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Network Security for Small Businesses

network security small business

Big businesses and small ones alike have to take network security seriously. Data breaches at major companies make the news, but small ones are targets too. Data thieves assume smaller networks don't have as much protection as big enterprises. They're often right.

Security is complicated

It isn't easy to keep a network secure with limited resources. No single measure can stop all threats. A multi-layered approach is necessary. The job includes filtering email, installing malware protection on devices, setting up firewall protection, patching software, and scanning for active threats.

Many tools are available to protect small and medium businesses. A lot of these tools are optimized for specific devices and software environments. Using a generous selection of them theoretically offers the best protection. However, it's a lot of work to manage all these tools, and their costs can add up quickly. A more practical approach is a unified security strategy, choosing a small number of tools that do a broad range of work. It's easier to manage them, and there's less chance of leaving something important unprotected.

Some tools cost money, and others are free. Many of the free ones are very good, but paid ones come with better support. With a constantly changing array of threats, it's important to have defenses that get frequent updates.

Employees need security training so they won't make too many mistakes. Most security incidents are at least partly due to human error. People need to learn how to secure their accounts and avoid being tricked.

Next-generation firewalls

A next-generation firewall, or NGFW, offers more kinds of protection than a traditional one. It doesn't just guard against specific types of data packets, but gets down to the application level. It recognizes threats to specific applications, such as Web servers and chatbots. They rely on threat intelligence to spot known patterns, as well as behavior analysis to catch zero-day threats. Many use machine learning to identify threats adaptively.

An example is the Cisco 5500-X NGFW series. It comes in a range of sizes, including ones appropriate for SMBs. It goes even beyond the normal definition of an NGFW, providing threat prevention and mitigation, malware protection, VPN services, and mobile device support. It includes an open API so developers can add custom extensions.

Network monitoring

Constant monitoring lets administrators catch system failures and misbehavior quickly. Many approaches are available. Cloud-based services can monitor a network and identify suspicious traffic. Internal monitoring is easier to set up, though attacks on the network can make it fail. It can ping services, watch logs, and report anything out of the ordinary.

Nagios is a very popular free, open-source internal monitoring package. It tracks infrastructure components and sends alerts when they fail. It uses a modular architecture, so administrators can enable the features they need. Some add-ons require paid licenses. Available features include security log monitoring and plugins to check specific risks.

Endpoint protection

User devices that connect directly to the Internet are especially exposed to risks. They run a lot of different software, so they're open to many kinds of attacks. Endpoint protection, aka edge protection, specializes in keeping them safe. It includes anti-malware software, packet filters, reporting of suspicious access attempts, and more.

It's not the same as individual device protection. Endpoint protection treats all the endpoints as an attack surface and makes sure there are no gaps in the defense.

McAfee Device Security is an example of endpoint protection. It allows management of endpoint security from the cloud or an on-premises console. It handles all types of devices, building on and enhancing the security features they already contain. It hardens devices against threats and provides analytics to detect possible problems.

Taking security seriously

No business is too small to be attacked. Even ones with little in the way of assets to steal can become jumping-off points for attacks on high-value networks. A well-trained workforce and a good set of security tools will keep the risk low. A consistent commitment to security by the entire business will make sure they won't be caught sleeping.

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