What is network security management and why do we need it?
Network security management is the essential practice that protects physical and virtual network devices – and the data flowing through them – against cybercrime. The goal of this practice is to reduce security and compliance risks such as unauthorized access, configuration errors, accidental data leaks, downtime, and operational disruption.
To achieve this, IT and security specialists apply software hardening tactics, deploy specialized solutions that plug into the entire infrastructure, and manage access, interactions, and usage.
Comprehensive, up-to-date policies and procedures make this complex job easier because they dictate how everything works together. Policies govern all network security aspects, from access control, authentication, and encryption, to network segmentation, patch management, incident response, monitoring, and compliance.
An organization’s ability to effectively orchestrate these components proves their security and IT teams confidently choose, assemble, and operate the right solutions that amplify their expertise.
Sitting at the heart of the security network, AlgoSec supports these components by integrating with the leading DevOps solutions and leading cloud, network security, and application-dependency vendors, to ensure sweeping visibility, automate and secure policy changes, and provide complete network security policy management across hybrid environments.
Who owns network security management and why does it matter?
Making the right choices at each step of the development – and evolution – of a network security management strategy relies on knowing who is involved, what decisions they make, and why.
The specialists who make network security management technology, those who use it, and the dynamics between them, strongly influence how effective the technology is. It is therefore important to understand how responsibility is shared between:
- Business leaders who set network security budget, direction, and priorities. They can make it a priority to create a security-conscious culture and ensure that security policies and procedures are in place.
- Network administrators who implement, monitor, and maintain the network security infrastructure. They keep measures up-to-date and effective, and monitor the latest threats and network vulnerabilities to ensure those don’t compromise their environment.
- Network security professionals who constantly assess risks, implement security solutions, and monitor network traffic for signs of malicious activity. They also respond to security incidents, which puts them at the epicenter of network security management.
- Employees who contribute to network security by following security policies, applying security training, and remaining vigilant of threats such as phishing emails and social engineering attacks.
- Third-party service providers whose security level influences the entire supply chain. They must make sure to protect sensitive data and resources provided to customers.
- Government and regulatory bodies who design network security requirements and guidelines that organizations must follow; and enforce compliance with these standards.
In reality, things are a bit more complicated. Business leaders strive to avoid cybersecurity incidents and optimize security spending, IT and security teams are constantly under pressure to maintain compliance and reduce risk, employees face competing demands, service providers try to balance security with growth, and regulatory bodies attempt to create a safe environment without stifling business growth.
These tasks are complex and require support, regardless of the role. That’s why unlocking success in network security management depends on leveraging every possible advantage.
What are the high-stakes tasks in network security management?
Network security management tasks cover a vast range of responsibilities, but some emerge as critical in protecting hybrid cloud environments:
- Infrastructure implementation designs, deploys, and maintains network security infrastructure, including firewalls, intrusion detection systems, virtual private networks (VPNs), and endpoint protection. Proper implementation removes a range of exposures such as unprotected data storage, vulnerable software, and supplier security issues.
- Ongoing risk assessment identifies exposures and vulnerabilities in the organization’s network, prioritizes security measures, and allocates resources to implement them.
- The outlines network security expectations and guides implementation. Examples of security policies include access control, acceptable use, incident response, and data handling.
- Access control management uses physical and logical methods to ensure only authorized individuals can access sensitive information and resources (e.g., development environments, email servers, and customer databases).
- Monitoring and analysis regularly monitors network traffic, logs, and system events for signs of suspicious or malicious activity (e.g., abnormal file system activity, suspicious process creation and termination, reading or modifying system files, etc.).
- Incident response planning prepares teams to handle potential security breaches or threats. This roadmap includes steps to contain the damage, eradicate threats, recover systems, and reestablish normal operations.
- Security awareness and training educate employees about how cyberthreats work and how they can maintain network security.
- Compliance and auditing makes sure the organization keeps up with standards and regulations that push for stronger security and privacy across networks and data flows.
Tackling these key network security management tasks requires sustained effort and strong collaboration between stakeholders within and outside the organization. Without robust automation that integrates with all existing network infrastructure, managing a multi-vendor estate can be daunting.
To get all this done, most IT and security teams need a partner, not just a product.
That’s to help them become vendor-agnostic and understand their full security posture. They also rely on us to simplify their day-to-day operations, reduce human errors, and pursue their goal of achieving zero-trust.
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What are the toughest challenges of network security management?
