NETWORK SECURITY: SOURCES AND PREVENTION STRATEGIES 15
NetworkSecurity: Sources and Prevention Strategies
NetworkSecurity: Sources and Prevention Strategies
Networksecurity is a key challenge that contemporary organizations have tograpple with as they make use of technological advancements inimproving business efficiency together with effectiveness. While itis a fact that security threats are a serious challenge in themanagement of information technology, it seems that much more needsto be done in order to counter this challenge. This research exploresto the topic of network security by identifying and discussing thetypes and sources of security threats, besides outlining the currentstrategies used in response to this problem. The research seeksanswers to the question of why network security is one of the top ITmanagement issues confronting managers today. The primary purpose ofthe research is to understand the sources of computer securitythreats, and the actions that should be taken to improve networksecurity. Key findings made from the research are that securitythreats are posed by insiders and malicious external agents. Theresearch also reveals that at present, most organizations usefirewalls and virtual private networks to improve network security.Owing to the limitations of these tools, recommended strategiesinclude encryption, zero-trust philosophy, and caching of firewalls.
1.0 INTRODUCTION 4
1.1 Background to the study 4
1.2 Problem statement 5
1.3 Statement of purpose 5
1.4 Research questions 5
1.5 Significance of the study 5
2.0 LITERATURE REVIEW 6
2.1 Types of network security threats 6
2.2 Sources of network security threats 6
2.3 Current practices in improving network security 8
3.0 RECOMMENDATIONS 9
3.1. Encryption 10
3.2 Improving the performance of firewalls 11
3.3. Addressing employee concerns and grievances 11
3.4 Cultivate a tradition of cyber-security 12
3.5 Restrict the use of mobile phones and other personal devices within the place of work 12
4.0 CONCLUSION 13
5.0 REFERENCES 14
1.1Background to the study
Everybusiness organization today has embraced information technology (IT)as an integral component. It is well-known that IT plays aninvaluable role in promoting effective communication within andacross organizations (Cavelty & Mauer, 2016). The use of IT incommunication is reflected in the observation that almost allorganizations today communicate via email, smartphones and otherelectronic means. Besides communication, information technology alsofacilitates the management of inventory such that organizations arecapable of meeting customers’ demands. IT has also proved useful inmanaging relationships between organizations and their customers, aswell as storing valuable data about employees (MacKechnie, 2016). Inaddition to this, IT has helped organizations to make more accurateplans, improve marketing effectiveness, and providing instant supportto customers.
Fromthe above report, it is evident that IT is an integral part of thedaily lives of human beings today. As Fong, Li and Fong (2013) state,IT has multiple uses including in industries such as transportation,banking and manufacturing, as well as healthcare. However, theincreasing utility of IT in today’s world is matched by a similargrowth in the prevalence of security threats. According to Al-Taiey(2012), there has been an exponential increase in cases of networkattacks, with attackers becoming highly sophisticated and smart. Cases of servers having been hacked and crucial information retrievedhave become rampant today. Citing the example of cloud computing,Shaikh and Haider (2011) report that even though consumers can getaccess to virtual resources via the internet, security concerns arethe sole barrier to the universal adoption of the cloud computingtechnology. Without doubt, network security is a major issue facingIT managers in today’s organizations.
Thereare many security issues surrounding information technologyapplications and systems today, meaning that confidential datapertaining to customers and other key stakeholders is not secured.Having established that security threats are a major issue facingmanagers and organizations today, it is important to develop andimplement effective strategies to boost network security.
1.3Statement of purpose
Theobjective of this research paper is to identify the strategies thatshould be embraced in organizations in order to counter the problemof network security. In order to achieve this objective, the researchbegins by highlighting the types and causes of security threats inorganizations, as well as the current strategies used to counter suchthreats. The research relies on secondary data drawn from books andjournal articles. Based on the key themes identified through theliterature review, several recommendations are provided to helpenhance network security in organizations.
Thepaper addresses the following research questions:
What are the causes and types of security threats facing organizations today?
What should be done in order to boost network security in today’s organizations?
