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Network Security Threats & Solutions for Cybersecurity Leaders


Modern organizations face a wide and constantly changing range of network security threats, and security leaders must constantly update their security posture against them. 

As threat actors change their tactics, techniques, and procedures, exploit new vulnerabilities, and deploy new technologies to support their activities — it’s up to security teams to respond by equipping themselves with solutions that address the latest threats.

The arms race between cybersecurity professionals and cybercriminals is ongoing. During the COVID-19 pandemic, high-profile ransomware attacks took the industry by storm. 

When enterprise security teams responded by implementing secure backup functionality and endpoint detection and response, cybercriminals shifted towards double extortion attacks.

The cybercrime industry constantly invests in new capabilities to help hackers breach computer networks and gain access to sensitive data. Security professionals must familiarize themselves with the latest network security threats and deploy modern solutions that address them.

What are the Biggest Network Security Threats?


1. Malware-based Cyberattacks

Malware deserves a category of its own because so many high-profile attacks rely on malicious software to work. These include everything from the Colonial Pipeline Ransomware attack to historical events like Stuxnet

Broadly speaking, cyberattacks that rely on launching malicious software on computer systems are part of this category.

There are many different types of malware-based cyberattacks, and they vary widely in scope and capability. Some examples include:

  • Viruses. Malware that replicates itself by inserting its own code into other applications are called viruses. They can spread across devices and networks very quickly. 
  • Ransomware. This type of malware focuses on finding and encrypting critical data on the victim’s network and then demanding payment for the decryption key. Cybercriminals typically demand payment in the form of cryptocurrency, and have developed a sophisticated industrial ecosystem for conducting ransomware attacks.
  • Spyware. This category includes malware variants designed to gather information on victims and send it to a third party without your consent. Sometimes cybercriminals do this as part of a more elaborate cyberattack. Other times it’s part of a corporate espionage plan. Some spyware variants collect sensitive information that cybercriminals value highly.
  • Trojans. These are malicious applications disguised as legitimate applications. Hackers may hide malicious code inside legitimate software in order to trick users into becoming victims of the attack. Trojans are commonly hidden as an email attachment or free-to-download file that launches its malicious payload after being opened in the victim’s environment.
  • Fileless Malware. This type of malware leverages legitimate tools native to the IT environment to launch an attack. This technique is also called “living off the land” because hackers can exploit applications and operating systems from inside, without having to download additional payloads and get them past firewalls.

2. Network-Based Attacks

These are attacks that try to impact network assets or functionality, often through technical exploitations. Network-based attacks typically start at the edge of the network, where it sends and receives traffic to the public internet.

  • Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) Attacks. These attacks overwhelm network resources, leading to downtime and service unavailability, and in some cases, data loss. To launch DDoS attacks, cybercriminals must gain control over a large number of compromised devices and turn them into bots. Once thousands (or millions) of bots using unique IP addresses request server resources, the server breaks down and stops functioning.
  • Man-in-the-Middle (MitM) Attacks: These attacks let cybercriminals eavesdrop on communications between two parties. In some cases, they can also alter the communications between both parties, allowing them to plan and execute more complex attacks. Many different types of man-in-the-middle attacks exist, including IP spoofing, DNS spoofing, SSL stripping, and others.

3. Social Engineering and Phishing

These attacks are not necessarily technical exploits. They focus more on abusing the trust that human beings have in one another. Usually, they involve the attacker impersonating someone in order to convince the victim to give up sensitive data or grant access to a secure asset.

  • Phishing Attacks. This is when hackers create fake messages telling victims to take some kind of action beneficial to the attacker. These deceptive messages can result in the theft of login credentials, credit card information, or more. Most major institutions are regularly impersonated by hackers running phishing scams, like the IRS.
  • Social Engineering Attacks. These attacks use psychological manipulation to trick victims into divulging confidential information. A common example might be a hacker contacting a company posing as a third-party technology vendor, asking for access to a secure system, or impersonating the company CEO and demanding an employee pay a fictitious invoice.

