when it comes to data handling. Medical records and personal finances are just a couple of highly sensitive information which are being sent offshore.

Jobs shipped overseas range from call center operators, to human resources services, to accounting, to architecture and even to legal services. Reports estimate close to 2. 3 millions of jobs in the US on banking have been moved overseas. A separate study shows that another million of customer service and back office jobs will be moved to India early next year. Basically, jobs which can be done over a wire can be done offshore. Probably the most popular of the jobs outsourced is in information technology. More and more companies are outsourcing their internal IT operations.

This indeed is huge threat to the company’s network security. The company’s network will have to cross several networks, most often than not, traverse offshore. When outsourcing IT, the company must ensure that all security measures are complied before handing over sensitive data. The outsourcing company’s network security must be at par, if not more secure with the existing security measures. There are many ways to do this, one most popular is to conduct audits and simulate security threats. Network security through conventional issue and use

There is no one network security measure that is best suited for all organization. Each organization has its own security needs, and thus security measures specific to these needs must be adapted. Good network security is relative, depending on the organization. A foolproof network, if ever there is one, costs a great deal and thus, may not be cost efficient for an organization. It is imperative to first determine the level of risk that is considered acceptable. For example, an internet firewall can provide a home user enough security but this may not be enough in the corporate environment.

Prevention of attacks is essential to a network. Prevention measures range from user education, to anti-virus and firewall systems, to the overall physical architecture of the network. Great prevention measures will definitely deter an attacker from breaking into the system; however, given enough time, they will be able to eventually compromise the network. A good example for this is a home computer which solely relies on an antivirus and firewall. Some new viruses are difficult to identify. The infection may not be noticed until it’s too late to protect the data.

Detection is another important component of good network security. Even if the attacks were successfully prevented, a good detection system helps in analyzing future attacks and providing counter measures. An intrusion detection system (ids) is one example which analyzes a network. It may not be able to mitigate an attack, but it provides early detection signals such as unusual network traffic or network patterns. This allows the network administrator to prepare for the attack and quickly respond to it to minimize potential damage. And of course, how a network responds to an attack is crucial.

Each organization should have a guideline it can follow for effectively responding to network attacks. And each of these attacks is different, although some policies and guidelines may be applicable to all. For example, sometimes shutting off the server can stop further compromising the system; however, this could cause a huge impact if the server is critical for the business. In designing an organization’s network security system, several factors need to be considered. First and foremost, likely attacks need to be identified and probable threats need to be anticipated.

These can come from anywhere. An attacker will explore the existing environment to launch his attack. In addition, these attackers will have varied motivations. However, not all attacks can come from outside the system, or are intentional. Attacks can also be internal to the system or accidental. The network administrators need to be aware of the likelihood of such attacks. By understanding these, an efficient solution can be implemented to address the security requirements of the organization, as such, resources won’t be wasted on preventing, detecting and responding to unlikely threat scenarios.

Most common ways to address these security concerns are deploying security applications such as antivirus software, spyware blocker and certificate authorities. These greatly help in keeping information within the network secure and maintain its overall integrity. However, these applications need to be constantly updated to still be effective against hundreds of new threats developed everyday. Although a couple of free programs for these kinds of applications may be available for download, these may not be enough to fully keep the organization secure.

Most often than not, free programs are only applicable to home users , who need less security compared to organizations which have several more information to protect. Constant updates and aggressive solutions may only be available in the paid versions of such applications. A nominal fee to be paid for good network security is definitely not bad compared to the possibility of compromising large amounts of data if the network is attacked by malicious files. Network security in internal and external networks Network security is a broad concept.

There are many leaks to the network. Threats to network security can come both from within the network or from across the network. Anybody with access to the system, either locally or remotely, poses a threat to the security of the overall network. Figure 2. Internet Security Requirements The illustration above shows an organization typically implements network securities within its system. On top of the primary corporate firewalls against all the hazardous threats from the internet, personal firewalls also need to be installed on each client computers.

