INSIGHT: Top 5 new strategies to improve network security

According to WatchGuard, the most effective organisations are often the most informed about their industry, markets and internal workings.

The most effective organisations are often the most informed about their industry, markets and internal workings.

The more they know their competitors, proactively approach new demands and better manage their people, the better they can fine tune their business approach and deliver exceptional outputs.

Without this intelligence and strong leadership, a business can often lose well established market footholds and experience significantly reduced productivity.

These concepts apply directly to the management of network security within an organisation. The more you know about your networks and activity, the more you can manage and drive them to new levels of success, efficiency and protection from unknown or unexpected costs.

It’s interesting to see how many IT administrators actually have a full understanding of everything that is going on within their networks and systems.

Most of the time, basic and ineffective reporting and logging tools are relied on to troubleshoot or take a deeper look into network activity.

These administrators are often left without a real-time or historic view of their systems as significant events are buried deep within complex and time consuming logs. Options are limited for these administrators to get fast access to actionable data with the functionality to take quick and direct action.

On the other hand, having a network visibility focus using the right tools, IT administrators are able to clearly identify activities and insights that they never would have previously realised, allowing for significantly improved defences and organisational productivity.

Want to improve your policies? Read these five strategies to learn how:

Knowing your employees helps you guide them:

Modern security controls authenticate users and identify network applications based on network traffic. When you combine these capabilities with good visibility tools, you’ll have a whole new perspective about what occurs on your network.

You will see what tools and applications your users rely on, who uses the most bandwidth, what types of files they download, and much more. All this insight will help you craft your business network policies.

If you see one application eating more bandwidth than a more critical application? No problem, add a quality of service policy to prioritise what’s important to your business, or block the other application entirely.

Or perhaps you might notice one user might be using a more risky application (like Bittorrent). Now that you know, you can find out why, and decide to restrict it if necessary.

Understand your network’s normal patterns:

Every organisation’s network traffic is slightly different, based on the business and its activities. That’s why there’s no template for “proper” network traffic.

The only way you’ll be able to detect anomalous, possibly dangerous activity on your network is to have an understanding of what “normal” looks like. And the only way a human will easily recognise normal is by seeing network traffic interpreted visually.

By monitoring visualisation tools regularly, you’ll start to understand your network’s baseline. Once you do, you’ll be able to notice “spikes” of irregular network activity that might clue you into some new or different event.

These events may not be bad, but identifying and researching them will provide you more insight into your network… and depending on the results, may also suggest new policies you can add to avoid those incidents in the future.

Know your network’s common targets:

Many security professionals have controls like antivirus, intrusion prevention, and deep packet inspection, which can recognise and block network attacks and malware. However, most just turn them on, and don’t pay much attention to the results.

If IPS blocks an attack, then you don’t have to worry about it, so why pay attention, right? Well, smart visibility tools can help you learn a lot from attack patterns; even for attacks that fail.

For instance, have you looked into which server receives the most network attacks? Which users tend to be associated with blocked malware? Or what types of attacks foes most commonly try against you?

Good visibility tools can highlight these trends for you, and once you know the answers to those questions you can adjust your policies to more carefully secure and restrict certain users, or harden the defences of targeted servers.

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