Small Business Network Security Checklist

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Small Business Network Security Checklist

In today’s business environment, cybersecurity is a crucial concern regardless of a company’s size. The impact of a security breach might result in the destruction and closing of a smaller-sized firm if they lack the resources for considerable damage control. Because of this, every company needs to take the proper precautions to safeguard critical data from unauthorized users, no matter how small or large.

This checklist will help you to stay on top of your network security and avoid the most common mistakes. Download it now.

 

What is Network Security, and Why is it Important?

The internet is a fantastic resource for modern enterprises. Instead of a room full of old filing cabinets, a searchable database is available worldwide and across all wireless networks. Nowadays, we can even attend a video meeting and get the same results without the need to fly to another location for the same in-person meeting.

However, even though we now have a lot of new conveniences, business networks are even more exposed to vast, complex security threats. Every time a new program or a piece of hardware is put into use, there is a chance for online hackers to break in and steal sensitive data from a person or company.

Businesses must ensure they are effectively controlling their network security if they want the convenience of the internet and the much-needed security. Even though doing a network security audit can be stressful, companies should still do them if they want to keep their data as secure as possible.

We’ve created a brief security and audit checklist below to make things simpler and to help prevent cyber-attacks.

1. Use Antivirus and Anti-malware

Anti-malware and antivirus software safeguards you from any unwanted programs installed on your network, including viruses, trojans, ransomware, spyware, and worms. These may reach your system through a corrupted file or link, another infected device, or a combination of the two.

Cybercriminals create malware, or malicious software, to infect your machines for various reasons. For example, ransomware encrypts your files so that you become locked out and are forced to pay the attackers price to access your crucial business data. Malware-based cyberattacks of other kinds could even seize control of your network and use it for a DDoS (Denial of Service) attack or to harm your system directly.

Anti-malware software inspects files as they enter your network and periodically scans the files already on your machine to check for either errors or damaged files. The software will then quarantine or remove any suspicious files if they are found.

2. Regular Software Updates

Software updates are highly likely to include fixes for known security vulnerabilities and performance enhancements. Delaying these updates could prevent you from receiving the patches for known security flaws, putting your data in danger and enabling hackers to access your system.

Consider purchasing patch management software if your network consists of various devices that require updates, such as network equipment like routers or office PCs.

3. Use Strong Passwords

Did you know that weak password security is believed to be the source of 81% of data breaches? By using secure passwords, you can stop hackers from accessing your system. Make sure to change the default password to a secure one when you first receive a device or install any software.

Using default passwords makes it easy for hackers to access your system. Develop a plan to update the password frequently to ensure your devices are always protected.

Make sure your employees understand what a strong password looks like, urge them to follow your company’s password policy, and utilize two-factor authentication on their work devices to stay on the same page.

4. Firewalls

Firewalls use a set of rules to regulate the traffic entering and leaving your network. They are the barrier separating your secure internal network from the unidentified outside network. Firewalls can stop unauthorized traffic from entering your internal network by monitoring the traffic and blocking it.

Additionally, firewalls segment the network to divide traffic into smaller groups that are easier to manage. There are various kinds of firewalls, including proxy firewalls, stateful firewalls, Unified Threat Management (UTM) firewalls, packet-filtering firewalls, Next-Generation Firewalls (NGFW), and so on.

5. Data Loss Prevention (DLP)

Data Loss Prevention (DLP) software scans your network for sensitive data being transported and stored to prevent leaks. Suppose your business has a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy. In that case, for employees who either work remotely or if you keep their data stored in the cloud, data loss prevention solutions become more critical.

DLP solutions safeguard your data by keeping an eye on the network to ensure that users aren’t flouting the rules you’ve set for sensitive data, including sending it to a risky network or making an unauthorized copy. DLP systems do this by continuously monitoring, tracking, and logging where your sensitive data are. This lowers the possibility of accidental mistakes.

6. Managing User Accounts and Remote Access

Limit account permissions to the minimum amount necessary for the user to perform their job. Only utilize administrator accounts when necessary to make changes to the administration. Ensure that only the administrator account has access and each employee has a distinct account with their login information. That remote access is only permitted through a Virtual Private Network (VPN). If at all possible, make your system’s access subject to multi-factor authentication. Also, be sure to remove a former employee’s account as soon as they exit the company.