The main response for external attacks is to prevent unauthorized access to the systems. A network with strict implementations on access rights reduces the likelihood of successful external attacks. What’s most disastrous to an organization is when an external attacker solicits help from an internal source. In 2005, the Bank of America and Summoto Bank were victims of such attacks. Hundreds of thousands of bank accounts were compromised, and the thieves were able to steal millions of dollars. There are also unintentional attacks. These accidents are more common.

Examples of this include system oversight, incompatibility issues, router misconfigurations, and of course, human errors. An accidental deletion of an entire database or a single critical file can create network downtimes. Misconfigured routers cause congested networks. A simple initiative of the company to educate its users on how to help keep the network secure goes a long way. With improper use of usb flash drives, a user may introduce a virus to the system. Updating the client’s antivirus software regularly should be able to minimize issues like this.

Other security measure that end-users must be involved is in setting strong passwords for their database access. Effectively preventing unauthorized access maintains the integrity of the data kept within the company. Conclusion The security of an organization now begins with the security its network. A network administration can employ the following security measures to mitigate the risks posed to the network: effectively designing the network, hardening networks and systems, and constantly monitoring potential risks to the networks. Information leakage to outsiders needs to be prevented.

Strict access rights implementation and intrusion detection systems help in generally maintaining the confidentiality of the data within the company. Effectively restricting access only to those authorized personal greatly reduces the risk of compromising data. Intrusion detection systems quickly warn the network administrators of any pending or possible threats to the system. This should grant them enough time to address such issues and avoid costly downtimes. With more and more users getting mobile and working in extended offices, there is a greater need to also secure external networks.

The use of virtual private networking is in itself a huge threat . A lot of ports are opened, and are thus made available for unauthorized access. Use of peer to peer networks is another major concern for network security. Free VOIP software use such as Skype must also be highly monitored. A lot factors can compromise a network’s security. Network administrators must effectively identify, then analyze the risks to be able to handle them efficiently. And right now, with the fast paced world, it is just not enough to secure the network from the inside only, or against external threats only.

Both external and internal networks must be taken into consideration when laying out plans for network security. Although network security measures have come a long way since it begun in the early 1980s, improvements in information technology demand more security. There are still a couple more areas that need to be covered and kept secure. A single vulnerability in the network security infrastructure can compromise the whole thing and make all security measures futile. The network administrators must secure that no corner in the network is left unmonitored.

Certificate authorities can definitely be improved. A network can’t be too sure of its users. Once a user logs in to the system and granted access, information which can break the company is within his reach. Users need to be able to effectively confirm their identity so identity thefts can be minimized or completely eradicated. GLOSSARY Vulnerability is any defect or weakness in the design, implementation, and maintenance of a system. A threat is a risk which is capable and motivated to take advantage of the vulnerability. An attack is the exploitation of a vulnerability. This term is neither good nor bad.

A bad person may attack the system, and a good guy will attack the problem. An attacker may be a person or a process which initiates an attack. This is synonymous with a threat. Compromise is the successful exploitation of a target by the attacker. Risk is a qualitative assessment on the likelihood of an attack through a vulnerability, bypassing the security measures and compromising the system.

REFERENCES B. Schneier, Attack trends: 2004 and 2005, ACM Queue: Tomorrow’s Computing Today. 3(5), 52–53 (June, 2005). Conway, Richard and Cordingley, Julian. Code Hacking: A Developer’s Guide to Network Security.

Cengage Charles River Media (2004). Krawetz, Neal. Introduction to Network security. Cengage Charles River Media (2007). S. M. Bellovin. A look back at “Security Problems in the TCP/IP Protocol Suite”. In ACSAC 2004, pp. 229–249, Tucson, Arizona (Dec, 2004). IEEE Computer Society. S. Panjwani, S. Tan, K. M. Jarrin, and M. Cukier. An experimental evaluation to determine if port scans are precursors to an attack. In DSN, pp. 602–611. IEEE Computer Society, (2005). Xiao, Yang and Pan, Yi. Security in Distributed and Networking Systems: Computer and Network Security, Vol. 1. World Scientific Publishing Co (2007).

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