New viruses and hacker strategies are evolving every day, and no network is immune from cyber attacks attempting a security breach of your systems. Mitigating and preventing these attacks means conducting a thorough network vulnerability analysis for your organization.
But what is network vulnerability? Well, simply put, network vulnerability refers to the potential collective weaknesses of all your organization’s devices, servers and cloud-based systems. Any entry point into your network from an outside source is a quantifiable threat that can be revealed as a discovered vulnerability by conducting a network vulnerability assessment.
While there are several network vulnerability tools you can use, considering vulnerabilities have increased by 9% since last year, outsourcing this important task to a qualified MSP is often the best approach and ensures the stability of your network security.
Learning about Network Vulnerabilities
Any vulnerability assessment tool worth its salt will go over a few key aspects of the necessary steps to take, such as:
- Know How Your Business Operates
Get a clear understanding of which departments are communicating with each other most frequently, and consider issues unique to your business. This might include client/customer privacy concerns like stored IP addresses, or perhaps regulatory compliance or business processes. Understanding the unique aspects of your business has to be the first step you take towards revealing identified vulnerabilities that might leave you exposed.
- Specific Apps and Data Used
Knowing exactly which applications and data are being used every day allows you to find out which of these areas are sensitive to attack. It lets you pinpoint what information would be at risk and helps you in identifying security threats.
- Hidden Data Sources
Search for any open source that could act as a way for a hacker to breach your system. This often includes anything with cloud-based access, smartphones and tablets.
- Servers, both Physical and Virtual
Whether they physically exist or not, servers are a prime target for any hacker looking to gain access to your network. Know exactly how they’re protected and how secure they are.
- Security Measures Already in Place
Take stock of what’s currently protecting your network. This could include firewalls, virus detection, VPNs, encryption and disaster recovery. Knowing these capabilities will allow you to address any weaknesses revealed by network vulnerability scanning.
- Perform the Vulnerability Test
As the culmination of these network vulnerability assessment steps, performing the test on your network will highlight existing viruses and vulnerable areas. Once complete, you can create a network security strategy to deal with the issues.
Types of Network Vulnerabilities
Common types of vulnerabilities can extend far beyond what you might find in emails, programs and operating systems. In order to properly protect your business against threats and practice good network vulnerability management, it’s helpful to know which type of vulnerabilities exist.
Here are some other hardware factors to consider when performing your network vulnerability checklist.
Protect Your Physical Devices
Why hack a server when logging onto a company device is so much easier? That’s the mindset of many nefarious hackers, and unfortunately, doing so is all too easy.
Common tactics include device theft, on-premises trespassing and mailing “gift” USBs to unwitting employees. The best protection against this threat is to encrypt every company device and make use of strong passwords with multi-factor authentication.
Access Through Wi-Fi
Ah, Wi-Fi. So convenient for the everyday user, right? Connect using your laptop, desktop or mobile device and enjoy access to everything the internet has to offer. However, being connected to a wireless network also leaves you exposed to cybercriminals.
A poorly secured Wi-Fi network means nearby devices can skirt right past your firewall protection, essentially acting as a “hole in the wall”, so to speak.
Effective defense against this network vulnerability includes having a strongly secured and encrypted Wi-Fi network, protecting network passwords virtually (and never posting a physical copy), and educating employees about connecting to unsecured networks.
Software Network Vulnerabilities
Just like with hardware access points, any software your company uses to run its applications is a potential network vulnerability waiting to be exploited. In general, your IT professional needs to track every piece of software and patch everything accordingly.
Old and Failing Software
Time, for technology, moves fast. What was new 6 months ago might now be considered outdated and obsolete. That’s why it’s always of the utmost importance to make sure you’re not using ailing software with known vulnerabilities.
Making use of vulnerability scanners and doing penetration tests can help mitigate these risks, but nothing works better than installing software updates as soon as they’re available. Or, if certain software no longer has update support, simply replacing it with a newer alternative.
Employee education strikes again! One of the biggest network vulnerabilities you can find among software is when an employee either brings in or downloads software unapproved by your IT department. This is usually done in an attempt to augment the employee’s work processes in some way but, unbeknownst to them, contains a trojan horse, malware or a virus.
As mentioned above, employee training is the best way to combat this problem.
User Security Issues: Scams and Deception
It may come as no surprise that the human element is one of the greatest avenues of exploitation for cybercriminals. Individuals all too frequently fall prey to scam calls, phishing emails and fake websites.
Each one of these tactics can be used to gain sensitive information that could harm your company.
While it’s true that many network vulnerability assessment tools are available for private use, nothing will ever come close to the expertise that an experienced MSP like Executech can provide.