Exploring Different Types of Network Controls for Improved Security

Adequate network security provides multiple levels of protection. These include administrative controls, such as policies, procedures, and training that promote adherence to information security frameworks and standards.

Preventive controls protect information systems by addressing weaknesses before cyber threats take hold. They can also help limit the damage done by blocking illegitimate users.

Access Control

Network controls examples, just like access controls, protect data and systems by managing user authentication, authorization, and permissions. It’s an essential component of cybersecurity. It identifies individuals and applications, verifies that they’re who or what they claim to be, and authorizes the level of access and set of actions associated with their credentials (username and password). It also enforces adherence to security policies, including logging and monitoring, password requirements, administrator accounts, auditing, and access controls.

There are two primary types of access control: physical and logical. Physical access control limits access to campuses, buildings, rooms, and physical IT assets. Logical access control limits connections to computer networks, system files, and data.

Discretionary access control (DAC) allows the owners of a system or piece of information to decide who gets in and when. This is often used for sensitive data, like financial records or health data. Mandatory access control (MAC) is non-discretionary and allows people with a specific security clearance to enter systems. Typically, organizations that need to meet compliance standards, such as ISO 27001, use MAC. Role-based access control (RBAC) lets administrators define access rights based on groups of users, such as engineers, human resources, and marketing. It also uses conditions, like time of day or location, to assign roles. This allows businesses to comply with security standards while giving employees a flexible, secure work experience.

Threat Control

The proliferation of internet-connected devices in modern organizations puts more pressure on network security. Organizations must ensure that the devices used by employees are clean and adhere to corporate security policies before they can enter the network. Network access control allows organizations to prevent unauthorized users and devices from entering the organization’s private network.

Cyber attackers often exploit known software, hardware, and end-user environment weaknesses. While regular testing is a must, a better way to reduce the number of holes hackers can exploit is to use more sophisticated threat control solutions that prevent attacks before they happen.

Unlike traditional network firewalls, a dedicated threat control solution leverages deep integrations with AI, attack models based on years of experience securing top Fortune 500 companies, and advanced analytics across structured and unstructured data sources to detect and investigate threats. In addition, it can correlate threat intelligence on a device-by-device basis and automatically deliver automated actions against the most critical threats.

A network controller also collects telemetry from all devices in the network, including IoT and other edge devices, to help ensure they function correctly. It can apply machine learning and AI techniques to identify issues that could impact security, performance, and service quality and offer resolution guidance. This makes networks agile and responsive to business needs and supports legacy networks’ transformation into intent-based networking (IBN). It can also simplify management by eliminating the need for time-consuming device-by-device configurations.

Vulnerability Management

Vulnerability management continuously identifies, evaluates, reports, manages, and remediates vulnerabilities throughout your digital systems. It requires a team of cybersecurity professionals and vulnerability scanning tools to minimize your attack surface area and protect data.

As new devices, software, and services are added to your network, security teams must continuously assess these assets for weaknesses that threat actors may exploit. This is often done through scanning tools that can identify the version of a given piece of software or operating system in use, compare that to a list of known vulnerabilities published by software vendors, and determine whether that vulnerability could be leveraged to compromise an asset or application.

The next step is to take the results of those scans and use a standard method of ranking vulnerabilities to prioritize which ones should be addressed first. This typically involves enriching the assessment with business, threat, and risk context to determine the importance of each asset in your organization’s operations.

Many vulnerability management programs are focused solely on discovery and prioritization, but vital programs should also include a fourth step – patching. By patching identified vulnerabilities, you eliminate them as threats to your critical information and ensure that the most dangerous vulnerabilities are fixed before cybercriminals can exploit them. This is especially important because many of today’s vulnerabilities are used by the general public within minutes of their release, and most organizations can only afford to fix one in 10 discovered vulnerabilities on their systems.

Network Monitoring

Network monitoring is a critical function that allows administrators to stay on top of infrastructure status and performance. While it somewhat overlaps with availability and health monitoring, network monitoring is more concerned with specific elements that make up the network infrastructure, such as bandwidth usage, CPU utilization, interface errors and discards, IP time delays, hop counts, etc. It also involves comparing configuration files for similar network appliances to identify inaccuracies, which can then be corrected.

With networks increasingly spanning WAN connections, branch offices, data centers, and public cloud hosts, there is a tremendous amount of information to monitor. In many cases, attempting to watch every device at the same interval can place too much strain on network performance. For instance, using tools to determine the best polling intervals can avoid unnecessary data collection while providing valuable insights into network devices.

A network map is another tool that can help network admins detect potential problems. This graphical abstraction can lay out how each network device is connected to the others, making it easy for an administrator to identify issues such as a physical mess of wires and ports, a single point of failure, or an inability to route traffic properly. These network monitoring tools can reduce time spent on firefighting and free up resources for projects that create bottom-line value.

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