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Small Business Network Security Checklist

Follow our six-step network security checklist to create a holistic security solution to prevent breaches and address issues quickly.

Introduction to network security

Your business faces threats on many fronts, and the more users, devices, and applications you add, the more vulnerable your network becomes.

What is network security?

Network security is any activity designed to protect the usability and integrity of your network and data. It includes both hardware and software technologies. Effective network security manages access to the network. It targets a variety of threats and stops them from entering or spreading on your network.

How does network security work?

Network security combines multiple layers of defenses at the edge and in the network. Each network security layer implements policies and controls. Authorized users gain access to network resources, but malicious actors are blocked from carrying out exploits and threats.

How do I benefit from network security?

Digitization has transformed our world. How we live, work, play, and learn have all changed. Every organization that wants to deliver the services that customers and employees demand must protect its network. Network security also helps you protect proprietary information from attack. Ultimately it protects your reputation.

6 steps to secure your network

Now that you understand the basics of network security, review these six steps to create a holistic security solution for your small business.

1. Closely monitor your traffic.

Monitor the traffic coming in and going out your firewall and read the reports carefully. Don’t rely on alerts to flag dangerous activity. Make sure someone on your team understands the data and is prepared to take the necessary action.

2. Stay up to date on new threats.

Keep an eye on new threats as they’re discovered and posted online. For example, Trend Micro’s TrendWatch site tracks current threat activity. Also, you can have the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT, a division of Homeland Security) email alerts to you about recently confirmed software vulnerabilities and exploits.

3. Regularly update your frontline defense.

To prevent threats from getting in, your business must deploy a strong frontline defense at the edge of the network. Make sure your firewall and anti-virus software is secure by enabling regular updates.

Learn how to stop breaches before they hit with a Next Generation Firewall.

 

4. Train your employees on security protocols.

Train employees on an ongoing basis so they understand any changes to your acceptable use policy. Also, encourage a “neighborhood watch” approach to security.  If an employee notices anything suspicious, such as not being able to log into an email account right away, he or she should notify the appropriate person immediately.

5. Protect against data loss.

Install a data protection solution. This type of device can protect your business from data loss if your network’s security is breached.

6. Consider additional security options.

Consider additional security solutions that will further protect your network as well as expand your company’s capabilities.

Understanding the different types of security solutions

There are many types of network security solutions that you’ll want to consider, including:

  • Access control: Not every user should have access to your network. To keep out potential attackers, you need to recognize each user and each device. Then you can enforce your security policies. You can block noncompliant endpoint devices or give them only limited access. This process is network access control (NAC).

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  • Antivirus and antimalware software:Malware,” short for “malicious software,” includes viruses, worms, Trojans, ransomware, and spyware. Sometimes malware will infect a network but lie dormant for days or even weeks. The best antimalware programs not only scan for malware upon entry, but also continuously track files afterward to find anomalies, remove malware, and fix damage.
  • Application security: Any software you use to run your business needs to be protected, whether your IT staff builds it or whether you buy it. Unfortunately, any application may contain holes, or vulnerabilities, that attackers can use to infiltrate your network. Application security encompasses the hardware, software, and processes you use to close those holes.
  • Behavioral analytics: To detect abnormal network behavior, you must know what normal behavior looks like. Behavioral analytics tools automatically discern activities that deviate from the norm. Your security team can then better identify indicators of compromise that pose a potential problem and quickly remediate threats.
  • Data loss prevention: Organizations must make sure that their staff does not send sensitive information outside the network. Data loss prevention, or DLP, technologies can stop people from uploading, forwarding, or even printing critical information in an unsafe manner.
  • Data loss prevention: Organizations must make sure that their staff does not send sensitive information outside the network. Data loss prevention, or DLP, technologies can stop people from uploading, forwarding, or even printing critical information in an unsafe manner.
  • Firewalls: Firewalls put up a barrier between your trusted internal network and untrusted outside networks, such as the Internet. They use a set of defined rules to allow or block traffic. A firewall can be hardware, software, or both. Cisco offers unified threat management (UTM) devices and threat-focused next-generation firewalls (NGFW).

Scan your network for threats for free with a 2-week Cisco NGFW trial at no cost to you.

 

  • Intrusion prevention systems: An intrusion prevention system (IPS) scans network traffic to actively block attacks. Cisco Next-Generation IPS (NGIPS) appliances do this by correlating huge amounts of global threat intelligence to not only block malicious activity but also track the progression of suspect files and malware across the network to prevent the spread of outbreaks and reinfection.
  • Mobile device security: Cybercriminals are increasingly targeting mobile devices and apps. Within the next 3 years, 90 percent of IT organizations may support corporate applications on personal mobile devices. Of course, you need to control which devices can access your network. You will also need to configure their connections to keep network traffic private.
  • Network segmentation: Software-defined segmentation puts network traffic into different classifications and makes enforcing security policies easier. Ideally, the classifications are based on endpoint identity, not mere IP addresses. You can assign access rights based on role, location, and more so that the right level of access is given to the right people and suspicious devices are contained and remediated.
  • VPN: A virtual private network encrypts the connection from an endpoint to a network, often over the Internet. Typically, a remote-access VPN uses IPsec or Secure Sockets Layer to authenticate the communication between device and network.
  • Web security: A web security solution will control your staff’s web use, block web-based threats, and deny access to malicious websites. It will protect your web gateway on site or in the cloud. “Web security” also refers to the steps you take to protect your own website.

How to get started

Your IT department must be able to find and control problems fast. Breaches will happen. The steps in this checklist will reduce the likelihood, but no security defenses are completely impenetrable. You must have a system and strategy in place to find and control problems across the network.

When you need to secure your network, a Cisco Specialist can help — including network assessment and design, solution financing and implementation, and onsite support and/or managed services.

Ready to get started? Talk to a specialist that can help with your security and network needs.

Want to learn more?

Our resources are here to help you understand the security landscape and choose technologies to help safeguard your business.

Learn how to make the right decisions for designing and maintaining your network so it can help your business thrive.

These tools and articles will help you make important communications decisions to help your business scale and stay connected.

Get how-to’s, checklists, and other tips to help you meet those demands and to help your business scale and thrive.