January 6, 2023
But don’t be fooled. Internet security has never been more critical.
So what exactly does it entail, and why is it so crucial for your organisation?
What is Internet Security?
Internet security is a cybersecurity discipline aiming to protect organisations from cyber threats that travel via the Internet. Precise definitions vary, but typically the field includes systems, controls, and solutions designed to protect against threats that arise when a user or device interacts with a website, web application, or email that is malicious or has been compromised by a malicious actor.
Why is this important? The Internet is an inherently insecure channel for data exchange.
Think about it like this. Within an offline network, you have a reasonable chance of ensuring that all users, devices, and data present are legitimate, permitted, and uncompromised. If you can ensure this and then thoroughly vet all new entrants into the network by the same criteria, you should have a secure environment.
Clearly, this is not how modern business networks work.
Instead, users and devices constantly communicate with sources outside the network perimeter via the Internet. These sources can’t be vetted in the same way as internal sources. There’s no way of knowing whether an individual, resource, or device outside the corporate network is legitimate, well-meaning, and/or uncompromised.
To ensure your organisation is protected against threats travelling via the Internet, you must have systems and controls to identify malicious connections, traffic, and content before it can harm your assets, data, or users.
What Threats Does Internet Security Aim to Prevent?
Internet security controls are designed to protect against threats from external sources such as malicious websites, emails, and web applications. Some of the most common threats include:
- Malware. Malicious and compromised websites are among the most common sources of malicious software—including widely reported threats such as ransomware. If malware is allowed to infect a device or system, it can very quickly cause damage, steal or encrypt data, steal login credentials, limit functionality, or take control of the asset.
- Credential theft. One of the simplest ways to compromise a business network is using legitimate user credentials. These can be stolen in several ways—most commonly using a combination of spoofed emails, typosquatting, and lookalike websites to trick users into thinking they are logging into a legitimate system or application.
- Phishing. Phishing is the use of malicious emails to transmit a wide range of different threats, ranging from malware payloads and malicious links to pure social engineering attacks designed to trick users into compromising themselves, their accounts, and/or the organisation. The most common motives for phishing include transmitting malware (often ransomware), stealing user credentials, and manipulating payments staff into making fraudulent financial transactions.
- Browser exploits. A malicious or compromised website can be used to run scripts within a user’s web browser automatically. These scripts are designed to exploit unpatched browser vulnerabilities for a range of malicious purposes.
Internet Security is More Important Than Ever
In the past, the data centre was the heart of a business network. The vast majority of applications were hosted on-site at major branches, and satellite branches connected back to the data centre using traditional hub-and-spoke network architectures.
When a device communicated with an external source via the Internet, that connection was still routed back via the data centre. This is important because it meant organisations could implement security controls within the data centre to monitor traffic in and out of the network and attempt to identify and block malicious connections and content.
This is called a ‘perimeter defence’ strategy, where an organisation enforces security controls exclusively at the point where the corporate network interacts with the Internet—the data centre.
However, this isn’t how business networks work in 2022.
In recent years, two major shifts have occurred that have disrupted traditional networking and security paradigms:
- Most business applications are now hosted in the cloud—outside the network perimeter.
- Users are more distributed than ever before, regularly connecting to corporate networks and cloud resources from home (or their local coffee shops).
These shifts have created a series of headaches for IT and security teams worldwide—both in terms of ensuring the security of geographically distributed devices and maintaining network performance.
Essential Constituents of Internet Security
Internet security solutions must achieve three essential objectives:
- Protect business users and assets from threats via the Internet
- Protect sensitive business data, whether it resides inside the network perimeter or in the cloud.
- Optimise web performance to ensure users aren’t hindered by slow connections to data and systems, regardless of where they are located.
Achieving these objectives is no mean feat. Typically, it involves a strategy that combines modern security and network management solutions to deliver the following essential capabilities:
- SSL inspection—intercepting and inspecting all SSL-encrypted traffic to identify and block suspicious or malicious content before it reaches its destination.
- Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS)—IPS tools monitor network traffic for known threats such as malicious web content, browser exploits, scripts, malware, and bot attacks and block them at the source.
- Cloud Sandboxes—these tools analyse unknown files for malicious behaviour before allowing them to be run on a live device or system. This focus on behaviour is critical because malware variants are constantly evolving and can’t always be detected using signature-based approaches.
- DNS security—malware variants often try to communicate with external infrastructure known as Command and Control (C2) servers. A DNS security solution marks suspicious C2 connections for full content inspection to ensure they are not malicious.
- DNS filtering—blocking DNS requests originating from known malicious sources.
- Cloud Firewalls—similar to a traditional firewall, these tools detect and block malicious traffic. Cloud firewalls are delivered as-a-service and form a virtual barrier around cloud applications, platforms, containers, and other infrastructure.
- URL Filtering—automatically blocking or limiting access to websites and other Internet-connected resources, either because they are known to be malicious or because they are otherwise undesirable for business use.
- Bandwidth Control—enforcing bandwidth policies across the organisation’s environment and prioritising business-critical applications over recreational traffic.
- Cloud Data Loss Prevention (DLP)—providing scalable visibility and protection for sensitive business data located in the cloud. This is typically delivered by a Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB) solution.
- Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM)—identifying misconfiguration issues and compliance risks in the cloud by continuously monitoring cloud infrastructure.
- Cloud Browser Isolation—minimising exposure to malicious website content and browser exploits by abstracting browsing activity away from end user devices.
- Email Security—identifying and blocking email-based threats such as spam, malware, malicious links, and social engineering content.
Update Your Internet Security for 2022
Chances are, your organisation faces the same challenges and threats as most others.
If you’re still trying to meet the security and performance challenges of today’s distributed, cloud-based operations with traditional gateway security tools, you’ve probably already realised you’re fighting a losing battle.
At CyberOne, we can help you redesign your Internet security program to fit your organisation’s specific needs and challenges. To find out more, visit our Internet Security page.