Since remote work and BYOD policies are the standards for most firms these days, this is even more crucial. Implementing these regulations may encourage users to be more lenient with their data, which could put your company at significant risk. You must take precautions to preserve the integrity and security of your data, including developing a tight policy restricting access to only what’s required for personnel to do their duties.

7. Data Recovery Plan (DRP)

It’s necessary to keep your data safe from illegal and unwanted access, but it’s also crucial to have a disaster recovery plan in case your data is lost. Sometimes, rather than stealing information, the goal of a cyberattack is to just disrupt a business. Do you have a backup copy of all your crucial data in case it gets corrupted or disappears entirely?

To ensure they are not missed and that your backups contain the most recent files, backups should be encrypted and automatically scheduled. Several backup techniques, including onsite servers and cloud backup, provide an extra degree of security.

8. Phishing and Spoofing Messages

Phishing and spoofing perpetrators deceive recipients by sending false communications and other social engineering strategies. These frauds typically pose as trustworthy organizations trying to dupe victims into either downloading harmful files, clicking on dangerous links, or disclosing personal information.

Emails and SMS are two examples of text-based communication channels where spoofing and phishing are frequently used. Installing security solutions with anti-phishing features is strongly advised to help you avoid being a victim of spoofing and phishing. This function will notify you if a link or email’s sender raises any red flags.

On the rare chance that they manage to get past your anti-phishing defenses, you will still need to be vigilant when checking your email to prevent falling for a phishing scam. To enhance your employees’ awareness and attention when checking their inboxes, train your staff and have them participate in phishing scenarios.

9. Train your Workforce

The most crucial aspect of any network security plan is your end users (employees). Your users are your best line of defense, even if you have all the tools, systems, and regulations at your disposal.

When working from home, 47% of employees blamed distraction for their fallibility to phishing attacks. It’s time to train your entire crew to defend against all security threats since the average data breach cost has increased to about $4.64 million.

Ensure your end users understand the potential effects of a security breach on your business, their responsibility for securing company data, and how to protect themselves from malicious actors. To achieve this, you’ll need an excellent training program to instruct your users on how to raise their security levels and to be on alert for any suspicious activity.

10. Develop a Response for Security Breaches

A planned reaction during a breach can significantly enhance your company’s outcome. You’ll have a list of steps you need to follow to protect anything that hasn’t already been accessed rather than having to react immediately. Written instructions will guarantee you follow all the essential procedures to halt the attack from causing more harm and, if necessary, start the recovery process.

If you can act quickly and inform your clients about how it has affected their data security, it can also help you restore your reputation with them. Additionally, perform regular vulnerability audits to check your network for potential weak spots and fix them before a breach occurs.

 

Enhance Network Security with Protected Harbor

A layered strategy is required to protect your network’s security and prevent unauthorized access to sensitive data. By routinely inspecting your network security on all network devices, mobile devices, and other devices with internet access in your organization, you can be sure that you are following these security best practices.

In addition to your security system, educating your staff about daily hazards is crucial. Since remote work is the norm for most businesses these days, a more stringent training program is required to guarantee the security and protection of all company data.

Protected Harbor’s Network Engineers create a secure environment by building a network resistant to cyber-attacks and staying operational during emergencies. We use network monitoring tools to scan network performance, security, and compliance. We also troubleshoot issues, upgrade network hardware and software, and work with vendors to ensure that new products meet the company’s security requirements.

A network vulnerability assessment from Protected Harbor will help your organization identify potential weaknesses and vulnerabilities in your current network setup.

A Protected Harbor security expert can assist with a free cybersecurity assessment and vulnerability test to determine your weak points. From there, we will build a plan that includes updates, new configurations, implementation, unlimited onsite support, and live monitoring services for a flat monthly rate to safeguard your network. Ready to get started? Speak to a professional that can assist you with your network and security needs.

Speed Up Your Network in 8 Steps

Speed-Up-Your-Network-in-8-Steps banner

Speed Up Your Network in 8 Steps

A faster network is all everyone wants nowadays. So, when our network is lagging or slower than usual, we tend to wonder, why on earth is my network so slow? Having a strong network is vital to creating an online presence, whether running a business or just having a personal blog to share your thoughts and opinions with the world.

