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The ultimate network security audit checklist

Organisations that use the internet and networked devices should take extra care of their network security, because they are more prone than most to cyber-attacks.

Experts project that losses and damage from cybercrime will continue to climb, with attacks ranging from spam and phishing to malware and spyware — all compromising the safety of sensitive data and proprietary information. These attacks can be minimised by performing network security audits regularly.

A network security audit is a review of the condition of the network system to ensure that security risks are identified and minimised or eliminated. It involves checking all the systems and devices in the network for malware and other threats that may compromise the network.

Security audits also check if the users are following the right protocols, as users often pose the biggest threat to the network. The audit is solely concerned with all security threats that affect the network, including connections to the internet.

How to do an audit: A checklist

Conducting network security audits is a complicated process. That is why you need a checklist to ensure all the protocols are followed, and every part of the network is audited. Most of the items on the list are apparent to network administrators, while others are not.

General policies

The general policies are captured in a written policy document that outlines the duties and responsibilities of all employees and administrators. It should also provide an acceptable use policy that states how users are supposed to utilise the network.

There should be a provision for training all network users about how to operate in the network environment, sharing data, and allowing outsiders to access the network. All vendors and contractors should sign an agreement to comply with general policies when using the network. All users should be trained on how to share information using email and other internet platforms safely.

LAN Security

The administrators should strengthen internal networks by removing all unnecessary applications, while keeping unnecessary files away from servers. Only those with permission should access the servers. Anonymous users should not be able to access the network. Robust protocols should be created for detecting unauthorised login attempts.

Further, organisations should implement remote access security policies and limit remote access to absolutely necessary cases. Strong passwords for administrators should be created, and their login attempts should be monitored. Making sure that all the wireless networks are correctly configured is essential.

Password security policy

The organisation should have a written password policy that applies to all those who access the network. All authorised users should be trained on how to create strong passwords and use them safely. The network security team should regularly inspect workstations for passwords that do not comply with the policy.

Workstation logins

Make sure that all computers and laptops have screen locks. All computers should have passwords, including screen locks. Introduce two-factor authentication for logins into workstations.

Remove all unnecessary apps and programs in the workstations. Install anti-virus software on all workstations and disable circumnavigation. Further, ensure that all software and anti-viruses are updated regularly. Activate pop-up blockers to reduce the risk of malware attacks.

Network equipment security

Setup the audit logs to monitor access to network equipment. Document their configurations settings to ensure that they are recoverable in case of failure. Record all the user accounts and passwords used to access the equipment and put them in a secure location. Ensure that the firmware gets regular updates.

Mobile devices

Bring your own device (BYOD) requirements should be introduced for all the mobile devices used on the network. Organisations should ensure that all the wireless access points are secure, and make sure that all devices have a standard configuration to maintain consistency and ease of monitoring for security threats. Further, disable all the unused ports to prevent external devices from getting unfettered access to your network.

Securing servers

Most hackers value sensitive data, so it is crucial to secure servers against all threats. Teams should start by creating a list of all the servers on the network, including the name, users, and the operating system. Ensure that all the networks are correctly configured with a static IP.

It should be ensured that they have proper patching, and test them with anti-virus software. Select one remote access protocol and stick with it to avoid infiltration by malicious users.

Firewall security

Use firewalls and ensure that all the public-facing applications are secured in a separate network segment to minimise the risk of intrusion. Ensure that all the external IP addresses do not access the LAN.

Firewall access policies should be reviewed to prevent access to unused ports. Introduce network address translation (NAT) to prevent infiltration, and implement stateful packet inspection to prevent DOS attacks and IP address spoofing.

Firewall and router firmware should be updated regularly, and penetration testing should be performed to identify further weaknesses.

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