Securing a network is of paramount importance for businesses in this age where digital information, which is also the lifeblood of companies, travels through the network.
A network security policy serves as the fundamental framework comprising rules, guidelines and procedures for safeguarding the critical data that travels on network and the digital assets that process or store that data.
This article will help you understand the key aspects of network security policy, its profound importance for the company and the various sub-policies or domains that are part of it.
company information flows through networks in this interconnected world. These networks enable the sharing of information and data and allow access to network resources, whether corporate networks or personal computers.
However, this interconnection of computers, network devices, and servers exposes the network to a wide range of threats, which may range from adverse attacks to unauthorized access to the network. A network security policy is a document that outlines on a strategic level how the company will protect the data on the network, whether at rest or in transit.
What is a Network Security Policy?
A network security policy is a comprehensive set of guidelines, rules, and best practices designed to protect an organization’s digital infrastructure, data and information. It provides guidance and a roadmap to ensure the CIA (confidentiality, integrity and availability) of data and resources on a corporate network. Network security policy and its allied detailed protocols and procedures help an organization address and mitigate vulnerabilities and risks to a network.
Why is Network Security Policy Important?
1. Protecting Confidentiality
Network security policy helps protect sensitive data and information by specifying encryption requirements and other controls based on data classification. These measures ensure that only authorized persons can have access to confidential data.
2. Ensuring Integrity
Apart from the confidentiality of data, it is also important that the data remains unchanged and trustworthy throughout its cycle while allowing only authorized changes to it. A network security policy helps prescribe measures and controls like version controls, checksum and intrusion detection systems to ensure that data integrity is assured while in transit on network and also at rest.
3. Maintaining Availability
Downtime on network backbone and devices can be very costly. Network security policies address issues of availability through SLAs, DRP, BCP and redundancies to minimize risk of downtime resulting from technical or other disruptions and ensure maximum network availability.
4. Mitigating Cyber Threats
Network security policies play a pivotal role as a defense line against ever-increasing cyber threats because they include detailed procedures and strategies like security incident response, intrusion prevention and intrusion detection system, firewall implementation and patch management etc.
5. Regulatory Compliance
Because of very strict data protection requirements, network security policies ensure that the companies adhere to regulatory requirements which reduces or minimizes the risks of legal fines and other regulatory action against the company. This is especially true in the case of strictly regulated fields like finance and health etc.
Components of a Network Security Policy
A good network security policy is comprised of several sub-policies, each addressing specific aspects of security. These sub-policies collectively work in harmony to create a robust security posture for the organization. Let’s explore the most important sub-policies usually included in a network security policy.
1. Acceptable Use Policy (AUP)
An Acceptable Use Policy sets the conditions for what is considered acceptable behavior for employees and users when they are accessing the network. It clearly specifies and outlines the dos and don’ts, which defines and sets boundaries for the responsible and ethical use of network resources.
2. Access Control Policy
Access Control Policy outlines how access to network devices and resources shall be managed. It sets limitations for who is allowed access to what, under what conditions, and through which methods (e.g., authentication, multi-factor authentication). Another critical area that this policy covers is account creation and termination.
3. Data Encryption Policy
Encryption is a technical measure to ensure the protection of data from unauthorized access. However, not all data needs to be encrypted. Therefore, a Data Encryption Policy defines which data must be encrypted, the encryption methods that will be used and how the encryption keys will be managed. With encryption in place, the network resources and sensitive data remain secure even if accessed by unauthorized people.
4. Firewall Policy
The first line of defense again external attacks on a network is a firewall. A firewall policy as a part of network security policy sets rules for firewall configuration to determine which traffic is to be denied and which traffic is allowed access to the network. In addition to this other measures like ports and protocols management is also part of this policy on the firewall level.
5. Incident Response Policy
Security incidents are bound to happen in every organization that has digital footprints. A well-established incident response policy sets complete guidance for managing information security incidents professionally and helps recover from security breaches with the least damage.
6. Remote Access Policy
Remote network access helps the work going on without requiring the physical on-premises presence of staff. However, this also means that network ports have to be opened for remote access. Therefore, a remote access policy is approved as a subset of network security policy to address issues like remote authentication, protocols to be used for remote access and VPN usage etc.
7. Network Monitoring and Logging Policy
Monitoring network usage is key to early detection and investigation of information security events. Logs are of paramount importance in ensuring this. Therefore, a network monitoring and log management policy addresses aspects like which security events will be logged, for how long the logs shall be maintained and who will have access to logs. The tools and techniques to be used for network monitoring are also specified in this policy.
8. Internet Access
Network security policy should also address internet access policies. Access to the internet should be governed by the work requirement. The access to the internet should be properly filtered and monitored so that inappropriate websites are not accessible on company’s internet. A proxy server might be used to route internet traffic to monitor and regulate internet traffic on the network.
9. DMZ Policy
Public-facing servers and databases like email, webservers etc should be hosted and deployed on a separate subnet which should be distinct from the company’s core business systems. This will reduce the risk of easy network compromise via pubic points of entry to the network.
10. Wireless LAN Policy
Most of the companies now use wireless networks. Therefore, it is important to secure these wireless networks through use of security measures like proper user authentication before joining WIFI. Apart from that, security measures like those suggested by the 802.11 standard should be considered to increase wireless security.
A comprehensive and well-crafted network security policy is the cornerstone of a solid and robust network defense strategy in a digital world that is continuously under threat from continuously evolving cyber threats that also grow in sophistication and complexity.
This not only helps secure and safeguard information security and resources but also helps companies remain in compliance with regulatory requirements. Having a solid network security policy and its implementation gives more confidence to organizations to navigate the digital frontier with reasonable assurance and confidence, knowing that they have taken reasonable measures to fortify their network defenses against ever-present digital threats.