Network infrastructure is not immune from the schemes of cybercriminals.
State sponsored actors have U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) concerned after a spike in attacks on networks. In April, Sudan-linked hackers launched a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack on an Israeli government network, — and in late 2022, Arctic Wolf Labs issued a warning about a multiple CVEs tied to the Cisco Nexus Dashboard.
As more organizations turn to the cloud and digital-first operations, network infrastructure is becoming a major target for threat actors. While many organizations are increasingly relying on hardware, software applications, the cloud, and other network components to operate their business, their cyber defenses are stuck in the past. 92% of threats Arctic Wolf responded to in 2022 included a compromised cloud component, and 6 in 10 small to medium-sized business (SMB) respondents to an Arctic Wolf survey have a moderate or low confidence level in their current cybersecurity posture.
Network infrastructure is a component that organizations must turn their cyber defenses towards to stay one step ahead in the current cyber risk landscape.
What is Network Infrastructure?
Network infrastructure is everything and anything that connects to an organization’s digital environment. It consists of hardware devices (think servers and hard drives), as well as software applications and network services. If it pertains to an organization’s digital realm, it’s part of their network infrastructure.
This interconnectivity of every hardware and software device is a double-edged sword. It allows organizations to innovate, grow, and expand beyond a place-based structure, but it also puts them at high risk for attacks. Not only does that infrastructure contain valuable, often private data, it can be attacked and taken down at multiple points, crippling an organization’s operation which can lead to costly downtime, reputation damage and other long-lasting issues.
Security Threats to IT and Network Infrastructure
If a threat actor accesses an organization’s router gateway, for example, that can allow them to monitor or modify traffic both externally and internally, depending on the segmentation of that network, which could not only cause disruption but help an attacker make lateral movement and further an attack.
These kinds of attacks, which often fall into the distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack category, have climbed 203% since the first half of 2021.
Poor network infrastructure security could also lead to credential theft, phishing, ransomware, and other sophisticated cyber attacks.
What Is Network Infrastructure Security?
Network infrastructure security is the blanket term for the securing multiple aspects of the network attack surface, from technology to the human element, and ranges from software like antivirus programs and privileged access management solutions to more robust setups like managed detection and response (MDR) solutions or an in-house security operations center (SOC).
Other network infrastructure security measures commonly include:
- Network segmentation
- Lateral communication limitations
- Encryption across network devices
- Access restrictions
- Network hardening measures
While infrastructure security looks different depending on an organization’s business and security needs, what’s important is that an organization understands that their environment needs protection in multiple ways, at multiple points. Organizations need to move beyond a firewall approach that just protects exterior boundaries, especially as complex networks and cloud-first environments all but dissolve those boundaries.
While threats are constant, every organization can take solid steps to further their security journey and increase their network infrastructure’s security posture.
How to Secure Your Network Infrastructure
Perform periodic vulnerability scans and establish patching procedures
Vulnerable internet-facing servers provide attackers with easy targets for initial compromise. You should consider vulnerability scanning tools that can identify critical vulnerabilities on your systems. Before doing so, however, establish a formal vulnerability scanning and patching policy. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, but some issues to consider include:
- How often should you run vulnerability scanning tools?
- If a fix is available for an identified vulnerability, how soon can you apply the patch?
- How would you prioritize patching when multiple vulnerabilities identified
Learn more about vulnerability remediation.
Enforce strict access controls
By utilizing access controls, a technique that limits who can access what within an environment, an organization can not only prevent a threat actor from accessing their network but can also prevent lateral movement if an incident occurs. Common access controls include multi-factor authentication (MFA), zero trust network access (ZTNA) , and utilizing principle of least privilege (PoLP).
- Enable network level authentication (NLA)
Exposed remote desktop protocol (RDP) connections are also commonly used by attackers for initial compromise. All internet-facing servers accessible via RDP should be configured to require NLA for RDP sessions. This forces a user to complete an authentication challenge prior to receiving the Windows logon screen.
- Create network segmentation
Network segmentation, or the division of an organization’s network architecture into subnets, allows network or IT administrators to create policies to control how traffic flows within these subnets, as well as create other granular controls. This can prevent unauthorized users from accessing specific network-connected resources like databases and applications and creates micro-perimeters around critical assets and network components, isolating each from the other.
- Monitor your network 24×7 with network monitoring tools
Cyber attacks don’t happen during regular business hours. Monitoring your network around-the-clock is critical to staying safe in today’s threat landscape, so it’s imperative to employ technology and people that can do exactly that. Network telemetry, or the information gathered from network monitoring, allows your organization to not only see what’s happening but understand where risks may be present within the network.
Learn more about network monitoring.
Effective security operations are necessary to continuously monitor data centers and servers, user login activity, SaaS applications, cloud workloads, email systems, and managed laptops and other endpoints. A SOC enables IT to correlate events across multiple, disparate systems to extract actionable intelligence that aids effective threat detection and response.
Unfortunately, operating and staffing a fully operational SOC can become very expensive, further complicating the problem for small and medium-sized enterprises. In that case, a partnership may be the best option for an organization’s needs.
Explore how a security operations solution can transform your network infrastructure security.
Better understand what proactive cybersecurity looks like with our guide.