Network vulnerabilities are always changing and that means businesses are at risk of losing valuable information or income. Though there are new weaknesses appearing all the time, some of the methods used by hackers remain the same. They’ll use tried-and-true methods for infiltrating a seemingly secure network, employing various tricks, devices, and information to get the job done.
Oftentimes, small businesses do not have the adequate security measures in place for their network systems – this is usually because company leaders either don’t have strong security policies, or they don’t fully understand how to protect their systems from potential hacks. Although there are always exploitable bugs and weaknesses present, if business leaders took the time to understand how hackers use these vulnerabilities, they would be able to take the steps necessary in order to prevent anyone from accessing any valuable digital asset without authorization.
Network Security Vulnerabilities
Network security vulnerabilities are weaknesses within the system’s software, hardware, or organizational processes. Network vulnerabilities can be either non-physical or physical. Physical vulnerabilities are those that require a physical presence to exploit, such as being in close proximity to the network or device to exploit it. Non-physical vulnerabilities, on the other hand, can be exploited remotely.
Physical: Physical protection for networks is important to prevent unauthorized access to valuable data. Servers should be stored in a secure location, like a locked rack closet, and access should be restricted to authorized users with biometric scanners or access cards. By taking these precautions, you can help reduce the risk of data breaches and protect your company’s information.
Non-Physical : This weakness refers to anything related to data and software. Vulnerable operating systems that the IT department does not update will leave the entire system susceptible to attack. If a virus or malware downloads into the operating system, it could potentially infect the whole network.
There are plenty of network vulnerabilities a hacker can exploit to access valuable information, but the four most common types are:
- Outdated or Bugged Software: Systems that are not properly patched are susceptible to being infected by malware which could potentially infect an entire network if someone were to find and exploit the flaw.
- Malware: Malicious software, such as worms, Trojans, and viruses, can infiltrate devices or host servers. People can buy or download malware unknowingly, which will exploit a network vulnerability.
- Misconfigured Firewalls or Operating Systems: Allows unauthorized access can lead to data breaches, data loss, and stolen or ransomed IP.
- Social Engineering Attack: Network intruders can use various methods to fool workers into unintentionally giving up confidential data like passwords or login information. One common tactic is “phishing,” where the attacker sends an email that looks like it’s from a legitimate company or organization. The email might ask the recipient to click on a link or open an attachment, which would then install malware on their computer. Once the attacker has access to the victim’s machine, they can steal data or even use it to launch attacks on other systems.
Without the proper steps taken to ensure web security, the network will be left defenseless against harmful cyberattacks such as distributed denial of service attacks. These types of attacks can be catastrophic, taking down databases or blocking user access which would effectively cripple work productivity and prevent IT teams from doing their jobs.
Common Network Vulnerability Issues:
Replacing outdated hardware and software is vital for maintaining a secure network. If the IT department does not keep up with firmware upgrades or patch available weaknesses, it puts the entire network at risk. Devices like routers are especially vulnerable if they are not kept up-to-date. IT departments must be proactive in preventing network security breaches by regularly updating hardware and software.
Physical Device Security
The easiest way for an intruder to infiltrate a network is by using a device containing a virus or malware directly on a machine already connected to the system. They can install the malware quickly into the equipment using USB drives or download codes. The malicious application will either install spyware or a backdoor code that could capture vital information that would provide access to more sensitive data, like keystrokes or the option to view network traffic. By doing this, the intruder essentially has full control over the machine and can use it to gain access to more sensitive areas of the network.
Hackers use various underhanded tactics to gain access to devices on a network, one of which is mailing USB devices with malware to unsuspecting employees. Once these workers insert the infected USB into their workstation, the malware will spread and possibly infect the entire network.
Firewalls are a crucial security measure for all businesses with web networks. They can come in the form of a router, separate box, or virtual device and work by preventing unauthorized access and blocking blacklisted IP addresses from open ports. However, sometimes firewalls upload unnecessary or unwanted services into the network as part of its program.
IT departments need to be aware of the services running on their networks and keep them updated, or remove them altogether, to prevent vulnerabilities in the firewall.
Firewalls also have the ability to block cross-site scripting and SQL injection attempts. SQL injection is a hacking technique that interferes with application queries to view sensitive data. Having multiple firewalls is necessary for segmenting a network containing confidential information beyond the edge of the network, which is more accessible to anyone attempting to hack the system from the outside.
Wi-Fi gives businesses a lot of convenience, but it also poses a big security risk because it gives users access beyond the firewalls. If it’s not password protected, anyone can access it, including intruders who are looking for ways into networks. With wireless access points, network security is at risk because all devices that are connected to the internet can read traffic flowing in and out of the network.
When a company provides a standard password for wireless service, it makes it easy for intruders to gain access to the company’s private networks. By imitating the network’s Wi-Fi and sending employees to fake access points, intruders can easily get into the company’s systems. To prevent this from happening, it’s important to use strong passwords that are not readily available to everyone.
As the internet of things (IoT) rapidly expands, an estimated 20.4 billion devices are projected to be connected by 2023. The IoT refers to a growing network of interconnected physical objects that collect and exchange data – think everything from smart thermostats and light bulbs to security locks and beyond. Each object is equipped with sensors or software that allow it to connect to a system, network, or device and transmit data over the internet.
Although IoT devices offer convenience, some are cheaply made and don’t provide much protection against cyber attacks. They’re also difficult to update with firmware, which makes them vulnerable.
