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March 2, 2015
by Joel Njoroge

Network security is a broad and complex topic

In its bare-bones form, network security consists of policies and provisions that control access and monitor unauthorized access to computer networks.

The advent of the Internet and its wide spread embracement has definitely made a remarkable contribution in the way people interact and conduct business in the last couple of decades. The proliferation of social networking, the Internet of Things (IoT), among other developments, holds even a bigger promise in revolutionizing the human life.

The challenge

However, these advancements in technology and interconnectivity also pose some serious challenges: How to keep the promised "train rolling" with all of its benefits, while at the same time keeping the bad guys from derailing it. Both of these objectives are the core of network security.

Network security is therefore concerned with performing activities that are designed to protect the computer network, so that the network and its data remains usable, reliable and integral for those well intentioned, and keeps away potential threats from accessing and spreading on the network.

How network security makes you more secure

Among the many network threats that network security seeks to deal with today include:

  • Virus and Spyware
  • Hackers
  • Denial of Service Attacks
  • Data Breaches
  • Identity and Information Theft

A network security system consists of policies, specialized hardware and software that perform complex functions to deter intrusion and unauthorized access, while at the same time, ensuring that authorized persons have adequate access to the network and the resources they need.

Mitigating risk  

When it comes to network security, there is nothing like fool-proof security. In network security there are two extremes: absolute security and absolute access. The closest we can get to an absolutely secure machine is one that is unplugged from the network, power supply, locked in a box, and completely disconnected from anything in your office. Unfortunately, such a machine does not exist if you're actually using it. A machine with absolute access, on the other hand, is extremely convenient to use. It is simply there, and will give out whatever information it has, and do whatever it is told, without questions, authorization, passwords, or any other type of authentication. Unfortunately, this extreme is also not very likely. 

Providing network security is all about managing risks and vulnerabilities. This is no different from our daily lives. We constantly make choices about what risks we are willing to accept. When we get in a car and drive to work every day, there are certain risks that we are taking. There is always a possibility that something completely out of control may happen, and cause us to become part of an accident, for instance. We could play it safer by opting to walk instead. But, of course, in this scenario, we take the risk of driving because of the convenience it offers.

Similarly, when it comes to network security, organizations need to decide where between the two extremes of total security and total access they need to be.  Network security policies will then need to be defined to achieve this and the right hardware and software deployed to implement such policies.

It is important to note that because of the many changes taking place, network security is not a one-off activity. Organizations must develop network security policies that are flexible and keep pace with the various changes taking place in the industry to ensure that they have the ability to control and monitor what is going on in their entire network at any given time.

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