The speed of your network can significantly impact your productivity and overall experience. A slow connection can make downloading files, streaming videos, or uploading large files a frustrating experience. There are several steps you can take to speed up your network. These tips will help you get the most out of your connection and improve the overall performance of your network.

 

Reasons for Slow Network

Here are some reasons for slow network speeds:

 

1. Old Equipment

Your network is possibly old and outdated and may not be updated with the latest technologies. This is especially true if you have an old router or modem that cannot handle the new standards.

 

2. Insufficient Bandwidth

If you don’t have enough bandwidth on your connection, it will take longer for your computer to send and receive files. Your device may freeze up as it struggles to get through all the data simultaneously.

 

3. Provider Throttling Your Connection

Several ISPs have started to throttle their customers’ connections after reaching certain limits, making it difficult for people to stream videos or browse at higher speeds. If this is happening on your account, contact your provider and request that they remove any restrictions on your connection speed.

 

4. Your PC has a Virus

Viruses occasionally infiltrate computers, slowing Internet speed and stealing resources without your knowledge.

 

5. Too Much Traffic

Suppose too many users are using your broadband connection at once. In that case, it could be causing congestion and affecting other people trying to access their services (such as streaming videos).

 

6. Incorrect Network Configuration

You can also find yourself with a slower network if you’ve changed settings on your router, firewall, or other devices connected to the router that affect the speed at which data travels between devices on your network.

For example, if you’ve changed how your router handles port forwarding, you may find that certain websites won’t load appropriately after making these changes.

 

7. Weak Wi-Fi Signals

Your Wi-Fi signal strength is the amount of power sent to your router, measured in decibels (dB). The higher the dB number, the stronger the signal. If you have an old or weak Wi-Fi router, you may not be able to get adequate signal strength on your home network.

You can try increasing the distance between your router and other devices on your home network by installing a new wireless repeater or range extender.

 

What is Network Optimization?

In order to monitor, manage, and enhance network performance, various technologies, tactics, and best practices are referred to together as “Network Optimization.”

It’s not enough for crucial networks to function properly in today’s highly competitive, dynamic corporate world. The world depends more and more on dependable, quick, safe, accessible, 24/7 data transfer as the digital era advances. Unfortunately, obsolete or inadequately sized hardware and subpar software can reduce available bandwidth and increase the delay. Performance issues and system vulnerability might result from outdated or underused network security solutions. Response times might be slowed down, and vital network services can be overloaded by sudden surges or traffic spikes. The list goes on, potentially leading to hundreds of growing problems that could harm the end-user experience.

Network optimization’s main objective is to provide the finest network performance and design at the lowest cost. An optimized network must encourage greater productivity and usefulness and enable effective and efficient data sharing. And to achieve this, network latency, traffic volume, capacity, and traffic direction must all be managed.

 

Speed-Up-Your-Network-in-8-Steps middleHow to Speed Up My Network?

The following tips can help you speed up your network.

 

● Check Your Router

The first thing you should do is check the integrity of your router. If it’s malfunctioning, then it is time for an upgrade. You can check if it has been updated by going to its settings page and studying for an update.

 

● Check Your Web Browser

If you’re having trouble with the speed of your network, there are likely too many open tabs or windows in your browser. Close all unnecessary tabs and windows to reduce the load on the main page and see if that helps.

 

● Use Antivirus Software

Turning on antivirus software is a good idea because it will stop any potentially harmful files from being downloaded onto your computer. The best antivirus programs protect you against malware and spyware (malicious software).

If you’ve already installed an antivirus program, be sure to update it regularly so that it stays protected against new threats.

 

● Clear Your Cache

The cache is a temporary space on your computer where websites store information about what they think might be helpful for you later on — like images or videos that might not be necessary at this point (but may become so later). Clearing out this cache can make pages load faster as well.

 

● Change Your Router’s Channel

This step is essential because different channels have different speeds and can cause congestion on the network. If you have multiple devices connected to the same network, changing the channel will speed up things for all devices on that network.

