network security

Potential network attacks, platform vulnerabilities, and misconfiguration issues are serious threats to organizations big and small -especially those that possess private, confidential, or proprietary data. While there are various threat management technologies available, these tools should not be an end-all-be-all solution to network security.

Technology aimed at network security can provide comprehensive security coverage, as long as it is coupled with regular software updates, monitoring, research, and internal training. Unfortunately, with all of the following in place, data breaches can still occur. That is why a proactive and reactive strategy is imperative when dealing with network security and prevention.

Preventing or mitigating network security threats is all about hardened network protection. Without proper security protocols in place, your organization could end up just another statistic. Speaking of, did you know that there is a 1 in 4 chance that your company will become the victim of a data breach? Did you also know that the average data breach costs more than $3 million?

While we cannot definitively predict the emergence of new network security threats, we can provide a list of the top ones to be aware of and equip you with the best practices for preventing them.

#1. Malware

According to IBM and Ponemon’s 2019 Cost of a Data Breach Report, malicious attacks are the leading cases of breaches at 51 percent. The second and third leading causes of data breaches are system glitches (25 percent) and human error (24 percent).

Malicious attacks also tend to take longer to identify and contain, typically making them more costly than other breaches. An example of a malicious attack would be malware.

Malware, a malicious network threat, is the collective name for a number of software variants, including viruses, ransomware, and spyware. Malware typically consists of code developed by cybercriminals that is designed to cause damage to data or gain unauthorized access to a network.

According to the IBM and Ponemon report, “It took substantially longer to identify and contain a breach in the case of a malicious attack: a combined 314 days, for a breach lifecycle that was 12.5 percent longer than the average breach lifecycle of 279 days.”

Malware is typically delivered in the form of a link or file over email and requires the user to click on the link or open the file to execute the malware. Each type of malware is unique, but most rely on user action of some kind. Some strains can be also be delivered via instant messaging or social media.

How to Protect Against Malware

Protecting against malware starts with internal training. Teaching everyone in an organization about what to look for when receiving emails or opening attachments is a great way to reduce risk of a network breach. Always check the sender’s actual email address to verify its legitimacy. It may look like it is coming from someone within the organization, but in reality, it is a cybercriminal hoping to disguise themselves as a trusted source.

A good rule of thumb is that if the email address does not look legit or a link looks suspicious, report the email to your IT department right away. Do not open or click on anything. If you are familiar with the person you believe is sending you an email, send them a new message asking if they had just sent you an email with said attachment or link to verify it is secure.

Another way to protect against malware is to keep systems updated and use antivirus tools. While it is worth the investment on stringent security tools or providers, there are free options available.

#2. Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS)

Another damaging network security threat that is becoming a regular tactic against businesses is Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. The most common DDoS attack is a volumetric attack that works to overwhelm the network’s bandwidth by flooding it with false data requests, making it inoperable.

Because the bot floods ports with data, the machine continually has to deal with checking the malicious data requests and has no room to accept legitimate traffic.

This is particularly harmful for companies that sell services online, as it will cause a large amount of lost revenue during the duration of the outage. Other types of DDoS attacks include application layer attacks and protocol attacks.

Application layer attacks make use of the application layer focused primarily on direct web traffic through avenues such as HTTP, DSN, or SMTP. Protocol attacks focus on damaging connection tables in network areas that deal directly with verifying connections.

According to Verisign Q1 2018 DDoS Trends Report, the average peak attack size increased by 26 percent in the reported period. A related study from Neustar suggests that such an attack can cost a company more than $250,000 per hour at risk.

How to Protect Against DDoS Attacks

Mitigating network security threats can only be achieved with multi-level protection strategies in place. This includes advanced intrusion prevention and threat management systems, which combine firewalls, VPN, anti-spam, content filtering, load balancing, and other layers of DDoS defense techniques.

Another way to protect against DDoS attacks is to outsource DDoS prevention to a cloud service provider. This offers several advantages such as scalability, reliability, and increased resources and expertise.

If your organization is not ready to migrate to the cloud yet, then maintaining a strong network architecture is another way to prevent DDoS attacks. Start by creating redundant network resources, so if one server is attacked, the others can handle the extra network traffic.

LightEdge recommends the 3-2-1 rule: maintaining three copies of data on two types of storage with one in a remote location. Resources that are geographically diverse are more difficult for attackers to target.

#3. Social Engineering

Social engineering attacks are continually getting more targeted and sophisticated. Cyber attackers are creating new ways to trick employees and third parties into handing over valuable company information.

Social engineering attacks typically involve some form of manipulating otherwise unsuspecting users or employees into handing over confidential or sensitive data. Commonly, social engineering involves email or other communication that invokes urgency, fear, or similar emotions in the victim, leading the victim to promptly reveal sensitive information, click a malicious link, or open a malicious file.

