Ensuring security in computer networks is a significant issue that requires careful analytical work and utilizing relevant mechanisms to counter the threats of hacking and data theft. The transition to a digital standard for storing valuable documentation necessitates the organization of reliable and stably operating systems with authorization functions, protection against cyberattacks, and other beneficial properties. In order to consider the basic principles of ensuring the security of computer networks and their proper maintenance, it is essential to evaluate the existing tools created for these purposes.
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This work is aimed at describing approaches to enhancing online security, in particular, installing firewalls and network hardening. Each of these stages is in terms of value in the context of virtual security and may be applied to both local and international networks to prevent computer engineers’ attacks and other threats. As a substantiation base, relevant peer-reviewed academic sources will be used to confirm specific hypotheses and analyze findings. The high-quality and comprehensive security of computer networks, which is carried out with the help of modern protection mechanisms, is the guarantee of the safety of valuable data and theft prevention.
Social Engineering as a Security Threat
Social engineering is the method of unauthorized access to information or storage systems without using technical means. According to Thakur, Shan, and Pathan (2018), this principle “is considered to be one of the most overwhelming threats in the field of cybersecurity” (p. 19). Social engineering is based on using the weaknesses of the human factor and is an effective way of introducing into closed computer networks.
Attackers obtain information, for instance, by collecting data about employees, applying for regular phone calls, or by entering the organization under the guise of its employee. Utilizing such a principle of data theft is most relevant when hackers choose a specific company or firm as the target of an attack. Existing social engineering techniques allow intruders to choose optimal tactics.
Social Engineering Techniques
All the techniques applied in social engineering are based on the characteristics of people’s decision-making. For instance, pretexting is the method developed according to a predetermined scenario, as a result of which a victim provides certain information or performs a specific action. This type of attack is usually utilized by telephone, and most often, this crime involves not only lies but also some preliminary research, such as personalization. By acting in this way, attackers can assure themselves of their goals. Another common technique is phishing, the method aimed at obtaining confidential information fraudulently.
Thakur et al. (2018) cite an example when an attacker sends a targeted e-mail forged under an official letter and requiring the verification of specific information or the commission of some actions. This letter may contain a link to a fake web page imitating an official one with a corporate logo and content and offering a form that requires entering confidential information. These types of threats to computer networks are common and require applying for appropriate preventive measures.
Methods of Prevention
The primary way of protecting against social engineering is learning the rules of corporate behavior. Lakshmi and Gireesh (2019) argue that all the employees of a particular company should be aware of the risk of information disclosure. Moreover, workers are to have clear instructions on how and on what topics they should discuss with their interlocutors and what information they need to obtain for accurate authentication.
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Since all user passwords are proprietary, employees should realize that those access data that they are given cannot be utilized for any other purpose, for instance, to authorize on Internet sites. Also, there should be the rule of the proper disclosure of only necessary information by telephone and in-person (Lakshmi & Gireesh, 2019). Such a verification procedure may allow confirming whether a particular person is the company’s valid employee or not.
Thus, in addition to modern and high-quality security systems for computer networks for which large sums of money are spent, simple training may also be helpful. Nevertheless, it is essential to consider more advanced mechanisms for combating hacker attacks, in particular, the creation of firewalls and the effectiveness of these tools.
Firewalls and Their Effectiveness
In order to protect computer networks from sudden attacks and the theft of valuable data, such systems as firewalls have become popular and essential tools in the fight against cybercrime. As Neville and Foley (2018) state, a firewall is a set of software network filters that keeps track of the network packets coming into the computer and outgoing from it. These mechanisms control all the processes in accordance with the rules specified in a particular program.
It is a firewall that allows protecting a computer from unwanted incoming connections. As a rule, such utilities are included in the basic package of operating systems installed in the networks of both home and corporate use. However, those intruders who specialize in database theft can crack this legal protection easily. In this regard, work on creating robust and comprehensively protected firewalls is a significant aspect of a modern technology sphere. Installing a reliable filtering system is the key to information security, and the degree of the advancement of such tools influences their performance directly.
Types of Firewalls
In modern IT security, various programs designed to block malicious traffic appear regularly. Nevertheless, when analyzing available protection systems for networks, it is possible to distinguish two key varieties – hardware and software firewalls.
According to Sattar, Salah, Sqalli, Rafiq, and Rizwan (2017), the first type is installed as a separate device and is configured so that it could work as a door. For such a firewall to work, it should be installed between the local network and the Internet. The advantage of this method is the need for an attacker to first crack the security system before receiving direct access to any network resources. However, as Sattar et al. (2017) point out, such tools have a drawback, which is the necessity to purchase additional hardware.
