What did I learn in this module?

Security Threats and Vulnerabilities

Attacks on a network can be devastating and can result in a loss of time and money due to damage or theft of important information or assets. Intruders who gain access by modifying software or exploiting software vulnerabilities are threat actors. After the threat actor gains access to the network, four types of threats may arise: information theft, data loss and manipulation, identity theft, and disruption of service. There are three primary vulnerabilities or weaknesses: technological, configuration, and security policy. The four classes of physical threats are: hardware, environmental, electrical, and maintenance.

Network Attacks

Malware is short for malicious software. It is code or software specifically designed to damage, disrupt, steal, or inflict “bad” or illegitimate action on data, hosts, or networks. Viruses, worms, and Trojan horses are types of malware. Network attacks can be classified into three major categories: reconnaissance, access, and denial of service. The four classes of physical threats are: hardware, environmental, electrical, and maintenance. The three types of reconnaissance attacks are: internet queries, ping sweeps, and port scans. The four types of access attacks are: password (brute-force, Trojan horse, packet sniffers), trust exploitation, port redirection, and man-in-the-middle. The two types of disruption of service attacks are: DoS and DDoS.

Network Attack Mitigation

To mitigate network attacks, you must first secure devices including routers, switches, servers, and hosts. Most organizations employ a defense-in-depth approach to security. This requires a combination of networking devices and services working together. Several security devices and services are implemented to protect an organization’s users and assets against TCP/IP threats: VPN, ASA firewall, IPS, ESA/WSA, and AAA server. Infrastructure devices should have backups of configuration files and IOS images on an FTP or similar file server. If the computer or a router hardware fails, the data or configuration can be restored using the backup copy. The most effective way to mitigate a worm attack is to download security updates from the operating system vendor and patch all vulnerable systems. To manage critical security patches, to make sure all end systems automatically download updates. AAA is a way to control who is permitted to access a network (authenticate), what they can do while they are there (authorize), and what actions they perform while accessing the network (accounting). Network firewalls reside between two or more networks, control the traffic between them, and help prevent unauthorized access. Servers accessible to outside users are usually located on a special network referred to as the DMZ. Firewalls use various techniques for determining what is permitted or denied access to a network including: packet filtering, application filtering, URL filtering and SPI. Securing endpoint devices is critical to network security. A company must have well-documented policies in place, which may include the use of antivirus software and host intrusion prevention. More comprehensive endpoint security solutions rely on network access control.

Device Security

The security settings are set to the default values when a new OS is installed on a device. This level of security is inadequate. For Cisco routers, the Cisco AutoSecure feature can be used to assist securing the system. For most OSs default usernames and passwords should be changed immediately, access to system resources should be restricted to only the individuals that are authorized to use those resources, and any unnecessary services and applications should be turned off and uninstalled when possible. To protect network devices, it is important to use strong passwords. A pass phrase is often easier to remember than a simple password. It is also longer and harder to guess. For routers and switches, encrypt all plaintext passwords, setting a minimum acceptable password length, deter brute-force password guessing attacks, and disable an inactive privileged EXEC mode access after a specified amount of time. Configure appropriate devices to support SSH, and disable unused services.

16.5.4 Module Quiz – Network Security Fundamentals