Social engineering is the process of bypassing security rules by exploiting human targets. Attackers typically build the trust of their target, using their alleged position to persuade people to let their guard down and provide information to gain access to confidential data.

There are typically two tactics that are used. The first tactic would be befriending the victim. The attacker may send an email from your friend’s hacked email account or from one that looks similar.

Another tactic may be to try to scare or intimidate you. The attacker may try to convince you that you have a virus on your computer, then direct you to a website to download a software fix. If you download the software, it can load malware on your system.

How to Protect Against Social Engineering Attacks

Since social engineering plays to the emotional side rather than the logical one, protecting against these types of threats can be difficult for enterprises. The first step is to create regular internal training. Social-Engineer.org noted, “For awareness training to be truly effective it requires complete coverage of all employees.”

Another way to protect against social engineering attacks is to stay on top of patches, keeping your software updated. Many times, hackers using social engineering techniques are often seeking to determine whether the victim’s software is unpatched and easily exploitable.

Themes that social engineering campaigns typically have in common is that the questions do not fix the pretext. Start to notice when you are being pressured to make decisions or take a quick action, stop and question if these demands fit the person they are “coming from.” A sense of urgency that should not be there is a red flag.

#4 Internal Threats

An insider threat is a malicious threat to an organization that comes from a person or people within the company. These insider threats could include employees, former employees, contractors or business associates who have access to inside information concerning security, data, and the computer systems.

Not all insider threats are intentional. According to Computer Weekly, organizers of the Black Hat security conference reported that 84 percent of cyberattacks were due to human error. While the clear majority of insider threats can be attributed to negligence, there are cases of breaches due to deceptive insider actions.

While malicious breaches were most common, inadvertent breaches from human error and system glitches were still the root cause for nearly half (49 percent) of the data breaches studied in the Ponemon Institute’s Cost of a Data Breach report.

Human error as a root cause of a breach includes “inadvertent insiders” who may be compromised by phishing attacks or have their devices infected or lost/stolen. These were responsible for about one-quarter of breaches.

How to Protect Against Internal Threats

To protect against internal threats, it is important to explain the benefits of network security and highlight cybersecurity progress to employees. Many times, scare tactics are used in trainings on cybersecurity attacks in the hopes of grabbing attention and reinforcing the importance of adoption at every level of the organization. In today’s environment, cybersecurity is the responsibility of everyone at the company, so finding educational tactics that work for everyone is important, whether it’s through scare tactics, rewards for demonstrating safe security practices, or simply providing undeniable data.

One way to protect against insider threats includes the monitoring of employee activity and content. There are varying levels of monitoring tools that are currently available. The capabilities of these tools include email and webmail traffic monitoring, tracking the websites that employees visit, instant message monitoring, social media monitoring, logging files employees have accessed, and many others.

At the very least, your organization should have a security policy to protect against insider threats. This is the most important tactic to prevent an attack. A security policy should include procedures to prevent and detect malicious activity.

Your company security policy should include details that limit the access to personal data about employees or customers. Specify who can access what data, under which circumstances they can access the data, and who they can share the information with.

LightEdge’s Network Stands Out Above the Rest

When asked about our differentiators against the competition, one of the first answers is always – our network. Our history with network goes all the way back to 1996 when we were founded as an ISP. We spent over two decades making sure our network and infrastructure were scalable, redundant, and secure enough to meet the most challenging IT needs.

Today, we’ve narrowed in our primary focus to our Tier III data centers and compliant cloud offerings, but there’s no doubt our networking heritage still runs strong in all that we execute. All of LightEdge’s facilities and services have been designed around connectivity with proven insight from our networking experts, making us unmatched in the market.

Strengthen your company’s risk mitigation and compliance story with LightEdge’s Managed Security services. With access to LightEdge’s people, processes, and technology, you can reduce vulnerabilities, eliminate blind spots in your security strategy, and quickly respond to security threats when they occur.

LightEdge offers a free risk assessment from our Chief Information Security Officer as a free resource to all of our clients. LightEdge’s highly trained compliance and network security experts take the guesswork out of keeping your business protected. LightEdge’s top priorities include compliance and network security to guarantee that our customer’s data is protected. LightEdge is compliant with:

Have you heard enough? Reach out to one of our LightEdge Network Experts today at: peering@lightedge.com or call 1-877-771-3343.

We have empowered hundreds of organizations across the nation through improved latency, security, and reliability. We are ready to do the same for yours.


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Claire Kirk

With a background in compliance & security, cloud hosting, colocation, and business continuity, Claire uses her knowledge and experience to create educational content for end users. A creator at heart, she specializes in B2B marketing with a focus in content creation and technical literacy.