A software firewall is a program installed on a computer that needs to be protected from network threats. Sattar et al. (2017) note that the advantages of this type are in a more straightforward setup and the absence of additional equipment. The disadvantages of software firewalls lie in the fact that they occupy system resources, and they require installing on all the workstations and servers of a particular network.
Firewall Contribution to Network Security
Using firewalls in data protection is a mandatory practice, particularly for those computer networks that are combined within the framework of corporate access. Despite the fact that, as Neville and Foley (2018) remark, “firewall policy management is complex and error-prone,” the importance of this procedure largely determines the degree of the security of stored information (p. 207). Therefore, in modern networks, a significant role is played by establishing special blockers filtering Internet traffic.
Methods of Network Hardening
The heterogeneity of hardware and software platforms requires manufacturers to protect compliance with a particular technological discipline. Not only purely protective characteristics are crucial, but also the possibility of embedding these systems in modern corporate information structures (Sharma & Chaurasia, 2018). If a mechanism designed to protect valuable information can function only on one operating system, its practical significance is questioned seriously. Corporate information systems are heterogeneous in yet another important respect – the data of the different degrees of importance and secrecy are stored and processed in their parts. Therefore, it is essential to find ways of hardening networks in addition to the aforementioned standards.
The integrity rule as one of the methods of hardening computer networks involves ensuring the reliability and correct display of protected data. Sharma and Chaurasia (2018) argue that this work is to take place, regardless of which security systems and techniques are utilized in a particular company. Data processing should not be disrupted, and those users of the system who work with protected files should not face unauthorized modification, the destruction of resources, software malfunctions, or other violations. Therefore, this principle of strengthening networks is relevant in the context of preserving valuable information.
The principle of confidentiality means that access to view and edit data is provided exclusively to the authorized users of a protection system. According to Sharma and Chaurasia (2018), in case of unforeseen situations like the loss of passwords, the transfer of personal data to third parties, and other errors, data theft may occur. Therefore, in addition to the aforementioned principles of IT security, it is crucial to establish a system of confidentiality that will allow eliminating any attempts of unauthorized access even among some employees of one organization. This will prevent accidental or intentional information leaks and provide an opportunity to control the activities of those responsible for access.
Accessibility as the mechanism of hardening computer networks has some conventions. In particular, as Sobeslav, Balik, Hornig, Horalek, and Krejcar (2017) state, in addition to firewalls designed to protect operating systems, the accessibility technology implies that all authorized users are to have access to confidential information.
Based on the previous method of confidentiality, it is essential to establish such a mode of authorization that may allow all persons involved in working with secret and crucial materials to use the resources of a particular network freely but responsibly. Such a step towards enhancing security will prevent unauthorized access and, at the same time, will be an incentive for individual employees to practice their skills in using networks’ capabilities in a strict algorithm. Thus, all of the aforementioned principles are relevant approaches to ensure the safety of valuable information and prevent its theft or hacking.
Due to the introduction of modern technologies for protecting computer networks, it becomes easier to preserve important data and prevents cyber attacks. Social engineering as the way of stealing data carries a risk to the security of personal and corporate information.
Nevertheless, utilizing modern firewalls and adhering to the principles of network hardening may allow maintaining a consistently high level of protection and saving software and all available resources from hacking. Therefore, the implementation of relevant mechanisms protecting digital resources contributes to preventing undesirable consequences and relieving oneself from the fear of data leakage.
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Lakshmi, V. R. V., & Gireesh, K. T. (2019). Opportunistic mobile social networks: Architecture, privacy, security issues, and future directions. International Journal of Electrical and Computer Engineering, 9(2), 1145-1152.
Neville, U., & Foley, S. N. (2018). Reasoning about firewall policies through refinement and composition. Journal of Computer Security, 26(2), 207-254. Web.
Sattar, K., Salah, K., Sqalli, M., Rafiq, R., & Rizwan, M. (2017). A delay-based countermeasure against the discovery of default rules in firewalls. Arabian Journal for Science and Engineering, 42(2), 833-844. Web.
Sharma, R., & Chaurasia, S. (2018). An integrated perceptron Kernel classifier for the intrusion detection system. International Journal of Computer Network and Information Security, 10(12), 11-20. Web.
Sobeslav, V., Balik, L., Hornig, O., Horalek, J., & Krejcar, O. (2017). Endpoint firewall for local security hardening in an academic research environment. Journal of Intelligent & Fuzzy Systems, 32(2), 1475-1484. Web.
Thakur, K., Shan, J., & Pathan, A. S. K. (2018). Innovations of phishing defense: The mechanism, measurement, and defense strategies. International Journal of Communication Networks and Information Security, 10(1), 19-27.