The Complete Guide to Network Security Threats!
Updated: Feb 16
What are Network Security Threats?
A network security threat attempts to perform unauthorized actions targeted against private, corporate, or governmental information technology (IT) assets. Typically, a network security attack is launched for the purpose of destroying, modifying, stealing data assets.
Network attacks are typically categorized into two main types:
Passive attacks—screen and monitor sensitive information, for the purpose of compromising enterprise security and any integrated customer.
Active attacks—modify or completely destroy information found in the network.
As more organizations provide employees and third-party entities to remotely access data, networks become more vulnerable to network security threats that attempt to access, modify, ransom, or destroy data assets and cause damage to the corporate network.
In this article, you will learn:
Types of Network Security -
A firewall sets up barriers between trusted internal networks and untrusted external networks, such as the Internet. Firewalls leverage a set of predefined rules to either allow authorized traffic or block suspicious traffic. You can set up your firewall as either hardware or software, or use a combination of both.
Access control mechanisms enable you to control user access, roles, and privileges. You can, for example, allow general users to gain access to certain sections of the network, while restricting access to highly sensitive sections. To restrict network access to recognized devices and users, you need to set up security policies, which can also help you grant limited access to guest users or noncompliant devices.
To identify anomalous network behavior, you need to first assess normal behavior. A behavioral analytics tool can assess normal behavior and then automatically detect abnormal activities. This information can help security teams better identify which indicators of compromise pose a problem, prioritize accordingly, and quickly mitigate threats.
The term “cloud security” refers to a broad range of technologies, applications, and policies that are applied for the purpose of defending online Internet protocols (IPs), applications, services as well as critical and sensitive data. Cloud security should help you effectively manage security. For example, you can use cloud security to protect users against threats from any point of access and secure cloud-based data and applications.
Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS)
An IPS scans network traffic and then actively blocks malicious activity. To do this, the IPS correlate massive amounts of global threat intelligence. In addition to blocking attacks, the IPS tracks the progression of any suspicious file and malicious software (malware) traversing the network. This prevents a network-wide spread of malware.
Common Network Security Threats
There are six common threat vectors threat actors can use to breach your network—unauthorized access, distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, man in the middle attacks, code and SQL injection attacks, privilege escalation, and insider threats.
1. Unauthorized Access
The term “unauthorized access” refers to occurrences when threat actors attempt to access a network without permission. Unauthorized access attacks are typically a result of weak passwords, no adequate protection against social engineering, insider threats, and compromised accounts.
2. Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) Attacks
To launch DDoS attacks, threat actors create a massive fleet of compromised devices, called botnet, and then use it to aim false traffic at networks or servers. Attackers can aim a DDoS at the network or at applications. For example when huge volumes of SYN/ACC packets are sent to the networks, they can overwhelm the server. Additionally, complex SQL queries that are performed repeatedly can bring down a database.
3. Man in the Middle (MitM) Attacks
A MitM attack attempts to intercept traffic and then steal data and credentials or hijack user sessions. The attack tries to find unsecured communication protocols or circumvent security, while communication is attempted between external sites and the network or within the network.
4. SQL Injection and Code Attacks
Websites often accept user inputs but fail to sanitize and validate accepted inputs. This creates a point of exploitation for attackers. For example, attackers can make an application programming interface (API) call or fill out a form that passes malware instead of any expected data values. The code is then executed, granting attackers means to compromise the application or server.
5. Privilege Escalation
When attackers breach the network, they can use a privilege escalation technique to gain access to more assets and locations. There are two types of privilege escalation attacks:
Horizontal privilege escalation—attackers gain access to more systems, often adjacent.
Vertical privilege escalation—attackers gain higher levels of privileges they can use in the same system.
6. Insider Threats
An insider threat is someone with credentials that provide access to corporate IT assets. Attackers often trick or coerce employees into divulging credentials information. The attacker can then use legitimate credentials to penetrate the network, passing as a legitimate user. This is why these attacks are difficult to detect, but not impossible. Technologies like user and event behavioral analytics (UEBA) can identify anomalous behavior performed by users, and then help identify suspicious behavior performed by insider attacks. Read more about it here
Network Security Best Practices
Even though network security attacks continuously become more sophisticated, there are certain best practices that can help protect the network against malicious attacks. Here are some of them:
Implement network segregation and segmentation strategies—this enables you to break the network down into small parts with different time zones, which you can then easily manage and isolate during security events. Use these strategies to reduce network intrusion risks.
Use extended detection and response (XDR)—solutions that enable you to implement a cross-layered threat detection and response. XDR introduces a holistic approach that catches threats that can otherwise hide between security silos. Use XDR to gain automated analysis of deep activity data across emails, servers, cloud workloads, networks, and other security layers.
Data Loss Prevention (DLP)—practices and solutions enable you to set up protective measures against various data loss events, such as data theft, outages, and more. A DLP solution often provides capabilities for tracking anomalous behaviour targeting sensitive data, as well as capabilities for quick response, such as alerts.
Security awareness training—many insider threat attacks trick users. However, security awareness training can help inform employees and help them avoid becoming an accidental threat. Training often involves practices that promote good cybersecurity hygiene.
Create and enforce IT policies—that inform and direct employees using IT assets and accessing the corporate network. A policy enables you to properly govern how security is implemented and maintained, enforce standards of proper usage, and provide guidance when dealing with security events.
Today’s corporate networks are extremely complicated and often distributed in nature, and require extensive security. However, there are certain network security measures and best practices that can help protect the majority of networks, regardless of the network’s size and type. Establishing network security policies can help you standardize security across the organization, and also ensure employees and connected third parties practice proper security.
Author - Chen Shem Tov - Chen Shem Tov is a digital marketer and content writer, creating thought leadership and technical pieces about her favorite topics: technology, content, marketing, and business.