Network Security and Preserving Network Integrity
Modern enterprises are constantly at odds with various security issues their networks face on a daily basis. Viruses, spam, network intrusions and denial-of-service attacks are just a few examples of the threats in existence today that can adversely affect a company’s network. When it comes to preserving network integrity, these serious matters must be addressed both immediately and on a continuing basis in order to preserve network integrity.
What exactly does “network integrity” mean? Asking a dozen IT experts will usually generate at least a dozen different answers. All of these answers are typically related somehow to the underlying definition of “integrity” itself, namely the quality of being sound, complete and incorruptible. Something is said to be sound when it is in good condition and free of defects. When something is complete, it contains all the components necessary for proper function. When something is incorruptible, it is void of improper operation and incapable of generating errors.
The same applies to networks in the IT world.
At a low level, network integrity is ensured by mechanisms that prevent data from becoming lost, garbled or modified without consent. Mechanisms that perform these tasks are typically embedded within software protocols, drivers and networking firmware. At an enterprise level, however, network integrity refers to the complete network as a whole with network-discoverable resources matching that listed in inventory. Any discrepancies indicate a compromise in network integrity, whether by hardware failure, software failure, network intrusion or otherwise.
There are a few factors to consider when it comes to preserving network integrity: availability, security, bandwidth and control. Network availability refers to how accessible a network is to applications and end users. A router or switch operating poorly or failing outright reduces network availability, as it inhibits network access for its connected clients. Security refers to how safe a network is from threats. A secure network prevents intrusions like worms, trojans and other traffic anomalies from adversely impacting it. Bandwidth refers the amount of raw data that can be piped in and out of a network without hindrance. A network’s bandwidth is adversely affected by large amounts of spam and denial-of-service attacks. Control refers to the network administrator’s ability to manage and oversee the network as a whole.
A network is functioning properly when several things occur:
- applications and clients get enough network availability
- applications and clients get proper bandwidth
- network security does its job during both peacetime and attack
- network management has complete control of the entire network
When it comes to preserving these traits in today’s modern networks, network managers are quickly abandoning the traditional focus on network security solely at the perimeter level for a more holistic, layered approach. The new layered approach to insuring network integrity is composed of the following layers:
- Perimeter defence
- Systems layer
- Application gateway layer
- Host integrity layer
Perimeter defence consists of the traditional setup of firewalls, antivirus filters and intrusion-detection systems. Although these are still vital components needed to prevent hackers from invading your network, they alone do not guarantee complete protection from modern attacks.
A network integrity systems layer fits between your perimeter and application defence systems, making use of automated policy handlers that analyse traffic to intelligently regulate legitimate traffic, limit surges of problematic traffic and block traffic anomalies. With the rise of instant messenger and peer-to-peer file sharing use, this layer is vital to providing bandwidth and availability to mission-critical applications.
The application gateway layer is designed to analyse endpoint traffic. It consists of spam filters, web application gateways and other systems designed to augment a firewall in efforts to provide deep packet inspection and other proxy-like services for enhanced network protection.
These three layers provide substantial improvements over perimeter defence alone. More can be done at host level though, as security does not end once data arrives at its destination. The final step to providing network integrity occurs through use of antivirus software, spyware tools, intrusion-prevention tools and localised firewalls that reside on the end hosts themselves.
The method by which these four broad layers are arranged vary from network to network. Designing, deploying and managing a layered network defence can be overwhelming for small to mid-sized businesses to handle on their own. Leave it to Fantel to help you design, deploy, and manage a networking solution that’s right for you. Call or Email us today to get started.