In network security, network vulnerabilities are gaps or underlying weaknesses in the existing system.
This unfortunately creates an opportunity for different types of network security threats and risks that hackers will capitalize on in order to compromise, steal or otherwise corrupt your information.
Cyber security vulnerabilities are an essential area to be aware of when reviewing your IT infrastructure. You need to be aware of gaps in your hardware, software, and even processes, because there are different types of attacks in network security—and almost all of them exploit underlying information security vulnerabilities.
In this blog, we’re going to explain the most common types of vulnerabilities in network security so that you can learn to avoid them.
1. Outdated Software
Although updates can get troublesome at times, they’re a crucial step that protects you from emerging software vulnerability issues.
Developers and software vendors regularly release new versions of their apps to add new features, ensure their compatibility with newer systems, or resolve identified issues.
From the operating system on your workstations to the mobile app your employees use, updating these programs is your responsibility. Without these updates, it creates network security vulnerabilities that can be exploited with malicious intent to hijack your systems or access your sensitive information.
While software updates can now be automated, a lot of software platforms still require manual searches and application of these updates and fixes.
A case in point: CVE-2022-3075 for the Google Chrome internet browser. This was a single high-severity vulnerability caused by a problem with one of its runtime libraries. Shortly after it was reported, Google released an emergency update for users across all supported devices.
As with any other business solution, network security strategies are unique to each company adopting them.
This starts with the setup of your infrastructure, with manual configuration playing an important part in your resiliency against cyber threats and vulnerabilities.
The manual part, handled by humans, opens up the rest of the network to the possibility of a security risk.
Another example of a simple misconfiguration causing severe security vulnerabilities is the 2020 data breach that compromised 440 million records from cosmetics company Estee Lauder. The breach included sensitive data such as user information, CMS content, middleware, and even the company’s production logs.
IT experts then pointed out the cause of the incident: Microsoft cloud databases were not configured to be password-protected.
To avoid these types of vulnerabilities in network security, it’s important for companies to deploy proper security tools and technologies. An industry best practice that helps address misconfiguration risks is a full vulnerability management program, with a third-party security company usually in charge.
3. Stolen User Credentials or Insufficient Password Protection
Passwords ensure that only qualified personnel can access parts of your IT infrastructure, making it a potential source of network vulnerabilities.
However, modern technologies mean that longer and stronger passwords are now needed.
The Virginia-based cybersecurity company Hive Systems annually releases a table to give users an idea of how long it takes to forcefully guess your password using the brute force method. For example, an alphanumeric and symbolic password with eight characters can be cracked within eight hours.
On the other hand, an 18-character password can take about 438 million years to guess by force.
Aside from brute force, there are other exploits available against your user credentials. Aside from training people to use and store a long and strong password, there are technological solutions to help protect your company.
An increasingly popular option is the use of multifactor authentication (MFA) policies that require a registered device or a biometric pass on top of the traditional username-password combination.
While the previous example of network vulnerabilities focused on the human aspect of access control. This section tackles organizational issues that create cyber vulnerabilities and expose companies to risk.
Some companies tend to generalize how they approach user access and security, creating one of the most common network vulnerabilities. Employees gain access to areas of the company’s system through their work and personal devices. Yet, most of them aren’t even aware how often their devices are doing it.
Should these employee accounts get compromised, the extent of the cyber threats resulting from a breach would be substantial.
The three most common forms of unauthorized access include the following:
Tailgating or piggybacking. This is when someone accesses your network illegally after a valid attempt. For example, one employee logs into your system only for another, unauthorized user to access confidential files.
Phishing attacks. Phishing is a form of social engineering and can be classified as fraudulent activity. It entails stealing confidential information like credit card numbers and login credentials. Emails or other electronic communications are used to pose as reputable businesses.
Use of fraudulent access information. This involves the use of inaccurate or outdated information such as location or age to gain access to a network.
One industry practice to prevent these types of network security vulnerabilities is the adoption of the principle of least privilege (POLP). This cyber security concept is built on the idea that users only need access to areas of the network that are relevant to their job.
Not only does it mitigate risks and isolate different departments of your company, but controlling user access makes it easier to monitor your network traffic and data access.
In addition, regularly performing penetration testing can help you identify areas where your cyber security measures are weakest.
5. Mobile Device Vulnerabilities
With the pandemic necessitating remote work, mobile devices have become a part of businesses.
In fact, even before the pandemic, about 75% of the US workforce had been using their mobile phones for work—often as a part of a company’s bring your own device (BYOD) policy.
The term “mobile device” now includes all individual networked assets such as smartphones, laptops, tablets, and even wearable devices, although definitions vary.
There is a particular line of defense, often integrated into modern cyber security strategies, focused on mobile devices. Endpoint detection and response (EDR) refers to a set of monitoring and security tools focused on access points such as end-user devices.
Using a combination of event-based responses and machine learning, EDR prevents various types of malware from entering your system—right from the endpoints of your system.
Cloud networks generally follow what is known as the “Shared Responsibility Model.”
This means that keeping a network safe from different types of attacks in network security is the responsibility of the cloud provider and the client company.
While this sounds intuitive, a lot of companies actually misunderstand their role in keeping outsiders from leaking and stealing data from their IT infrastructure. Having the right mindset commands the right behavior in managing files and providing access to users.
In adopting full cloud work or hybrid setups, there should be enough considerations in developing a cyber security strategy between different environments. It is worth noting that traditional security measures will no longer work in a cloud-based setup.
Cyber vulnerabilities under this category are more commonly known as “runtime threats,” a broad term that encompasses gaps that affect your system once it’s already running.
Deploying a system without fully understanding the shared responsibility model often leads to client organizations assuming that the cloud provider covers all aspects of cyber security and network maintenance.
Defend Yourself from Cyber Security Vulnerabilities
No cyber security platform is perfect. It is a continuing process of assessment and improvement, finding gaps and addressing them. In fact, the six vulnerabilities described above are not exclusive threats that can be addressed separately—you need a full cybersecurity strategy that can handle all of them, all at once.
To ensure that your files, information, and reputation remain safe in the digital age, get a reliable partner like Steady Networks.
Steady Networks is a top IT services provider across Albuquerque and Santa Fe, offering reliable cyber security solutions local businesses trust. Call Steady Networks now!