11 Clear Signs Your Network Security Needs Updating – ASAP!

When was the last time you evaluated your organisation’s network for functionality and security? Be honest!

Signs that you need to update your network, network security, and network monitoring solutions aren’t always obvious. But not keeping your network up to date, especially in the security stakes, can have dire consequences.

So here are 11 signs that you may need to update, or completely overhaul, your network and its security provisions.

Your Firewall is Over 5 Years Old

They don’t always look it, but firewalls are complex bits of kit that are crucial to keeping your network safe. Not all firewalls are built alike, and newer models will generally be better equipped to fight off recent nasties.

Unlike more basic bits of machinery, firewalls aren’t just something that you can keep using until it breaks. By and large, a firewall’s defensive power depends on its recency, so if your firewall is too old, it probably won’t be keeping you as safe as you might like.

Our rule of thumb is to replace firewalls once they reach 5 years old. This isn’t some arbitrary Logan’s Run-esque rule to keep firewall providers in business, either. A lot happens in terms of security threats – and the means to fight those threats – in a mere year, never mind a whole half-decade.

Another clear sign that you need a new firewall is when your firewall vendor doesn’t support your firewall’s particular model anymore. When that happens, the writing is truly on the wall – upgrade, pronto!

Your Business Has Grown or Changed Rapidly

When organisations undergo rapid growth or change, teams are often so busy dealing with changes to human resources that reassessing IT systems’ fitness for post-change purpose often gets left behind. As long as the tech “just works”, it sometimes gets square-pegged into newly rounded holes.

Nowhere was this seen more readily than the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, when businesses were suddenly tasked with finding new and inventive ways for teams to work from home, often in ways that “just worked” – security and optimisation be damned!

If you’ve recently undergone some kind of business or technical transformation, it’s well worth investigating your network’s suitability and security posture once the dust has settled.

You’re Still Using the Same COVID-19 Remote Working “Sticking Plasters”

Let’s explore those emergency COVID-19-related remote working solutions for a moment. If you are still offering remote working arrangements for your team, are you using the same awkward IT “sticking plasters” as you were back in March 2020? Or have your remote working measures matured since then?

It goes without saying that secure, optimised remote working tech has come on in leaps and bounds since the pandemic. If your own remote working arrangements haven’t changed much in the past few years, it’s well and truly time to explore your options.

You Work with Highly Sensitive Data

The hubbub around GDPR may have died down, but it’s still here to stay. It’s now enshrined in UK law as the (inventively named) UK GDPR, alongside an amended version of Data Protection Act 2018.

If you handle particularly sensitive information, such as personally identifying information, health data, financial records, or even employment data about your own team; you are bound to the UK GDPR’s rules about handling that data securely, safely, and ethically.

UK GDPR states that personal data should be:

Processed in a manner that ensures appropriate security of the personal data, including protection against unauthorised or unlawful processing and against accidental loss, destruction or damage, using appropriate technical or organisational measures.

The legislation doesn’t define any specific security measures that you need to have in place, but it focuses more on having an appropriate level of security considering the risks presented by the data and your use of it. The ICO’s guide to data security is a great resource here.

Malware and hacks are often designed to spread across networks – sometimes specifically in search of sensitive information. So, network security is an essential line of defence against data theft and cyber meddling.

Your Network is Over-Congested and Struggling

Is your network sluggish? Do you frequently suffer with dropped connections and lost data packets? Well, your network may be congested – instead of data being able to move around freely, it’s trapped in a constant traffic jam. In short, you’re trying to move too much data around without enough bandwidth to do so.

It would be easy to see this as merely a practical issue – and one that would still need attention, don’t get us wrong! However, a network that is straining at the seams can easily become a security risk. Heavy network congestion reduces the ability of security and monitoring solutions to maintain full network-wide visibility, detect issues, and take action.

Think of it like an emergency vehicle getting to an emergency. When traffic in the area is moving freely all around, the emergency vehicle (our metaphor for the security solution’s oversight) can get to where it needs to go relatively quickly. But when there’s nothing but traffic jams all around, the emergency vehicle is stuck. At least, in real life, an emergency vehicle can put on the blues and twos and make some progress through the traffic – security monitoring traffic over a network doesn’t have that luxury.

Not only does network congestion hamper the ability for security tools to keep your network safe, it can also pose a denial-of-service attack risk. If a bad actor were to find out that your network is congested, they wouldn’t have much of a job on their hands to overload the network and render it unusable!

Your Network Visibility is Poor – or Nonexistent

It pays to keep a close eye on what’s going on within your network: what devices are connected, how, and why; what each device is doing; what constitutes “normal” traffic patterns for your network; and what constitutes “normal” endpoint behaviour throughout your organisation. Because if you don’t know this about your network, how will you know when something is amiss?