4. Insider Threats and Unauthorized Access

These network security threats are particularly dangerous because they are very difficult to catch. Most traditional security tools are not configured to detect malicious insiders, who generally have permission to access sensitive data and assets.

  • Insider Threats. Employees, associates, and partners with access to sensitive data may represent severe security risks. If an authorized user decides to steal data and sell it to a hacker or competitor, you may not be able to detect their attack using traditional security tools. That’s what makes insider threats so dangerous, because they are often undetectable. 
  • Unauthorized Access. This includes a broad range of methods used to gain illegal access to networks or systems. The goal is usually to steal data or alter it in some way. Attackers may use credential-stuffing attacks to access sensitive networks, or they can try brute force methods that involve automatically testing millions of username and password combinations until they get the right one. This often works because people reuse passwords that are easy to remember.

Solutions to Network Security Threats

Each of the security threats listed above comes with a unique set of risks, and impacts organizations in a unique way. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to navigating these risks. Every organization has to develop a cybersecurity policy that meets its specific needs. However, the most secure organizations usually share the following characteristics.

Fundamental Security Measures

  • Well-configured Firewalls. Firewalls control incoming and outgoing network traffic based on security rules. These rules can deny unauthorized traffic attempting to connect with sensitive network assets and block sensitive information from traveling outside the network. In each case, robust configuration is key to making the most of your firewall deployment. Choosing a firewall security solution like AlgoSec can dramatically improve your defenses against complex network threats.
  • Anti-malware and Antivirus Software. These solutions detect and remove malicious software throughout the network. They run continuously, adapting their automated scans to include the latest threat detection signatures so they can block malicious activity before it leads to business disruption. Since these tools typically rely on threat signatures, they cannot catch zero-day attacks that leverage unknown vulnerabilities.

Advanced Protection Tools

  • Intrusion Prevention Systems. These security tools monitor network traffic for behavior that suggests unauthorized activity. When they find evidence of cyberattacks and security breaches, they launch automated responses that block malicious activity and remove unauthorized users from the network.
  • Network Segmentation. This is the process of dividing networks into smaller segments to control access and reduce the attack surface. Highly segmented networks are harder to compromise because hackers have to repeatedly pass authentication checks to move from one network zone to another. This increases the chance that they fail, or generate activity unusual enough to trigger an alert.
  • Security and Information Event Management (SIEM) platforms. These solutions give security analysts complete visibility into network and application activity across the IT environment. They capture and analyze log data from firewalls, endpoint devices, and other assets and correlate them together so that security teams can quickly detect and respond to unauthorized activity, especially insider threats.
  • Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR). These solutions provide real-time visibility into the activities of endpoint devices like laptops, desktops, and mobile phones. They monitor these devices for threat indicators and automatically respond to identified threats before they can reach the rest of the network. More advanced Extended Detection and Response (XDR) solutions draw additional context and data from third party security tools and provide in-depth automation.

Authentication and Access Control

  • Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA). This technology enhances security by requiring users to submit multiple forms of verification before accessing sensitive data. This makes it useful against phishing attacks, social engineering, and insider threats, because hackers need more than just a password to gain entry to secure networks. MFA also plays an important role in Zero Trust architecture.
  • Strong Passwords and Access Policies. There is no replacement for strong password policies and securely controlling user access to sensitive data. Security teams should pay close attention to password policy compliance, making sure employees do not reuse passwords across accounts and avoid simple memory hacks like adding sequential numbers to existing passwords.

Preventing Social Engineering and Phishing

While SIEM platforms, MFA policies and strong passwords go a long way towards preventing social engineering and phishing attacks, there are a few additional security measures worth taking to reduce these risks:

  • Security Awareness Training. Leverage a corporate training LMS to educate employees about phishing and social engineering tactics. Phishing simulation exercises can help teach employees how to distinguish phishing messages from legitimate ones, and pinpoint the users at highest risk of falling for a phishing scam.
  • Email Filtering and Verification: Email security tools can identify and block phishing emails before they arrive in the inbox. They often rely on scanning the reputation of servers that send incoming emails, and can detect discrepancies in email metadata that suggest malicious intent. Even if these solutions generally can’t keep 100% of malicious emails out of the inbox, they significantly reduce email-related threat risks.