If a business uses IoT devices, IT professionals should buy them from reputable vendors and connect them to a separate subnet. This reduces the risk of attack to the primary network.
Unauthorized devices present serious security issues and can pose many problems to an internal network. USB thumb drives, for example, are small, portable, and have a lot of storage space – making them perfect for transmitting malicious applications or storing valuable data. Even though they’re versatile, USB drives are often not considered threats. But they can be problematic if they have endpoints that can read and execute data. Some examples of these types of devices are:
Laptops and smartphones can be a threat to the operating system if they are not properly managed. They have their own complete operating system, and they can connect to Wi-Fi networks. A laptop or netbook can also use its ethernet port to connect directly to the system.
If these devices are not properly managed, they can run malware and exploit application vulnerabilities with ease, whether they belong to a visiting intruder or a daily employee. Modern laptops and smartphones have ample storage capabilities to store sensitive information.
Recordable media, like CDs, can transmit and store data.
IT departments can effectively deal with unauthorized devices by implementing a security policy that restricts access to certain devices in the workplace. In addition to restricting access points, the security team should ensure that files on work laptops and thumb drives are encrypted to protect valuable data. Finally, no computer should retain VPN or Wi-Fi access because these are too easily exploitable.
Software Security Vulnerabilities
All networks, regardless of how sophisticated they might be, use software that is capable of running a variety of operating systems and applications. If any of this software contains a flaw that can be exploited, it’s only a matter of time before a hacker finds and exploits it to gain access to the network. IT professionals within the organization must be aware of every software application in order to implement effective patch management.
Outdated and Buggy Software
Outdated software is one of the leading causes of network vulnerability which in turn puts your business at a greater risk for a network attack. In order to avoid this problem, the security team should install updates for software as soon as they become available. Furthermore, the business should also perform regular scans for vulnerability as well as penetration testing to ensure that the network security is up-to-date and receiving the latest updates.
Vulnerability scanning is used by security experts in order to detect any potential flaws that an unauthorized user could exploit. With penetration testing, a third-party will attempt to manipulate the system’s weaknesses using the same methods as a threat actor.
It’s also important to have security measures in place for software that the business is no longer using. Content management systems often include plug-ins and add-ons from the internet. These additions can be affected over the internet, so it’s important to keep them updated or remove them entirely from the system.
When employees download software onto work devices without getting approval from the IT department, it puts the company at risk. There is no way for the network security team to vet or manage the software, and it could contain a Trojan horse with a virus or malware that could create network vulnerabilities.
This kind of action is dangerous and should be avoided. If you need to download software for work, make sure to get approval from IT first.
Usually, Unmanaged software is the result of employees who want to make their jobs easier while getting around the IT department’s inflexible rules. Instead of allowing employees to be a potential security risk to the business, the IT team should partner with workers and remind them of the security policies regarding unauthorized software use. This way, everyone is on the same page and can work together more efficiently while keeping data safe.
Security Vulnerabilities from Configuration
Web application security breaches can often happen because of configurations, or a lack thereof. This means that when applications are designed, the default settings are usually configured in a way that makes it easier for the user to set up without taking into consideration web security. For example, passwords are usually one of the default settings that is included in an application.
Despite the fact that these default settings are widely known and easily guessed, security professionals should still change them after the initial setup. This is to ensure that admin accounts have different names and robust passwords to restrict access. Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are accessible everywhere to employees, but if they’re a part of your business, they must have the correct configurations to reduce security risks and attacks.
No matter how many security features are put in place, computer systems are only as secure as the people managing them. And unfortunately, people often make mistakes – whether it’s using weak passwords, falling for a phone scam, or not understanding a security policy. This makes employees a potential security risk to their workplace.
Authentication and Authorization
People usually go for weak passwords because they’re easy to remember, but that also means they’re easy to guess or hack. Even if the software on computer networks has requirements for users to create strong passwords, it’s not enough protection against a skilled threat actor.
For the best cyber security, use password generators to create a unique user code that includes upper- and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. The passwords are designed to be difficult to decipher. If workers can’t commit the password to memory, secure password managers can help them keep track of the code.
Multi-factor authorization is another way to improve web security. This requires a second form of approval, such as a text message, special device, or mobile application. This significantly reduces the threat of password theft.
Deception of Users
There are many ways that people can find themselves falling victim to scams and tricks that allow sensitive information to be accessed. One of the most common ways is through email. Emails are often used by companies to send information between clients and colleagues, but if an email falls into the wrong hands it can be easily forwarded to an external party or contain a malicious web application that can be used to phish for data. To protect against this, all emails that contain valuable information should only be sent to verifiable recipients and senders.
Disgruntled employees are not the only ones who can pose a risk to network security – even well-meaning employees can unintentionally open up the network to attack. for example, an employee might access a file system without approval, read confidential information on their monitor without being aware of who is watching, or fail to verify intruders in disguise.
Security awareness training can help educate employees and prevent some damage. However, it’s also important for the IT department to take measures to increase information security, such as restricting employee access and only allowing users the data they require to complete their job efficiently.
Protecting your business from network vulnerabilities may seem complicated, but it’s not impossible. Every device, person, and software within your company is a potential risk to your web security unless you have updated protections, procedures, and security policies in place. From creating unique passwords for accessing computer systems to vetting devices, there are a number of things you can do to offer significant protection for your business’ network. By implementing these measures together, you can help keep your business safe from potential threats.
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