 

● Change Your Modem’s Settings

Your modem is responsible for choosing which channel to use when sending data out from your network, so if you want to improve performance, try setting it on a different channel than what you’re currently using (for example, if you’re using channel 6, try operating channel 3).

 

● Turn Off Unused Hardware

Another way to speed up your network is by turning off any unused hardware on your computer system. This includes printers, modems, and other devices that may not be in use at the time but are still plugged into the wall or modem port.

It might be tempting to leave these devices plugged in so they will stay connected until needed again. Still, this practice can slow down your computer because it takes more power from the wall outlet or modem port than required and may even cause damage if left plugged in for too long without being in use.

 

● Get a Better Plan

You may only be paying for slow Internet if you’ve checked your speed and compared it to the figure your Internet provider should receive, and the numbers line up. In this situation, you might want to think about choosing an upgrade.

 

Final Words

There are several reasons why your network may be either running slow or not working properly, and it could be that the problem is on your side of the router. Fortunately, that doesn’t mean you don’t have any options to fix it.

With an effective network management solution from Protected Harbor, you can expect a significant increase in productivity and efficiency. You can reduce latency, drop-outs, and other communication issues. You can even improve reliability with a robust and reliable security solution leaving you to feel secure with a best-in-class network security solution. It will also reduce the stress and frustration of network troubleshooting by network engineers and IT managers.

By offering the knowledge necessary to identify complicated issues and provide proactive remedies, Protected Harbor assists businesses in maintaining the functionality of their intranet and Internet applications.

With this advanced technology, your business can have the confidence to expand, explore new markets, and grow its profits without worrying about network speed or outages. You can also view our small business network security checklist here.

Get a free consultation today with one of our network engineers and stop worrying about network issues.

What Is Network Observability, And Why Is It Demanded In The Cloud And IoT Era?

What Is Network Observability, And Why Is It Demanded In The Cloud And IoT Era?

 

What Is Network ObservabilityImplementing dynamic networking infrastructure has become more critical than ever to securely connect with people, devices, applications, and data to support our evolving working environment. What can be the first thing we need to consider for this challenge? We cannot control or secure all kinds of connectivity if we don’t see what is happening in our network. By default, networks are distributed systems, and network visibility is vital in distributed systems. However, can network monitoring be good enough to better network visibility in the Cloud and IoT era? If not, what can be the solution?

Today’s enterprise digital infrastructure is comprised of hybrid cloud and on-premise solutions. Complex operational models manage these technologies, but their operational visibility continues to be a concern for most businesses. Read how large enterprises are securing their data?

The best way to gain network visibility is by leveraging network observability rather than network monitoring. This article explains what network observability is, why it’s necessary, and how it can help you manage your hybrid cloud and IoT infrastructure.

 

What Is Network Monitoring?

Monitoring is a passive data collection and surveillance practice used to measure the performance against pre-set standards. Monitoring equipment has been deployed over the years depending on more static, traditional network environments without frequent changes. However, these tools can be deployed throughout the corporate network.

It offers a centralized view of the operational health of the underlying network and infrastructure. Network monitoring might give alerts based on connectivity, downtime, or service degradation but does not give deeper cause or hypothetical exploration of unknowns provided by an observability platform.

 

What Is Network Observability?

According to Gartner, Observability is the evolution of monitoring into a process that offers insight into digital business applications, speeds innovation, and enhances customer experience. So we should use observability to extend current monitoring capabilities. Network observability is intended to have a deep knowledge of network health to provide an optimal end-user experience. When teams observe networks deeply, they understand ways to solve problems, correct them, and improve network performance to prevent future errors. Here are the main differences:

Network Observability Network Monitoring
  • It focuses on network health from the end-user perspective
  • reduce administrator time to detect root cause and remediation
  • Applies a broader range of information to pinpoint the leading cause
  • provide service assurance to guarantee quality services
  • uses next-generation AI and streaming telemetry
  • less focused on network health
  • NetOps staff handle alerts manually
  • Monitors deviations and baselines traffic
  • Uses proven protocols and tools

The Current Challenges With Network Monitoring

What Is Network Observability And Why Is It Demanded

The rapid shift towards cloud technology and related trends, such as SD-WAN, has changed the concept of network monitoring. Still, the traditional network performance monitoring tools are not keeping up with advanced networking technologies. Here are some issues regarding conventional network performance monitoring tools.

