Many of the worst and most damaging cybersecurity attacks that can happen to a company will involve your network connections. Targets include cloud, wifi, and any other connection between your on-premise and remote assets. For most companies, regularly conducting robust network security audits is one of the best ways to keep your company secure. However, this requires knowledge of the best tools to conduct and facilitate them.
Top Network Security Audit Tools
Building out a successful cyberdefense system requires scanning for and addressing threats to all physical and virtual resources. In most cases, this means regular network security auditing. There are three primary tools or approaches for a network audit in cyber security, including:
- Preventive tools that minimize the threat of attacks ever occurring on your networks
- Scanning services that seek out any threats or vulnerabilities that could lead to attacks
- Management suites that condense all of network security tools into a comprehensive program
Understanding and implementing some combination of these is the best way to keep your networks secure, monitor for threats, and mitigate their impact if and when they happen.
Network Security Preventive Tools
The first kinds of tools that facilitate network security audits and management more broadly are not those directly involved in the audit process. Instead, they are elements of cybersecurity architecture implementation that make audits easier by removing and minimizing risk factors.
Some of the most basic among these are antivirus and antimalware programs that scan for and mitigate malicious software anywhere it exists across your IT security environment.
Others include robust IT security and cybersecurity training programs, such as live-action incident response tabletop exercises. These strategies cut down on the number of events you’ll need to scan for, which in turn makes it much easier to accurately identify network threats or cyberattacks and respond to them accordingly.
Firewalls and Proactive Web Filtering
One of the most essential elements of any cybersecurity infrastructure is establishing a defined and impenetrable perimeter. Companies need to install and maintain firewall configurations to prevent malicious traffic from entering their network. These prevent malware, recognizable social engineering scams, and other attacks from landing in employees’ inboxes or on individual users’ devices.
However, in some cases, a firewall may not be enough to prevent the most advanced attacks. Proactive web filtering works in conjunction with a firewall, scanning all material that passes through and searching specifically for well-disguised attacks designed to pass initial inspections. Removing these files early on diminishes the chance that an audit uncovers attacks after it’s already too late.
Network Security Audit Services
The second set of tools and approaches for network security audits are those that directly scan for and address risks, threats, vulnerabilities, and actual attacks on your networks. Any program that scans for weak points in any element of your cybersecurity infrastructure can be trained to focus on networks specifically. However, critical differences exist between real-time and forward-facing solution response speed.
Internal network security audits may be conducted frequently as part of regulatory compliance protocols. You’ll also need to keep up with your regular patch monitoring, which requires your security team to ensure periodically that deployed patches remain up-to-date, all necessary controls are in place, and no active threats linger anywhere within your network. These management efforts span your initial compliance efforts to adhere to one regulatory guide, maintain it long-term, or map controls between multiple frameworks.
Managed Detection and Response (MDR)
The most comprehensive real-time network security auditing solution is managed detection and response (MDR). It seeks out, identifies, and addresses risks as they appear, with four goals:
- Threat detection – A scan that searches all elements of the network for irregularities.
- Incident response – A mitigation plan, which is developed, deployed, and adapted in real time.
- Root cause analysis – A long-term analytical dive focused on how to prevent future attacks.
- Regulatory compliance – A recovery and restoration project, which is initiated immediately.
Whereas MDR programs traditionally apply to an entire cybersecurity architecture, they can be trained exclusively on infrastructure specifically or prioritize physical and virtual network assets. Either implementation executes robust network security auditing and facilitates future audits.
External or Internal Penetration Testing
Another method commonly used for network security auditing is penetration testing, a simulated attack to study and improve systems response. There are two types:
- External pen-test – The simulated attack begins from an outside perspective, ignorant of a given network’s characteristics; these are commonly referred to as “black box” tests.
- Internal pen-test – The simulated attack begins either from within the network or with privileged access to (or knowledge about) it; these are commonly called “white box” tests.
Like MDR, pen-testing can focus on any element of your cybersecurity architecture, including your networks. Companies may also elect to execute a hybrid test that begins externally then continues internally for a comprehensive analysis and audit of their networks. This external and internal testing is commonly called “gray box.”
Network Security Management Suites
Finally, the last approach to network security auditing involves suites of managed services that guarantee unmatched visibility and control over all activity. Some of these may function by prioritizing network access at the center of all security monitoring efforts. Others may focus on identifying potential vulnerabilities long before they evolve into full-blown risks or actual attacks. In either case, auditing is one piece of the puzzle.
Critically, these systems work most effectively when they are trained on all users that access your networks, including staff, clients, and all third parties. A complementary third-party risk management (TPRM) program will help produce the best results.
Identity and Access Management (IAM)
Companies who want to execute regular network security audits on a daily, weekly, or other frequent basis—and those who wish to facilitate network security auditing for any other reason—should consider an identity and access management (IAM) program. These solutions comprise a suite of services focused on controlling and monitoring access to sensitive networks through methods such as:
- Credential management, such as minimum password complexity and frequent forced resets
- Multifactor authentication, requiring credentials and an asset or biometric-based factor
- Timed access sessions that expire and cut off access until re-authentication is complete
- Authorization controls, which govern user access according to their role or attributes
Strictly controlling who is on the network (and when) restricts access risks and allows for unparalleled visibility. As such, identity and access management helps make auditing a seamless process.
Threat and Vulnerability Management
One of the most widely applicable solutions for network security is a threat and vulnerability management program. Threat and vulnerability management is similar to MDR but places a higher emphasis on continual infrastructure assessment when scanning for and managing potential weaknesses that a cybercriminal might exploit. Rather than responding to attacks as they appear, threat and vulnerability management preemptively neutralize vulnerabilities.
For network security purposes, threat and vulnerability management can incorporate many methods and capabilities from the tools listed above, such as root cause analysis or penetration testing. It also offers optimal lifecycle management for all devices and software connected to or operating within your IT environment to help ensure long-term safety.
Professional Network Security Auditing
When evaluating network security audit tools, you’ll want to focus on the three primary solutions expounded upon above: preventative tools, testing tools, and management tools. Numerous options are available to companies that wish to conduct internal audits more frequently, increase their effectiveness, and minimize the pain of external assessments when they occur. The best way to integrate any of these solutions is working with a quality managed IT and security service provider (MSSP) like RSI Security.
To see just how seamless and how powerful your network security audit program can be, contact RSI Security today!