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Security made simple: Network vs cyber vs information

4-19-18 Blog Graphic

You know what they say: Good things come in threes. After all, there are the three little pigs, the three French hens and the three ingredients in a BLT. The rule of threes applies to your IT solutions, too. The security protections employed by organizations to protect technological assets fall into three distinct categories: network security, cybersecurity and information security.

To the uninitiated, those terms might seem like three ways to describe the same thing, but they’re actually quite different. A high-performing security infrastructure should be multifaceted, which means various devices and systems must work together to address various aspects of your business’ digital security. Here’s what each area encompasses and how they all work together to create the three dimensions of business security.

Network security

Information is at its most vulnerable when in transit between devices and networks, as it’s at this point that hackers will try to intercept unprotected transfers, steal data, and install malware and viruses. Network security fortifies networks against these kinds of malicious intrusions while implementing access controls so unauthorized users can’t take up your bandwidth.

Popular controls under the network security umbrella include firewalls, virtual private networks (VPNs), anti-malware software, and intrusion detection and prevention systems (IDS/IPS). You’re probably already familiar with anti-malware software, but let’s quickly run through the others.

Firewalls are software or firmware products that dictate the type of traffic allowed on your network. Using a predetermined set of rules, firewalls examine incoming and outgoing data packets to prevent suspicious activity. A firewall won’t keep you safe when you log into networks from other locations, however—that’s where VPNs come in. VPNs create a secure, private connection when users access networks remotely, thereby ensuring that anyone attempting access via a public Wi-Fi hot spot can’t spy on your data.

And that leads us to IDS/IPS. In some ways, IPS is very similar to a firewall, albeit a bit more sophisticated. Both follow a set of rules governing when to allow data inside the network, but IPS rules may be much more advanced. For instance, an IPS may look at how current data packets correlate over time.

Although IDS is often rolled in with IPS, it actually has its own distinct function. The main job of an IDS device is to monitor network activity and report abnormalities. An IDS examines traffic at many points on the network to detect malware infections, disallowed applications, data leakage and unauthorized clients.

Thorough IT solutions will use some combination of these tools to make sure all aspects of network security are addressed.

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Cybersecurity

Next in the security trifecta is cybersecurity, which includes the policies, training and tools human users have at their disposal to prevent malicious attacks. For instance, hosting an informational IT support session to raise your team’s awareness of the dangers of phishing emails would be part of your organization’s cybersecurity strategy.

Although it’s tempting to think of security as the exclusive domain of machines and the IT support technicians who configure them, you probably have a lot more control over your cybersecurity than you think. In fact, individuals play a huge role in preventing malicious activity—hackers have found that human error is one of the most reliable ways into networks and other assets. Uneducated, unthinking or naive employees are behind some of the largest hacks in history.

What’s more, cybercrime is only getting more sophisticated. Today’s hackers use complex social engineering tactics to trick human actors into doing their bidding, whether that involves giving up their network password or divulging intimate details about a business’ inner workings. Educating your team members and keeping them up to date on the latest hacking techniques lets users pick up where technology leaves off.

Information security

Information security is pretty much what it sounds like: The IT solutions used to protect the physical and digital data that resides on your servers, in the cloud and inside devices.

A robust information security approach safeguards against improper data access by both external actors and unauthorized users inside your organization. It also maintains data integrity, essentially preventing unsanctioned modifications and deletions. The last function simply ensures that data is available when authorized users need it, and that necessary updates and maintenance are performed in a timely manner. These three areas are often referred to by the abbreviation CIA, which stands for confidentiality, integrity and availability.

One of the most popular information controls is encryption, a technique that keeps data under lock and key—literally. Data encoded with encryption techniques can only be viewed with the correct encryption key, which protects it while in transit as well as while sitting on servers and clouds. This is one of the most important steps you can take to guard against ransomware attacks, since stolen encrypted data is not as easily exploited.

Other security IT solutions that fall under information security include developing a response plan to react to security events and completing risk management assessments to identify and address technology vulnerabilities.

As you can see, it takes more than one layer to build a complete security strategy, and that means you have your work cut out when it comes to securing your company’s tech. Luckily, you’re not alone. Our technology resources center is chock-full of downloadable e-books, infographics and other IT support to quickly get you up to speed and help you address lingering security issues. With MyITpros, ensuring your company’s IT security can be as easy as 1-2-3!

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