Network security testing is the general term used to refer to activities that involve testing the security of wired and wireless network devices, DNS and servers and identifying their potential vulnerabilities. Done right, network security testing helps a business to protect against data breaches by plugging gaps in the network’s defenses.
Network security testing can be done in various ways, but the basic idea is to assess the network’s ability to keep out threats and protect systems, meet compliance requirements, and stress-test the network’s security controls. Types of network security assessment include:
- Vulnerability assessments
- Network penetration testing
- Specific network tests
- Red team testing
- Application security testing
Why Is Network Security Risk Assessment More Important Than Ever
Network security testing has become an increasingly important part of the overall IT strategy as technology environments have grown in complexity and threats have grown in number. Cyber attacks have become more common and many business leaders feel the risks are growing.
There are a wide range of tools and services related to network security, and testing is among the most important is understanding how well a network can stand up in the face of danger.
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How to Perform a Network Risk Assessment
Network security assessments usually start with an in-depth review of the public-facing components, such as firewalls, web servers, switches and other systems. The next step is to analyze the robustness of internal systems that a hacker could access if they breach the first line of defenses.
Some of the tactics that network security testers use include:
- Network scanning: By using a port scanner to view all hosts connected to a network, as well as scanning network services, testers can verify whether open ports are properly configured to only allow secured network services.
- Vulnerability scanning: Testers can perform scans using convenient automated security vulnerability scanning tools that find common weaknesses.
- Ethical hacking: Testers can have some fun trying to break into your network as if they were real attackers. If they find a way to get in, that gap will need to be plugged.
- Password cracking: There are ways for hackers to crack weak passwords (or steal them through social engineering), so the testers will find out if your business could fall victim to password cracking.
- Penetration testing: Pen testing involves comprehensively testing your external and internal network systems that will expose security flaws and entry points that exist in your devices.
- Risk assessments: This is a method of analyzing and ranking risks from low to high, and can help the business to determine where to focus its resources on implementing controls.
There are different methods of network security assessment, and they include:
- Tiger Box: This method of hacking uses a laptop with various OSs and hacking tools. It involves penetration and security testers performing vulnerability assessments and attempting attacks.
- Black Box: With this method, the testers have access to the full network, meaning they can see the full security posture and freely get into the weeds of your network.
- Grey Box: This halfway approach is based on providing some network information to the tester and seeing if it helps them to gain access to the company’s systems.
Performing a Network Security Assessment Manually
While some aspects of network security testing can be safely automated these days, most measures still require manual, human testing and network security analysis to ensure your systems are actually secure. There are several highly effective manual techniques that testers use:
- Monitoring access control management: Access control is a key defense to keep attackers out of your networks. By defining authentication and authorization and then making sure access control is tightly monitored, businesses are off to a good start. Testers can stress-test your access control by creating several different user accounts and seeing if they can figure out a way to bypass the network security.
- Dynamic analysis: This involves analyzing a live network and performing penetration testing. Testers will collect and analyze data, assess vulnerabilities, launch simulated attacks on the network, and create reports detailing vulnerabilities and recommendations.
- Static analysis: This method is used to expose vulnerabilities in network source code that is not currently running. By working with a non-live network, testers can use static analysis tools to find vulnerabilities. It’s a great way to secure the code without having to run the network.
- Session management: This is a type of testing to check if applications are properly handling sessions. Testers will verify that sessions expire after a certain amount of idle time and correctly terminate sessions after log outs and maximum login times.
- Brute-force attacks: Sometimes the least sophisticated methods are the most effective, so testers will try to strongarm their way into your network with simple approaches such as guessing passwords and hunting for information that could compromise the network. Many systems safeguard against these sorts of attacks with limited login attempts, multi-factor authentication, one-time passwords and other methods.
- URL manipulation: Attackers are fond of changing the parameters of URLs in an attempt to exploit applications. Testers should check if web applications are showing sensitive information in the query string that could be used by attackers to gain access to unauthorized information.
Alongside the obvious benefit of protecting your business and its data, network security testing comes with some other important positives. It can ensure your business retains customers and minimizes disruption by keeping the network secure and live, as well as safeguarding the company against the massive costs that can come from responding to network breaches.
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Don’t Take Your Network Security Testing Lightly
Network risk analysis (and cyber security) is not to be taken lightly, and the testing is best left to the experts. Managed service providers can provide the know-how needed to properly stress-test your system and go deep to expose the vulnerabilities that clever hackers will be looking out for.
As one of Toronto’s top managed service providers, Fusion Computing has a long history of performing comprehensive network stress testing for businesses across the GTA. Contact us today to learn more about how best to keep your network safe.