1.5Significance of the study
Itis hoped that the findings obtained from this research will provide asuccessful guide to managers grappling with the problem of securitythreats. More precisely, the study offers simple solutions that mayprove helpful in minimizing cases of cyber-security.
2.1Types of network security threats
Inaccordance with the fact that security threats have become rampantacross organizations today, substantial literature addressing thetypes of security threats is available. Defining the term ‘securitythreats’, it is been stated that security threats encompass allactions, both actual and attempted, that are undertaken with theobjective of compromising availability, confidentiality, andintegrity of a communication network or a computer (Ryan, 2015). Thisdefinition implies that any attempts to learn a server’s InternetProtocol (IP) address, as well as defacing a company’s website,amount to security threats. In the same way, network security is alsocompromised when malicious software such as viruses is installed on acomputer. In short, computer security threats may take the form ofevents that are aimed at stealing, destroying, or damaging equipmentlike servers and switches. Alternatively, security threats are saidto be in existence where certain occurrences make authorized usersunable to access vital information (Cisco Networking Academy, 2013).
Besideshacking a server’s IP address and obtaining confidentialinformation about a company, security threats also take the form ofaccess attacks, which occur when a company’s website is defacedwith the purpose of stealing vital data like customers list or thefirm’s financial information. Another type of security threat ispassword attacks, which is a phrase used in reference to repeatedtrials to identify the information used to authenticate a user’sprofile and information (Al-Taiey, 2012).
2.2Sources of network security threats
Threatsto network security are generally categorized into two: external andinternal. Internal threats are posed by persons within theorganizations, including employees and other users who have regularaccess to the network and vital data pertaining to the organization.On the other hand, external security threats are posed by users whodo not belong to the organization, and who are not authorized toaccess the company’s resources as well as network (Cisco NetworkingAcademy, 2013).
Regardingthe internal threats to computer security, it has been observed that,employees are one among the most dangerous sources of securitythreats. According to the author, there are some instances whenemployees circumvent security measures inadvertently (Ryan, 2015).For example, an employee may forget a disk containing confidentialinformation about his or her employer in a public transport vehicle.In the same way, another employee could deliberately leave thediskette in a bus as a way of punishing his or her employer forhaving failed to fulfill the employee’s grievances. This latterscenario is common, with numerous cases having been documented aboutdisgruntled employees of multinational organizations who steal entireclient databases that have been stored on compact disks. This is alsoknown as insider effect (Kizza, 2015), and is very harmful tocomputer security especially when employees adopt the habit ofstealing company information for sale.
Amajor theme that is reiterated in the literature review is thatcomputer viruses are the main tool through which security attacks areconducted (Al-Taiey, 2012 Cisco Networking Academy, 2013).Precisely, the Cisco Networking Academy (2013) reports that someviruses are exceptionally dangerous in that they can be used to“harvest sensitive information such as passwords and credit cardnumbers” (p. 546). Additionally, there are certain viruses thatrecord keystrokes, meaning that every information that is enteredinto a computer by a user is captured, and may be used to access theuser’s financial and other accounts.
Inasmuchas it has been established that security threats are largely causedby viruses and other malicious software, it is very important to notethat laxity in management could also create loopholes for hackers toexecute their attacks. According to Kizza (2015), there are numerousfactors that threaten computer security, one of them being weaknessesin communication protocols together with the entire networkinfrastructure. Apart from this, it is important to bear in mind thathackers are usually individuals who possess expert knowledge ininformation technology, which is why they are capable ofillegitimately accessing business systems. A crucial implication ofthis is that any solutions to the problem must be formulated from abroad perspective, which means that all the potential sources of thethreat must be factored in.
2.3Current practices in improving network security
Havingascertained network security as a salient management issue incontemporary organizations, it is essential to uncover the strategiesand practices that are currently employed in response to thesolution. The most widely deployed strategy is the use of firewalls,which are deemed effective in enhancing network security (Stewart,2013). Firewalls are deemed effective in boosting network securitybecause they safeguard a company’s or user’s internal informationagainst intruders, both internal and external. At the same time,firewalls are effective in preventing Denial-of-Service attacks(Gonzalez et al., 2012). Apart from firewalls, companies are alsomaking use of virtual private networks (VPNs) in order to safeguardnetwork integrity, thus securing business-to-business communications.In short, there are a number of applications that have been developedto boost network security.
