Learn More About Network Security Software
What is Network Security Software?
Network security software are tools that track and prevent unauthorized access or denial of network resources through phishing, Trojan horses, spyware, worms, and other vendor-specific vulnerabilities. There is a wide range of specific network security products that help administrators secure organizations’ networks, particularly enterprise networks. This means there is not a single profile for network security software, but rather a spectrum of capabilities tailored to specific security needs.
It is imperative for enterprises to protect themselves from potentially harmful traffic. Many network security tools have focused on enterprise network security, given the scale of the network risks enterprises face. However, network security has become a more pressing issue for SMBs as more processes become digital or cloud-based. Network security vendors have responded to this growing SMB demand by providing software scaled for smaller organizations with fewer in-house IT or security specialists.
Evolution of Network Security Software
Network security software suites usually contain a number of different technologies. Traditionally, the two major components were firewalls and secure web gateways.
Network firewalls were designed to only permit specific protocols and ports to access the network. However, they were essentially ignorant as to whether websites being accessed were malicious. Secure web gateways were designed to perform web filtering and to block websites that were on a blacklist. The tools tend to be used independently of each other and are used to secure the perimeter of a company’s infrastructure.
Recent developments augment these strategies by sharing data across multiple systems and correlating information to better understand potential threats. Next-generation firewalls are able to sniff out malicious packets through “deep packet inspection” techniques. Secure gateways have also become more sophisticated with a focus on web-based virus signatures, not just forbidden URLs.
Another recent network security development is the emergence of malware sandboxes. These sandboxes create a safe environment where tests can be run on suspicious data to expose or trigger malicious content where it cannot impact the business itself.
Network security is also converging with networking itself in unified solutions. New product areas like Secure Access Service Edges (SASE) are driving this convergence of networking and security, particularly for organizations with globally-distributed networks.
Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)
The advent of the BYOD era has also brought more reliance on network access control software. Network access control software protects the network internally by making sure that devices identify themselves on the network in order to regulate access rights. There are also security products that focus on securing endpoints across the network, rather than starting from the network itself.
Network Security Software Features and Capabilities
Network security software encompasses a wide range of security functions. As such, individual products may have distinct feature sets while still serving similar goals. However, there are still some common feature sets among network security software. Network Security software should focus on some, or most, of these capabilities:
Network mapping and visibility
Network Access Control
Network Security Software Comparison
When comparing network security software, consider these factors:
Network-level security vs. endpoint security: Most network security software approaches network security from a network perspective or from an endpoint perspective. If the network is on-premise, and any connected devices primarily remain within the network, then network-level security like firewalls and secure web gateways may be sufficient. However, networks that are exposed to a wider range of endpoints, such as personal devices, will benefit from additional endpoint security.
Network edge vs. intra-network focus: Traditional network security has focused on securing the perimeter of the network. Recently, network monitoring and traffic analysis products have branched into intra-network security monitoring in addition to performance monitoring. These tools may be able to catch breaches inside organizations’ network perimeters, but will be less equipped to block or respond to attacks themselves.
Automated threats vs. behavioral threats: Consider whether the business is also concerned with behavioral attacks on the network. These threats attempt to trick employees into giving malicious actors access to the network. While traditional network security products focus on automated data threats, some are providing more comprehensive protection through behavioral training as well.
Network security management covers a variety of different technologies making it difficult to make general statements about pricing. Firewall devices have a broad range of costs depending on the complexity of the environment. Firewall appliances start at around $100 or less, while enterprise firewalls can cost over $25,000. Pricing structures vary, but a common approach is tiered pricing by the number of users. Secure web gateway pricing takes a similar approach.