How to Understand, Design, and Implement Network Security Policies
One of the most important elements of an organization’s cybersecurity posture is strong network defense. A well-designed network security policy helps protect a company’s data and assets while ensuring that its employees can do their jobs efficiently. To create an effective policy, it’s important to consider a few basic rules.
What Is a Network Security Policy?
A network security policy (Giordani, 2021) lays out the standards and protocols that network engineers and administrators must follow when it comes to:
- Identifying which users get specific network access
- Determining how policies are enforced
- Choosing how to lay out the basic architecture of the company’s network environment
The policy document may also include instructions for responding to various types of cyberattacks or other network security incidents.
Types of Security Policies
- A general security policy defines the rules for secure access to company resources, including which users can access certain systems and data and what level of authentication is required.
- An acceptable use policy establishes guidelines for appropriate employee behavior when using company resources, including the internet and email.
- A data destruction policy specifies how long data should be retained and what steps must be taken to destroy or delete it once that time has elapsed.
- An incident response policy outlines the steps to take in a security breach or attack, including who should be notified and what type of action should be taken.
- An authentication policy defines how users are verified when accessing the organization’s networks.
- An encryption policy determines how data is encrypted to prevent unauthorized individuals from accessing it.
Basic Rules for Developing Security Policies
When designing a network security policy, there are a few guidelines to keep in mind.
- Tailor the policy to your specific business needs. When crafting a policy, it’s important to consider things like the size of the company, the type of data it stores, and the network security risks it faces.
- Keep the policy easy to understand and follow. It’s essential to keep network security protocols simple and clear so that employees can easily comply with them.
- Update the policy regularly. As new threats emerge that may endanger the organization’s networks, security teams need to update policies to reflect them.
- Enforce the policy consistently. Network security protocols need to apply equally to everyone, no matter their position within the company.
- Train employees on how to apply the policy. Organizations should provide employees with regular training on the network security policy to make sure that everyone knows what is expected of them.
How to Design and Implement Network Security Policies
When creating a policy, it’s important to ensure that network security protocols are designed and implemented effectively. Companies can break down the process into a few steps.
Assess the Current State of the Network
This step helps the organization identify any gaps in its current security posture so that improvements can be made. At this stage, companies usually conduct a vulnerability assessment, which involves using tools to scan their networks for weaknesses. Companies must also identify the risks they’re trying to protect against and their overall security objectives.
Develop a Plan
Once the organization has identified where its network needs improvement, a plan for implementing the necessary changes needs to be developed. It’s essential to determine who will be affected by the policy and who will be responsible for implementing and enforcing it, including employees, contractors, vendors, and customers. Companies will also need to decide which systems, tools, and procedures need to be updated or added—for example, firewalls, intrusion detection systems (Petry, 2021), and VPNs.
This is where the organization actually makes changes to the network, such as adding new security controls or updating existing ones. One of the most important security measures an organization can take is to set up an effective monitoring system that will provide alerts of any potential breaches.
Test the Changes
It’s essential to test the changes implemented in the previous step to ensure they’re working as intended. Companies can use various methods to accomplish this, including penetration testing and vulnerability scanning.
Monitor the Network
Even if an organization has a solid network security policy in place, it’s still critical to continuously monitor network status and traffic (Minarik, 2022). This includes tracking ongoing threats and monitoring signs that the network security policy may not be working effectively. It’s also helpful to conduct periodic risk assessments to identify any areas of vulnerability in the network.
Security leaders and staff should also have a plan for responding to incidents when they do occur. Consider having a designated team responsible for investigating and responding to incidents as well as contacting relevant individuals in the event of an incident.
The Need for Network Security Professionals
With the number of cyberattacks increasing every year, the need for trained network security personnel is greater than ever. Businesses looking to create or improve their network security policies will inevitably need qualified cybersecurity professionals.
Cybersecurity is a complex field, and it’s essential to have someone on staff who is knowledgeable about the latest threats and how to protect against them. If you’re looking to make a career switch to cybersecurity or want to improve your skills, obtaining a recognized certification from a reputable cybersecurity educator is a great way to separate yourself from the pack.
EC-Council’s Certified Network Defender (C|ND) program, designed for those with basic knowledge of networking concepts, is a highly respected cybersecurity certification and one of the best network security courses, that’s uniquely focused on network security and defense. The C|ND covers a wide range of topics, including the latest technologies and attack techniques, and uses hands-on practice to teach security professionals how to detect and respond to a variety of network cyberthreats. Learn how to get certified today!
Giordani, J. (2022, January 25). Creating strong cybersecurity policies: Risks require different controls. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2022/01/25/creating-strong-cybersecurity-policies-risks-require-different-controls/
Minarik, P. (2022, February 16). Monitoring and security in a hybrid, multicloud world. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2022/02/15/monitoring-and-security-in-a-hybrid-multicloud-world/
Petry, S. (2021, January 29). Let’s end the endless detect-protect-detect-protect cybersecurity cycle. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2021/01/29/lets-end-the-endless-detect-protect-detect-protect-cybersecurity-cycle/