Despitethe widespread usage of firewalls together with VPNs, severalshortcomings have been identified regarding these strategies. Stewart(2013) states that inasmuch as firewalls are a crucial component ofIT infrastructure today, they do not offer the perfect solution tothe menace of network security. To begin with, firewalls are prone tofailure due to the fact that they are developed by human beings.Stewart (2013) explains that the controlling mechanisms as well aslogic of firewalls are nothing but a software code that is designedby computer experts. This is a serious limitation considering thatany activity or innovation that involves people carries a possibilityof failing or becoming defective. Despite the truth that softwaredevelopers undertake thorough testing on firewall products beforethese are released to the markets, it is wrong to rely on theassumption that the code is intrinsically perfect. In other words,firewalls do not provide 100% protection against security threats.
Closelyrelated to the above limitation is the revelation that hackers are soknowledgeable on matters of IT that they constantly employ a varietyof scanning and testing tools in order to detect weaknesses that canbe exploited. The moment they detect a vulnerable area, hackersmaximize on the flaw, which has resulted into some firewalls eithercrashing or freezing (Stewart, 2013). As an illustration of astatement made earlier in this report, which cites poorinfrastructural management as one of the sources of computer threats,Stewart (2013) discloses that there are some instances where thefirewall’s capacity is not sufficient to retain all the dataentered. When this happens, the excess information is transferred toan adjacent device. It is worth noting that this shortcoming usuallyworks to the benefit of hackers, who inject excess data into thefirewall’s memory buffer. The bottom-line here is that firewallsmay not provide a perfect solution to the security threats issue,particularly owing to improper control of software quality, as wellas improper programming techniques.
Animportant deduction made from the above literature review is thatsecurity threats are a major problem facing organizations andindividuals alike. Having learnt that hackers are capable ofaccessing sensitive information regarding a company’s orindividual’s finances, it is evident that a lasting, effectivesolutions needs to be found and implemented in order to counter theproblem. In line with this, a number of suggestions are deemedimperative to the enhancement of network security.
Theidea that encryption is one of the techniques that can effectively beused to boost network security is shared by many authors. In spite ofthe fact that data stored on compact disks and other hardware devicesis occasionally accessed by unauthorized persons, encryptingsensitive information on storage devices has been proven by securityexperts to be effective in protecting sensitive information againsthacking (Ryan, 2015). A similar view is held by Cole (2012), whoasserts that encryption plays a pivotal role in protecting dataagainst compromise. However, encryption needs to be done with utmostcaution and professionalism, more so in light of the report thathackers tend to be so knowledgeable that they can estimate the secretkeys used in encrypting data. Some people possess so much expertiseat hacking that they have discovered tactics of retrieving secretkeys. The implication here is that encryption is not an absolutesolution to the problem of security threats (Ryan, 2015).
Inorder to ensure that all sensitive data is properly encrypted andprotected against hackers, it is essential for IT experts andmanagers to ensure proper implementation and management of all secretkeys. As Cole (2012) advises, implementing encryption alone is notenough the keys must be managed properly. This implies that the keysto the encryption code should only be known to only a few,trustworthy persons within the organization. Additionally, thesepersons should be provided with strict instructions not to disclosethe key to any other person.
Inaddition to the above, it might be worthwhile to engage the expertservices of cryptanalysts (people whose specialty in the decryptionof codes). The objective of this latter suggestion is to allow asmuch as time as possible to external parties to try deciphering theencrypted message. If the cryptanalysts are unable to decode thismessage after numerous attempts, the organization may rest assuredthat its most sensitive data is safe (Cole, 2012).