The answer here is to invest in tools or services that allow you (or a trusted third party) to monitor your network, control access to it, and centrally manage each endpoint. Network monitoring tools and services will help you keep an eye on suspicious activity and potential shadow IT risks, and can also help you optimise your network to avoid bottlenecks and congestion.

Network access control (NAC) functionality puts even more power in your (or your IT provider’s) hands – namely the ability to shut off the network’s connection to devices that may be infected with ransomware or exfiltrating data, without having to hunt that device down and disconnect it manually.

But without tools like these that have full visibility across your whole network (with no exceptions or blind spots) you have little-to-no visibility, no means of seeing what’s going on within your network, and no way of raising the alarm or stopping an attack should one begin to creep across your infrastructure.

You Use Wi-Fi but Don’t Protect Your “Airspace”

The speed and convenience of Wi-Fi has transformed the way we live and work. However, it’s not without its security worries.</strong> A determined hacker – armed with a laptop, the right tools, and some knowhow – can potentially hunt for open Wi-Fi connections, snoop in on communications, and pluck any poorly encrypted sensitive information right out of the air!

As we discuss in the below article, there are numerous ways hackers can use Wi-Fi against you, from copycat networks to misconfigured access points. It’s well worth a read:

Related Reading: 7 Enterprise Wi-Fi Risks You Need to Know About Today

However, this isn’t to say you need to wave goodbye to the convenience of Wi-Fi. You just need the right protection: a WIPS or wireless intrusion prevention system. WIPSs work by monitoring the radio spectrums present within the wireless network’s range. If it picks up an unauthorised wireless access point that’s in range, it can render it off-limits to any devices under your control.

An Organisation in Your Supply Chain Has Suffered a Cyber Attack

Supply chain attacks are an absolute menace. By simply attacking one organisation in a supply chain, bad actors can impact operations and cause costly disruptions for other organisations up and down the chain.

Related Reading: Supply Chain Attacks: How To Prepare For This Rising Cyber Threat

Supply chain attacks are a prominent threat at the moment and it’s well worth taking a look at the recent NCSC guide about them. If someone in your supply chain has suffered an attack, you need to assess where exactly that leaves you.

Does this incident affect your cyber risk at all? Did the victim organisation have any personal or proprietary data of yours that might have been swept up in the attack? Does the victim have any technical connections to your network, or other assets like your website? Is there any implication that the threat actors are looking to hit others in the supply chain, say, by weakening their defences or snooping on their networks? If so, what are you going to do about mitigating that risk?

If your supply chain has been impacted by cybercrime but you haven’t explored how that might affect you, you may be well overdue for a bit of an investigation!

You Have Suffered a Cyber Attack in the Past

Cybercrime is one of those situations where lightning absolutely can – and likely will – strike twice in the same place. According to 2022 Cymulate data, of the canvassed organisations that fell victim to cybercrime in the preceding 12 months, two-thirds got hit more than once.

There are numerous reasons why this might be the case. Organisations may fail to learn valuable lessons following the first attack, or they may simply patch over what was tampered with – without addressing key underlying security issues. Alternatively, some organisations may not be earmarking the right budget (of time, personnel, or money) towards security and attack preparedness. And it’s highly likely that some criminal operations may keep a database of former victims in order to attack them again.

If you’ve already fallen victim to an attack and need help to make your network defences as watertight as possible, get in touch!

Your Defences are Reactive, Not Proactive

When it comes to cyber attacks, prevention is always better than cure. Gone are the days where antimalware controls should simply jump into action when a known threat is encountered on your systems. Nowadays, a far more anticipatory, sentinel-like approach to full network security is needed.

Modern firewalls contain numerous “gateway” checks that can help keep malware and hacks at bay – without relying on old-school, signature-based detection. Sandboxing opens unknown inbound files through a virtual PC to see if they do anything malicious. Deep packet inspection allows the firewall to open and inspect individual data packets for anything untoward. Some firewalls even contain data loss prevention tools that stop sensitive data from being leaked.

These “heuristic” tools are there to proactively stop both known and unknown threats in their tracks, rather than merely raising the alarm after a known threat has made its way into your infrastructure.

You Have More User Accounts than Actual Human Users

Take a look at how many actual employees you have, and then take a look at how many users you have in Active Directory (or a similar service, depending on your network). If you have far more users than you do employees, then there’s a problem somewhere.

Related Reading: Our Straightforward Onboarding & Offboarding Checklist for Best IT Security

If you aren’t disabling/removing ex-employee user accounts as soon as you part company, then you could be leaving yourself open to harm from disgruntled former team members. If an ex-employee can still access your network, maybe through a remote connection or VPN, then they could be enacting cyber-vengeance right under your nose!

But ex-insider threats aren’t the only worry here. If a dormant user account is left active, then that’s another potential doorway that a cybercriminal could use to brute force their way in.

How confident are you that your network is able to defend you from digital threats? If the answer is “I don’t know”, then that’s a problem too!

If you feel that your network needs to be doing more for you security-wise, request a call-back from our team today.