How Well Do You Know Your Network Part 1

Whether we know it or not, we all use networks – it’s impossible these days to avoid them. Whether it’s a local, wide area or cellular network, we rely on them to access information, contact friends and family and carry out our daily tasks. As modern conveniences grow with the relentless march of technological progress, the networks we use to accommodate this tech grows and complexifies with it, as does the threat from those who wish to exploit the data they carry. 

Starting with LAN or “local area network” – these are internal, private networks that typically sit behind a firewall or similar device. Examples of a LAN would be your home network of PC’s, laptops and smart TV devices, or your office network of cables and switches which allow you to connect your workstation to the internet or servers, in order to access files & documents. Typically, these are viewed as inherently secure as they sit “clean side” of an edge security device, who’s job it is to screen and protect the LAN from external malicious content. However, a firewall is not impenetrable, so having a good internal security posture is essential. In fact, 58% of companies have more than 100,000 unprotected folders. 

Furthermore, malicious content can be “hidden” inside other data that exfiltrates from an internal network. Whilst, to a point, data is data, it has patterns and traces which network security appliances can use to identify what sort of traffic it is, before deciding what to do with it. Sophisticated threats, from viruses, loggers or ransomware knows how to disguise itself as generic application data, meaning it can go completely undetected. In fact, 43% of all breaches are caused by “insider threats”, either intentionally or not – though 30% of data breaches are known to involve internal actors.  

This is why its critically important to know what and how devices are operating across your network. Fundamental security measures can be put in place, such as storing critical data securely, either by protecting folders or working from secure cloud environments. Keeping unused network ports on switches “untrusted” until they are allocated for use will reduce the chance of someone being able to gain access to your network from the inside. Licensing your edge device with “application awareness” can also reduce the risk of malicious software exiting your network unnoticed, potentially carrying critical business information such as passwords or credentials. 

Part 2 will cover the devices connected to your LAN themselves and how you can mitigate threats presented from BYOD, or devices that leave your LAN and potentially connect to other, less secure LAN’s.