We all know intuitively that network security is important, but not many WiFi users know why. What does it mean to have strong network security measures, and why is this so vital in the current era of widespread wireless internet?
In this article, we’re covering these big questions to give you a clear understanding of network security and its importance.
Network Security Basics
Let’s start with some basic ideas about network security that will set the stage for our examples and practical ways to improve your security profile at home.
Definition of Network Security
Network security is best summarized as the set of preventative measures meant to protect a network from intrusion, malfunction, misuse, and the countless other hazards we face in a digital world.
Network security aims to allow computers and applications to function safely and securely without compromising key information or being vulnerable to cyber attacks.
While our focus is mainly on protecting home WiFi networks and local area networks for small businesses, network security is a key strategic dimension for large organizations like corporations, governments, and other entities with critical operations.
From your child’s tablet to your smartphone and work laptop, you access the web through your WiFi network, making security all-important for complete protection on every device and app.
Development of Network Security
To establish a strong system of network security, multiple components, including hardware, software, and policies, are required – there is no universal system that works perfectly for every individual or organization.
Network security has also developed significantly over time, evolving and changing as new threats emerge and more devices are connected to networks than ever.
Routers, firewalls, and anti-virus protection software tools were the first network security methods to be introduced when the internet started in the late 1980s.
Network security has received a lot more attention in the past decade, as several high-profile stories have revealed that even the most high-security networks still have cracks in the armor.
The lesson here is that no network security system is always 100% bulletproof, and we need to constantly keep progressing and improving our strategies to stay ahead of the curve.
Thankfully, new technologies like AI and machine learning have given network security systems more autonomy and self-direction, requiring less continued input from developers and cyber security experts at various levels.
While attacks are now more varied and difficult to predict, the world’s most advanced security programs can learn these patterns quickly while referencing databases that inform strong and agile tactics to the greatest effect.
Network Security vs. Other Types of Cyber Security
If cyber security is the big umbrella term we use for all digital defenses, network security is just one branch of many. In other words, we’re only scratching the surface of cyber security by talking about firewalls and routers – there’s so much more to consider.
The latest frontier in this discipline is application security, particularly the web-based apps we rely on for the bank, work, entertainment, and interaction with others online.
Every application on your phone or computer needs yet another layer of security in addition to network-level protection, whether it’s housed on your hard drive or in the cloud.
There’s also the critical role of operational security or the protocols that must be followed in case of an attack on a network or app.
How does a company respond to a data breach, for example, or what is your recourse as an individual if your identity is stolen online? These are the questions that matter most when thinking about operational cyber security.
Finally, let’s not forget about the policies and protocols we can follow to increase our personal security and avoid falling for common traps that get people in trouble online.
This is largely a matter of awareness and education regarding these topics, using the latest techniques like two-factor authorization (often including one-time password algorithms) to ensure that we’re the only ones able to access certain apps and information.
Why Network Security Matters
Now that we have a grasp of the basics of network security and its background, let’s dive into why it’s so important for you and your family in the modern world.
Personal Identity Protection
Defending our personal information from theft and fraud is usually the first thing that comes to mind when considering network security.
Nowadays, our digital fingerprints are all over the web, ranging from financial info and identification to health data, intellectual property, and so much more.
The trend is clear: If something can be digitized, it will be digitized sooner than later!
That means that network security will only increase in importance as we progress further into virtual worlds and an interconnected future.
Safe Internet Use for Family
If you’re a parent in the 21st century, you know first-hand the challenges that digital parenting presents each day.
Kids are naturally fascinated by technology and want to use apps, games, and gadgets as much as possible, especially as they connect with friends and become engaged in the social aspect of being online.
Network security is a non-negotiable if you want to work and play safely on the internet. It’s even more important if you have young kids on the network doing school, playing games, and accessing the many popular apps of the day.
Not only are there dark corners of the internet where no young person should go, but criminals may also target these younger people with phishing attacks or worse.
You should be sure to talk about the many aspects of internet safety with your children sooner than later and ensure they start good practices early on in conjunction with your strong network security measures from the top down.
The heavy dependence on tech and the dangers of the web for young people make digital parenting a highly important aspect of network security.
On top of network-level security measures, many parents are also seeking improved parental controls to shore up the level of visibility into how kids use the web and set access restrictions on specific websites or applications if necessary.
Home and Internet of Things Protection
With more devices connected to the internet than ever before, network security now goes far beyond the protection of your finances and personal information.
Homeowners now rely on a complex array of devices comprising the Internet of Things, including everything from appliances like dishwashers and refrigerators to physical security and surveillance technology.
Even garage door openers are now connected to the internet, so there are real-world implications for network security that did not exist until quite recently.
Just a few years ago, there were only three or four devices in the average home connected to a WiFi router, for instance. Nowadays, that number has jumped well over a dozen, and larger families with smart homes may have more than 30 devices connected at once!
Simply put, network security is way bigger than the basics like identity theft and fraud – it’s a matter of physical security with real-life implications like never before.
Tips To Improve Your Network Security
We’ve made our case for why network security is important, so let’s get to some practical tips you can apply right now to fortify the digital defenses of your home network.
Find a Highly Secure Router
Not all routers have strong network security features built into the products on a hardware level. In fact, the majority of routers require you to buy an extra firewall and more anti-virus software than you might care to purchase.
Simplify and strengthen your network security strategy by upgrading your router to the best on the market and leaving behind all the confusing, expensive software.
Change and Configure Settings
Once you have a great router with security features built-in, you should soon configure the settings in a way that makes it near-impossible for unwanted access or cyber-attacks.
This means changing the SSID of your router (the name), creating different passwords for primary users and guests, and considering upgrading the security protocol to WPA2 or WPA3 if the options are available.
Clean Up Your Hard Drive
You don’t want old apps and software hanging around on your hard drive if it’s not necessary. They can turn into vulnerabilities or just hurt the performance of your network.
Either upgrade to the latest version and keep using them or uninstall them entirely to remove them the right way.
Carefully Consider Your IoT
The Internet of Things is a highly appealing technology, but you may want to adopt these IoT devices more slowly if you are concerned about network security.
Think ahead about the implications of adding smart home tech in your home and what this means for you and your family. Always use discretion and be smart about it!
A Safer, More Secure WiFi Future
The wireless networks of the future will be more powerful and full of amazing features than we even believe to be possible right now.
Of course, this means that network security will be increasingly important as tech advances more rapidly, so now is the time to get ahead of the curve with the right hardware, policies, and perspective.
What is Network Security? | Herzing University
Importance of Network Security | ECPI University
Application vs. Network Security | Geeks for Geeks