  • Traditional Network Performance Monitoring (NPM) tools do not include metadata or routing policy, network security, or cloud orchestration information.
  • Basic network connectivity info such as IP/MAC and port numbers are insufficient to analyze network traffic securely.
  • The tools can’t handle cloud scalability, as cloud customers produce terabytes of VPC flow logs every month. So Typical network packet sniffer solutions do not work in the cloud environment.

 

Conclusion

As mentioned above, challenges associated with network observability can be solved by implementing a combination of network monitoring and network analytics solutions. These solutions can help you get a high-level view of network activities across your hybrid cloud and on-premise environment. – Network monitoring: Network monitoring solutions are responsible for gathering network data from all network devices. They can help you identify issues that may affect business continuity and performance. – Network analytics: Network analytics solutions can be used to gain insights into network activities, such as network anomalies, performance, and capacity issues. Additionally, the data from the network monitoring solutions can be used to build network analytics dashboards.

 

Protected Harbor Zero Trust NAC can solve the challenge.

Network observability is necessary to ensure that the networks remain secure, reliable, and scalable. It is crucial for organizations that rely on hybrid cloud and IoT architecture. A hybrid cloud architecture, cloud migration, and end-to-end digital transformation are the primary reasons for network observation being demanded. A Zero Trust network architecture is the best way to achieve network observability.

Protected Harbor’s Hybrid Cloud Network Orchestration and Security platform is powered by a Zero Trust Network Access Control (NAC) engine. This network access control engine is designed to enforce a Zero Trust architecture and help achieve network observability by – – Device identity: Identify devices and enforce access rules based on device identity and user identity. – User identity: Identify users and enforce access rules based on user identity. – Endpoint compliance: Detect and enforce endpoint compliance using agentless endpoint compliance and vulnerability assessment. – Endpoint threat detection: Detect and quarantine endpoints with malicious activities in real-time. – Session visibility: Monitor and analyze all network traffic to detect suspicious activities during a session. – Session compliance: Detect and enforce session compliance based on policies. – Session threat detection: Detect and quarantine sessions with malicious activities. – Session compliance enforcement: Ensure that all network traffic conforms to the policy. – Session visibility: Monitor and analyze all network traffic for all sessions. – Port visibility: Monitor and analyze all traffic on ports.

Protected Harbor Zero Trust Network Access Control (NAC) can log and monitor traffic coming from all branches and remote users using Cloud Gateway. The total network traffic can be observed. However, you can only watch and control unauthorized or non-compliant devices.

Most importantly, Protected Harbor Device Platform Intelligence powered by Cloud technology can enhance network visibility more contextually by correlating network connectivity info with business context (e.g., Connected devices’ EoL, EoS, manufacturer) and risk-related information like CVE. Overall, you can monitor and control all connected devices’ activities holistically without losing business performance, so you can substantially boost the success of an organization’s operations.

If you want to know more about how network observability can help your business, or if you want to see how you can simplify your network infrastructure, we’d love to talk.

Network Penetration Testing 101

Network Penetration Testing 101

Network-Penetration-TestingIn an ever-changing cybersecurity landscape, new threats develop regularly. Regular network penetration testing is the most effective technique to prevent thieves from accessing your mission-critical data and systems. Protected Harbor’s penetration testing services simulate a cyber attack on your current infrastructure, identifying vulnerabilities and revealing holes or entry points that hackers could exploit during a cyber attack.

Our network penetration testing services don’t only tell you where and how cybercriminals might get into your network; it also tells you how they might act or behave once they are in. Penetration testing is necessary to ensure that you are on the same page as malicious actors. Condition Zebra’s network penetration testing services put you inside the heads of cybercriminals, so you are one step ahead of them. Let’s first discuss network penetration testing.

What is network penetration testing?