Dealing with DDoS and MitM Attacks

These technical exploits can lead to significant business disruption, especially when undertaken by large-scale threat actors with access to significant resources. Your firewall configuration and VPN policies will make the biggest difference here:

  • DDoS Prevention Systems. Protect against distributed denial of service attacks by implementing third-party DDoS prevention solutions, deploying advanced firewall configurations, and using load balancers. Some next generation firewalls (NGFWs) can increase protection against DDoS attacks by acting as a handshake proxy and dropping connection requests that do not complete the TCP handshake process.
  • VPNs and Encryption: VPNs provide secure communication channels that prevent MitM attacks and data eavesdropping. Encrypted traffic can only be intercepted by attackers who go through the extra step of obtaining the appropriate decryption key. This makes it much less likely they focus on your organization instead of less secure ones that are easier to target.

Addressing Insider Threats

Insider threats are a complex security issue that require deep, multi-layered solutions to address. This is especially true when malicious insiders are actually employees with legitimate user credentials and privileges.

  • Behavioral Auditing and Monitoring: Regular assessments and monitoring of user activities and network traffic are vital for detecting insider threats. Security teams need to look beyond traditional security deployments and gain insight into user behaviors in order to catch authorized users doing suspicious things like escalating their privileges or accessing sensitive data they do not normally access.
  • Zero Trust Security Model. Assume no user or device is trustworthy until verified. Multiple layers of verification between highly segmented networks — with multi-factor authentication steps at each layer — can make it much harder for insider threats to steal data and conduct cyberattacks.

Implementing a Robust Security Strategy

Directly addressing known threats should be just one part of your cybersecurity strategy. To fully protect your network and assets from unknown risks, you must also implement a strong security posture that can address risks associated with new and emerging cyber threats.

Continual Assessment and Improvement

The security threat landscape is constantly changing, and your security posture must adapt and change in response. It’s not always easy to determine exactly how your security posture should change, which is why forward-thinking security leaders periodically invest in vulnerability assessments designed to identify security vulnerabilities that may have been overlooked.

Once you have a list of security weaknesses you need to address, you can begin the process of proactively addressing them by configuring your security tech stack and developing new incident response playbooks. These playbooks will help you establish a coordinated, standardized response to security incidents and data breaches before they occur.

Integration of Security Tools

Coordinating incident response plans isn’t easy when every tool in your tech stack has its own user interface and access control permissions. You may need to integrate your security tools into a single platform that allows security teams to address issues across your entire network from a single point of reference.

This will help you isolate and address security issues on IoT devices and mobile devices without having to dedicate a particular team member exclusively to that responsibility. If a cyberattack that targets mobile apps occurs, your incident response plan won’t be limited by the bottleneck of having a single person with sufficient access to address it.

Similarly, highly integrated security tools that leverage machine learning and automation can enhance the scalability of incident response and speed up incident response processes significantly. Certain incident response playbooks can be automated entirely, providing near-real-time protection against sophisticated threats and freeing your team to focus on higher-impact strategic initiatives.

Developing and Enforcing Security Policies

Developing and enforcing security policies is one of the high-impact strategic tasks your security team should dedicate a great deal of time and effort towards. Since the cybersecurity threat landscape is constantly changing, you must commit to adapting your policies in response to new and emerging threats quickly. That means developing a security policy framework that covers all aspects of network and data security.

Similarly, you can pursue compliance with regulatory standards that ensure predictable outcomes from security incidents. Achieving compliance with standards like NIST, CMMC, PCI-DSS, and HIPPA can help you earn customers’ trust and open up new business opportunities.

AlgoSec: Your Partner in Network Security

Protecting against network threats requires continuous vigilance and the ability to adapt to fast-moving changes in the security landscape. Every level of your organization must be engaged in security awareness and empowered to report potential security incidents.

Policy management and visibility platforms like AlgoSec can help you gain control over your security tool configurations. This enhances the value of continuous vigilance and improvement, and boosts the speed and accuracy of policy updates using automation. Consider making AlgoSec your preferred security policy automation and visibility platform.


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