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What Is Network Security? How It Works and Why It’s Important

In recent years, the global economy has suffered huge financial losses amounting to billions of dollars due to cybercrime. The surging volume of attacks on individuals and companies highlights the importance of protecting computer networks and the data they hold.

Network security revolves around three key components: identifying risks, implementing protections, and incident response. So what exactly is network security? How does it work, and why is it important?

What Is Network Security?

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Image Credit: Freepik

Network security is a subset of cybersecurity centered on protecting computer networks against internal and external security threats. It primarily aims to detect and stop security breaches and cyberattacks while preventing unauthorized access to network resources and ensuring authorized users securely access them.

Network security is essential for protecting enterprise apps, remote desktops, and data on online stores. It also helps improve network performance by preventing potential downtime from successful attacks.

How Does Network Security Work?

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Organizations can face attacks from anywhere, underscoring the importance of implementing multiple levels of security controls. These include physical, technical, and administrative network security.

Physical network security is implemented to prevent unauthorized personnel from physically accessing network components. For example, setting up a security lock can protect your wireless router from hackers and other malicious actors.

Technical network security is all about protecting the data within the network. It aims to prevent data tampering by employees and unauthorized access to confidential information by outsiders.

Administrative network security involves implementing policies and processes aimed at controlling the level of access granted to different users. It also restricts the scope of changes the IT staff can make to the network infrastructure.

Why Is Network Security Important?

Network security is important for home networks and organizations as it ensures the network remains functional and reliable. For example, organizations need to secure their systems, apps, and data to deliver products and services to customers effectively.

Secure and reliable networks protect the organization’s operations and interests and the customers or clients who share information with them.

Network security blocks cybercriminals from accessing sensitive data, thus preventing issues like identity theft and reputational harm. It bolsters client and consumer trust, shielding your organization from the potential negative impacts of a security breach, like reputational damage and legal consequences.

Internet-connected homes typically have wireless routers, which could be exploited if left unprotected. By implementing a robust network security system, homeowners can effectively decrease the likelihood of their compromise, which could lead to data loss and theft.

Implementing the right network security solution ensures compliance with regulatory requirements while mitigating the potential financial impacts of breaches.

For instance, the compromise of intellectual property exposes organizations to significant financial risks. Similarly, the theft of products, ideas, and inventions can lead to business setbacks, including losing a competitive edge.

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Organizations and individuals often rely on layered security, a combination of network security measures, to shield themselves or their clients from malware and cyberattacks. Here’s a list of commonly used network security tools and techniques.

1. Access Control

Not all users should have network access, and those who do shouldn’t necessarily have the same level of privileges.

To prevent network attacks, it’s essential to authenticate every user and device accessing the network. You can use a network access control (NAC) solution to achieve this and enforce policies like blocking non-compliant devices or granting them limited access.

2. Firewalls

Firewalls are popular online security tools that are commonly used to prevent various attacks, including unauthorized network access and distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks. They are software or hardware that monitor network traffic and block or allow specific traffic based on predefined security rules and policies.

Firewalls act as a barrier between a network’s trusted and untrusted areas, protecting your network by blocking suspicious traffic while permitting legitimate traffic.

There are different types of firewalls; the basic ones monitor traffic using packet filtering, while the more advanced ones often incorporate AI and machine learning, threat intelligence feeds, and app control for added security.

3. Intrusion Detection and Prevention (IDPS)

The classic IDPS or Intrusion Prevention System (IPS) is typically used alongside a firewall to analyze incoming traffic for any signs of security threats. It can then automatically block unwanted traffic, reset the connection, and report incidents to security administrators.

IDPS can prevent certain DoS and DDoS attacks, like AppDoS, and protect against brute force attacks.

4. Data Loss Prevention

Data Loss Prevention (DLP) refers to using specific information security techniques and tools to protect sensitive data from theft or accidental leaks. It comprises data security policies, and specialized technologies that monitor data flows, encrypt sensitive data, and issue alerts for suspicious activities.

DLP technologies can prevent staff and network users from unsafely uploading, downloading, and printing sensitive files or sharing them outside the network.

5. Email Security

Email security breaches rank among attackers’ most frequently employed tactics to access an organization’s network. Phishing scam emails, in particular, are commonly used to trick users into performing risky actions, like clicking on malicious links or sharing login information, exposing the victim to potential attacks.

Many email providers offer in-built attack prevention like encryption and spam filters. However, employing a premium email security solution can further prevent network infiltration by blocking malicious emails and restricting outgoing emails from sharing specific email components, to name a few.

What Are the Common Network Security Challenges?

One of the major network security challenges is the ever-evolving nature of network attack methods. New threats are constantly emerging, and combating them can be daunting, requiring significant learning efforts.

In addition, network security is often considered a collective responsibility, but not all organizations and users can enforce or strictly adhere to security best practices.

The situation becomes more complex with the rise of remote working and “bring your own device” cultures. This could be because authorized third-party devices often lack standard organization protection, and users tend to ignore online security best practices, especially when using public Wi-Fi.

External providers with access rights can also serve as entry points for attackers into an organization’s network. For instance, threat actors may target cloud providers or security product vendors they believe have weaker security measures than the organization.

Network Security Is a Shared Responsibility

In today’s digital world, the security of a digital infrastructure should be a top priority for individuals and organizations.

By adopting network security best practices, organizations and individuals can enhance data security and fend off hackers and viruses. Such methods include implementing access controls, installing firewalls, and employing data loss prevention techniques.

Regardless of the network security measures you adopt, it’s commonly understood that security is everyone’s responsibility, as any network user could pose a risk.


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