3.2Improving the performance of firewalls
Ithas been learnt that despite several shortcomings associated withfirewalls, firewalls are very popular across organizations. Thiscreates the impression that the use of firewalls in boosting networksecurity should be continued and encouraged, albeit with a fewimprovements. A crucial lesson obtained from the literature review isthat firewalls have a limitation in that they are not always capableof accommodating all the data that is injected. This gives hackers anopportunity to channel sensitive data to their records. In order toeliminate this problem, a technique known as caching has beenproposed, the aim being to increase the firewall’s performance towirespeed. This simply means that there is no room for communicationdelays because the firewall and the network operate at a similarspeed (Stewart, 2013). By definition, caching refers to the techniquewhereby often-accessed content is held within the firewall’s memoryor storage. In simple terms, caching effectively converts a firewallto function like a proxy server, meaning that the user can inject asmuch data as he or she desires without running the risk of overrun(Stewart, 2013).
3.3.Addressing employee concerns and grievances
Inline with the finding that security threats sometimes come fromwithin the organizations, it is very important for managers toidentify and implement adequate strategies to counter the threatposed by insiders. In particular, having found that disgruntledemployees sometimes hit back at their employer by stealing andselling confidential data, it is specifically proposed that managersshould pay significant attention to the issue of employee welfare andmotivation. Wall (2015) notes that even though there are predictiveanalytics techniques and tools that can be used to detect whenemployees are collaborating with criminal gangs, such tools tend tobe time-consuming as well as expensive. For this reason, and inaccordance with the deterrence theory, it is proposed that managersshould invest in employee motivation as a way of enhancing securityperformance within organizations (Son, 2011).
3.4Cultivate a tradition of cyber-security
Whilstacknowledging that in most organizations, network security and allmatters pertaining to IT management are regarded as theresponsibility of the IT department, it should be noted that thethreat posed by hackers can only be minimized or eradicated if everymember of the organization is actively involved in addressing thechallenge. Cavelty and Mauer (2016) posit that network security isachievable only when all nations create a cyber-security culture.What this means is that organizations should involve all stakeholdersin addressing the threat. This might also be interpreted assuggesting that governments need to be involved in the formulation ofsolutions to the menace of security threats.
Atthe organizational level, a cyber-security culture can be created ifcompanies dedicate more resources, both financial and in terms oftime, towards the improvement of computer security. While it is truethat investing in cyber-security consumes a substantial amount ofresources, it is highly recommended that all organizations,regardless of their size, should hire IT security experts and engagethem at the board level in order to ensure that cyber-security takescentre stage in every business process (Wall, 2015).
3.5Restrict the use of mobile phones and other personal devices withinthe place of work
Itis expected that the introduction of policies restricting the usageof mobile phones and other personal gadgets at the workplace willelicit controversy and disapproval from employees. However, thebottom-line is that threats to network security do not always comefrom outside they are also perpetuated by employees. Havingestablished that some employees collude with criminal gangs toretrieve sensitive information from employers, it is needful fororganizations to adopt a philosophy of zero-trust. In part, thismeans that organizations could restrict the usage of mobile deviceswithin the workplace, especially when such devices are used inaccessing critical data together with systems. In addition to this,it may be beneficial for firms to set up a single system from whereall incoming and outgoing data is controlled (Wall, 2015). This way,IT experts will be in a position to detect any employee who utilizesthe company’s data with a malicious intent.
Informationtechnology is widely used for a variety of purposes in businessorganizations as well as in various aspects of life. However, withthe increasing utility of IT comes a fair share of challenges andthreats, the key one being security threats. It has been observedthat hackers are devising new ways of accessing confidential dataabout individuals and organizations, thanks to IT. Accordingly,network security, popularly known as cyber-security, has become ahotly discussed topic today. The research documented in this reportreveals that security threats come from external as well as internalforces, and take the form of password attacks, denial-of-accessattacks, and defacing of entities’ websites. In response to theseattacks, the most commonly used strategies are firewalling togetherwith virtual private networks. Despite the utility of these tools,several flaws have been identified, meaning that organizations arenot totally protected against hackers. In order to boost networksecurity, several recommendations have been made, includingencryption, embracing the zero-trust philosophy, and minimizing theinsider threat by ensuring that employees are adequately motivated.
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