Network penetration testing is a way to stimulate the processes cybercriminals use to attack your business network, network applications, and attached devices. This simulation is used to identify security issues before attackers can find and exploit them. Penetration tests go beyond stopping malicious actors from unlawful access to an organization’s data and network. It helps create real-world scenarios to show organizations how efficiently their current security defenses would face cyber-attacks. Read why cybersecurity awareness for employees is important.

Network penetration testing is generally used to:

  • understand the network baseline
  • prevent network and data breaches
  • test your security controls and postures
  • ensure system and network security

A network penetration test is generally performed when an organization has a mature security posture or effective security measures.

Three steps of a network penetration testing

Planning or Pre-attack phase

  • Define the intruder model (internal or external), enabled rights, and privileges.
  • Determine the scope of the targeted environment.
  • Define the goals, scope of work, source data, and testing targets.
  • Define interaction and communication procedures.
  • Develop the testing methodology.

Network-Penetration-TestingTesting or attack phase

  • Fieldwork and service identification.
  • Intrusion tools and custom scanning are developed if required.
  • Vulnerabilities scanning and detection, and elimination of false positives.
  • Utilization of compromised systems as a starting line for further intrusions.
  • Exploit vulnerabilities and gain unauthorized access.

Reporting or post-attack phase

  • Result analysis and reporting with the recommendations to reduce risks.
  • Visual demonstration of damage an intruder can inflict on the system.

Types of network penetration testing

Network penetration testing can be performed from two perspectives, inside and outside your company’s network perimeter/

Internal network penetration testing

An internal network penetration testing is performed to help simulate what a hacker could get with the initial access to a network. It can mirror inside threats, such as workers intentionally or unintentionally performing malicious actions. Internal pen testing is an authorized hacking attempt used to identify and exploit vulnerabilities within an organization’s perimeter defenses. Onsite access is given to testers via an ethernet cable. They then gain access to critical information.

Benefits of internal penetration testing

  • Minimize risks to business continuity and the cost of being non-compliant.
  • Harden the network against information leakage using current or terminated employees or online data.
  • Ensure compliance with PCI DSS and other security standards.
  • Provide management with exploit proof outlining the assets that an attack can compromise.
  • Detects installations that are non-compliant with an organization’s internal policies. It may act as a pivot for external attackers.
  • Do not add unnecessary security layers before getting an independent attestation on the effectiveness of current systems.
  • Audit security monitoring processes and test your incident response tactics.
  • Detects vulnerabilities that may be exploited to access privileged information.

External network penetration testing

An external penetration testing is performed to test the effectiveness of the perimeter security controls to detect and prevent attacks and identify the weaknesses in the Internet-facing assets, such as mail, web, and FTP servers. It’s an authorized hacking attempt that aims at hardening the external-facing network against hackers attempting to compromise the vulnerable hosts from outside the company’s perimeter.

Benefits of external penetration testing

  • Reduce the risk to business continuity and non-compliant costs.
  • Avoid the cost of adding extra security layers before getting an independent attestation of current systems.
  • Provide management with exploitation proof that outlines the assets compromised by an attack.
  • Detects vulnerabilities that can be exploited to access privileged information.
  • Detects installations that are non-compliant with your internal policy.
  • Audit external security monitoring procedures and test incident response tactics.
  • Get independent security verification of your company’s internet-facing presence.
  • Harden network and systems against host compromise.

Penetration testing methods

  1. Black box testing_ We work in life-like scenarios having limited knowledge of your network and no information on the network structure, security policies, and network protection.
  2. Gray box testing_ We analyze your system with some knowledge of your networks, such as architecture diagrams, user login details, or the network overview.
  3. White box testing_ We detect the potential points of weakness by leveraging admin rights and access to database encryption principles, server configuration files, architecture documentation, or architecture documentation.

Final words

Cybercriminals can target your internal and external network through various sites, ranging from systems and hosts to multiple networking devices. Protected Harbor’s audits identify your current network architecture’s noticeable strengths and weaknesses. Our penetration testing report explains how your security mechanisms respond to various cyberattacks.

We develop a comprehensive and tailored remediation strategy to mitigate cyber threats using these findings. Our skilled staff is ready to execute a network penetration test for your firm, whether you wish to optimize your security processes following a data breach or structural changes or fulfill tight information security compliance standards. Contact us today for a free IT Audit.