Best practices for cybersecurity and network health in 2023

Issue 8 2022 IT infrastructure

Cybersecurity threats are at an all-time high, becoming more frequent and more sophisticated. According to a 2021 Interpol report,[1] 90 percent of African businesses are operating without the necessary cybersecurity protocols, leaving them exposed to cyberattacks. A cybersecurity breach can be devastating to any business, which is why it is crucial that organisations understand their weaknesses and have a plan to limit vulnerabilities.


Marcel Bruyns.

Knowing how to recognise vulnerabilities and ensuring good network health is important. However, securing a network from outside threats while making it easily accessible to employees can be challenging. What are the tell-tale signs of poor network security, and what should organisations do to secure their networks?

Signs of poor network health

A network with poor security is an easy target for hackers, and increases the risk of viruses, malware, data breaches and many other cyberthreats. By proactively monitoring and responding to threats, organisations can build a cohesive cybersecurity plan with the right policies and procedures to keep their networks in good shape. Even with the right policies, it is important to ensure that IT and security teams are aligned.

Often, IT, security teams, and other employees do not speak the same language. There may be different policies for different networks, a lack of policies, or inconsistent policy application. An IP surveillance network, for example, might not be using secure real-time protocol (SRTP) or hypertext transfer protocol secure (HTTPS) for encrypting communications to network devices, leaving a weak spot for cybercriminals to exploit.

It may not be clear who is responsible for keeping security devices patched and updated, or network users may not be aware of (or following) security policies and procedures. According to the 2020 Security Megatrends report,[2] 77 percent of data security breaches were caused by internal employees – and 83 percent of those breaches were accidental. Organisations should have policies that are documented so all users can understand them easily. It should be clear who is accountable for the physical security of network devices, as well as the updates, maintenance, and security patches for those devices. One compromised network device could compromise an entire network, so every device needs the same level of protection as the overall IT network.

Best practices for a healthy network

Common cybersecurity risks are easily mitigated. Using strong, unique passwords for network devices is a good place to start. Most IP-based devices are shipped with default passwords and default settings; a common weakness that cybercriminals exploit to access a network. Organisations should change these default passwords to strong passwords, update passwords regularly, and use certificates to encrypt them.

Any network device (including laptops, servers, printers, or surveillance cameras) should be kept up to date with the latest application firmware. New bugs or exploits are constantly discovered. Fortunately, good manufacturers post common vulnerabilities and exposure reports almost immediately when they do occur. However, if a device is not regularly updated, these exploits will leave an organisation at risk.

Securing a network perimeter supports all other cybersecurity efforts. Using network segmentation such as virtual local area networks (VLANs), for example, can prevent attacks on individual servers and network devices, while access control lists can help control malicious movement on the network. Proper physical installation of network devices is essential in maintaining cybersecurity. In a surveillance system, for example, publicly accessible network ports and SD card ports can allow criminals to circumvent network security by directly accessing those devices.

A proactive approach

As cybercriminals find more sophisticated ways to infiltrate networks, every business must bolster its IT security at every level. Organisations should conduct network risk analyses to know exactly how well they are protected, how much they could lose if their networks were compromised, and which key assets need the most protection.

Because any network device could be a potential vulnerability, organisations should engage with their technology manufacturers around cybersecurity. Equipment needs to work around your IT policy, and not the other way around, in a way that creates a secure network ecosystem with no weak links.

Most organisations do not have dedicated IT security teams or adequate security expertise to deal with today’s evolving threats. These organisations should find a trusted cybersecurity partner to guide and protect them. Cybersecurity does not have to be daunting: many attacks are unsuccessful, but only if organisations are proactive in their approach to network health and security.

[1] www.interpol.int/content/download/16759/file/AfricanCyberthreatAssessment_ENGLISH.pdf

[2] 2020 Security Megatrends Report by the Security Industry Association


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