Elaborate cyberattacks and stealthy malware are definitely part of the problem. But network security managers also have plenty of mundane challenges that take up the bulk of their time.
Lack of visibility over complex hybrid architecture
Many of the world’s most complex organizations struggle with incomplete visibility into their overall network and traffic flows. With a solution that integrates all network firewalls and devices, no matter the vendor or network architecture, they cannot accurately connect traffic flows to firewall rules. Finding and fixing issues becomes extremely tedious, inefficient, and time-consuming.
Risky firewall rules that go unnoticed
Without an up-to-date topology of the entire hybrid network, overly broad firewall policies lead to risky firewall rules and inadvertent exposure. This causes the attack surface of the company to expand, and generates pressure from legal and compliance teams to fix this crucial issue.
Error-prone manual activities
Navigating a tangled web of thousands of rules drains IT and security teams and distracts them from strategic goals, thus increasing risks. Companies often lack skilled staff for implementing vital firewall rule changes, which leads to errors and misconfigurations.
These human errors slow down processes, demand extra quality assurance, and complicate automation efforts. And so, investing in comprehensive network security management tools becomes essential in a quest to minimize mistakes and optimize operations.
Operational delays which harm Performance
Lacking comprehensive automation, firewall rule requests take up nearly 70% of security employees’ working hours, causing slow response times and frustrating delays for other teams. Duplicate firewall policies impact network performance. Redundant change requests from stakeholders add to the workload, holding up network traffic management. As a consequence, projects with extensive rule requests drag on for months.
Lengthy employee onboarding
The lack of proper tools for network security management often drags out employee onboarding. That’s because mastering intricate, manual, and potentially undocumented processes for firewall requests can take weeks – or more. This causes a significant drop in productivity during the first few months of employment.
Implementing proper tools with automated insights allows newcomers to dive in immediately, make informed decisions, and enjoy their newly acquired efficiency.
Time-consuming manual change-management processes
Organizations without a clear-cut way of handling firewall change requests wrestle with bulky approval steps, sluggish notifications, and outdated manual access revocation. Not having a grip on managing diverse firewalls and dealing with third-party upgrades adds to the security headaches of a multi-vendor hybrid network. Plus, leaning on Visio diagrams and Excel spreadsheets only makes things messier.
Tedious and painful firewall rules auditing
Manually crunching data for firewall rule reports is slow, tedious, and eats up time. With no automation or tracking, keeping an eye on Service Level Agreement (SLA) performance is a real pain. Auditing rules and SLA compliance without a solid enforcement tool? That’s a recipe for inefficiency and risk.
To tackle these headaches, you must bring together solid security policies, ongoing training, smart tech investments, and teamwork among stakeholders.
Which approaches do network security management pros use?
IT and security managers are constantly trying to find the signal in the noise. They are drowning in never-ending to-do lists, data feeds, and email threads. More data? No thanks.
What they need are contextual insights to identify and stop high-impact threats and attacks (e.g., ransomware, data breaches, illegal network access). That’s why they’re hunting for an all-in-one, user-friendly solution.
A top-notch network security management solution helps coordinate powerful strategies like defense-in-depth, risk-based vulnerability management, real-time monitoring, regular audits, and collaboration with IT and security peers. When budgets are tight, a versatile platform and a strong set of practical features hit the spot.
For example, AlgoSec customers use its ability to integrate with leading IT Service Management (ITSM) and Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) tools, vulnerability scanners, identity-management solutions, and orchestration systems, to evolve and consolidate their security posture.
Which network security management tools are IT pros’ secret weapons?
Motivated hackers study traffic flows and cash in on security oversights; they hunt misconfigurations and exploit unpatched software, leaked creds, lax policies, and weak third-party security. This is why network security owners need a killer arsenal – from policy enforcement to threat detection and incident response.
Vulnerability management, Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS), SIEM, endpoint protection (antivirus), network monitoring, VPNs, and Data Loss Prevention (DLP) tools are also part of the toolkit.
To accurately determine which tools are worth implementing, IT pros need to size up their real-world impact through PoCs.
Where do network security management tools make the biggest difference?
Deployment and implementation
IT security teams require their network security management tools to:
- Be up and running in a few weeks, even in cases of highly complex hybrid infrastructures
- Deliver outstanding usability and integration so teams can easily learn and operate them
- Speed up time-to-market with a vendor-agnostic algorithm for intelligent change management automation, like the one built into AlgoSec
- Reduce implementation time for deployments, migrations, and decommissions – from months to minutes
- Remove the guesswork around rule associations and prevent unauthorized changes
- Ensure faster, more accurate change verification and shorten implementation from 4 ‑ 5 days to less than 48 hours
SecOps and IT also need to amplify their team’s expertise with:
- Efficient technology that empowers a single team member to make hundreds of monthly change requests
- Automation that eliminates human errors and the application outages it can cause
- Quicker request and response time that reduce troubleshooting efforts and
- Accelerated onboarding that puts new team members in a position to fulfill firewall change requests within two weeks of starting work – instead of 3 months
- More time to work on business-critical projects through easy-to-understand dashboards and timesaving automation
- Better knowledge sharing that gives both internal teams and extended, external staff more accurate insights into firewalls, infrastructure topologies, and traffic flows
Visibility and reporting
It is especially important for owners of the network security management process to have:
- Complete visibility of their global security posture from a single dashboard that becomes instantly available and useful
- Full topology mapping that gives them a complete picture of their entire network and traffic flows to each network device
- An up-to-date view of all network security policy risks across multi-vendor firewalls and cloud security groups
- Automated, proactive risk analysis that highlights the risks that changes can introduce and ensures compliance with internal risk mitigation guidelines
- The ability to maintain network segmentation and micro-segmentation accurately with a real-time map of their network
- Streamlined auditing with automatic change logging and audit-ready compliance reports
Automation and efficiency
There’s so much work to tackle in network security management that no organization can have enough of:
- Zero-touch automation that simultaneously auto-implements rules in multiple firewalls spread out worldwide, removing the need to use individual vendors’ management consoles
- Instant policy consistency across devices which eliminates repetitive, manual tasks, and rework
- Intelligent change management automation that uses a deep, vendor-independent algorithm to enforce application connectivity and security policy
- Better, more refined rule requests that allow internal customers to check if rules are already in place before making their own
- Optimized firewall rules with adjustable placement, so most frequently used rules are positioned higher in the rule base and improve performance
- Automatic checks for unused objects or rules which offer clean-up suggestions and improve firewall performance
- Simplified daily operations by empowering application developers to proactively check if an application isn’t working because the firewall is blocking traffic or because the application is misconfigured
Network security management FAQs
What sets network security management apart from other aspects of network management?
Network security management steals the spotlight with its relentless defense against motivated cybercriminals and their ever-evolving tactics.
It takes savvy IT and information security pros with a knack for strategic thinking to shield vital assets. They’re always on their toes, juggling risk management, compliance, threat hunting, incident response, cutting-edge security tech, and policy enforcement. For IT and security managers, there’s never a dull moment!
How do you train your IT and security staff to protect your network from human error?
Investing in top-notch training to minimize human error is a game-changer for network security.
Switching from basic seminars to role-specific, hands-on sessions (think tabletop exercises) makes a real difference. Sharing knowledge, clarifying policies, boosting accountability, and encouraging anonymous reporting of security issues also work wonders.
How do you make sure your network security tools and processes are effective?
There are at least 4 ways to make sure technology spending actually improves network security management:
- Vulnerability assessments and penetration testing (or security audits) that offer the attacker’s perspective on bypassing security controls
- Performance metrics and benchmarks that highlight how effective your tools are and how you can make the most of them
- Incident response drills that capture your team’s ability to react to security incidents and identify gaps in your plan
- External audits and reviews which provide an independent assessment of your network security management strategy and how it can evolve
How can I figure out which network security management solution is right for my organization?
To tackle firewall change hurdles in large organizations, begin with a thorough assessment of time-consuming tasks:
- Evaluating and validating change requests
- Translating validated requirements into technical implementation plans (e.g., traversing multiple firewalls, NAT, router access control lists, etc.)
- Utilizing a broad range of management products
- Evaluating policy risk, from ownership to the reasons behind decision-making
- Performing human sign-off in the process of change control
- Validating and executing an agreed-upon change plan
- Making sure there is enough staff to cover these activities outside business hours
If you can define the problems you have today, chances are you can figure out if solutions such as AlgoSec can actually solve your problems.
What is the importance of an incident response plan in network security management?
In the network security management practice, an incident response plan:
- Enables faster response times to cyberattacks, data leaks, and other security events
- Assigns clear roles and responsibilities to team members
- Helps mitigate legal and regulatory risks by offering clear guidelines
- Improves decision-making in times of crisis
- Speeds up remediation
- Maintains business continuity with clear safeguards in place
- Makes it easier to learn from incidents and improve plans
- Offers palpable proof of the organization’s commitment to security