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If you are truly invested in understanding the core tenets of cyber and network security, then you must first gain knowledge regarding the endpoints that you will need to secure. Every IT enterprise environment comprises of two such critical endpoints i.e. switches and routers. Together, these two form the backbone of inter-connectivity between internal systems and networks.
For a cybersecurity professional, understanding the actual functionality of these critical networking components as well as knowing about their status in the network security environment is critical before they can move on towards building strategies or following existing methodologies to secure them form attacks emanating from the outside.
A network environment can comprise of many different machines or computers that need to communicate with each other in an integrated manner. This inter-system connectivity is what a network switch aids. It regulates the flow of information between any two system resources and acts as a bridge through which data packets are received and analyzed before they are sent to the receiving machine on the other end.
Switches are crucial towards fostering business productivity as they allow seamless flow of information that aids the business in terms of heightened efficiency and productivity derived from network processing.
With the proliferation of worldwide broadband internet in the past few years, nearly all of us have become accustomed towards seeing routers in our homes, offices, coffee shops, and other places. We know these routers as devices that allow us to get connected to the world wide web.
In network environments, routers have the same basic functionality i.e. to act as an endpoint that provides connectivity between network resources and the web. They differ from switches in the way that they act on a much larger scale and connect networks in contrast to switches, which connect computers together.
Switches don’t have any connection to the internet but routers do, making them the first point of contact for any data packet that wants to enter a certain network.
By now, you might have understood that these two components are those points in the system from where data of any kind flows through machines and networks. However, their utility and functionality also make them extremely vulnerable to any attack trying to penetrate the system or its resources.
Cyber attackers often target these two components as they know that if they succeed, they can gain control of the entire network and expand their attack horizon to cause a significant amount of damage financially as well as in terms of data loss.
And while you can certainly learn the ways through which you can protect these two components, it’s a whole lot better to undergo validated certifications in order to understand the dynamics of these components and the detailed methodologies recommended to keep these components safe.
Since Cisco is the premier manufacturer of routers and switches used in most organizations, its imperative that you undergo proper Cisco training by taking a relevant course from the Cisco certification path.
Cybersecurity professionals, when trying to ensure that their networking components are safeguarded through a robust mechanism, focus on the following factors:
Perhaps there is nothing more vulnerable than user authentication if not backed up properly via setting a pre-defined system of securely validating a user’s identity. Routers and switches are often pre-empted by these authentications and it’s up to the security professionals to ensure that these authentications are not easy enough to decipher or pass through.
Conventionally, firewalls came in configured with a defined set of policies that were rigid with no way of imposing customized restrictions on them to further protect against evolving security issues in which the existing firewall was ill-equipped to protect against. But as of now, there are next-gen firewalls that are emerging that can be configured to suit the specific needs of a network. To completely understand how this can be done, an individual has to undertake the Cisco ICND1 certification and interconnecting cisco networking devices part 2 to fully understand how these networking components can be interlinked together with customized firewalls working smoothly between them.
If an intrusion occurs in the network, the network security professionals have very little time in order to react and contain the threat before it can expand and cause any potential harm to the system. To ensure that this reaction time is short, switches and routers become critical points from where data is gathered on problematic behavior, threats or policy violations.
Furthermore, the switches and routers being points of entry can be immediately stopped from denoting any further data into the network itself or its internal components, thereby making these two components increasingly relevant towards protecting a network’s security.
Routers and switches can also be leveraged for initiating preventive protocols for threats by making them crucial data gathering tools for monitoring network traffic.
While the proliferation of most attacks on a network usually emanates from external data incoming towards the system, the increasing use of data transfer devices like hard disks and USBs make internally generated threats a reality that routers and switches need to protect against as well.
If configured in the right manner, the switch can stop a threat from such a device from spreading further down in the system thereby effectively walling it off and limiting the number of affected network resources to a manageable limit.
Wrapping Things Up
With the rise in the use of the cloud along with the new dynamics being introduced in modern-day IT enterprise environments, modern-day routers and switches have started to become much more than just relay points. These components are now smarter and more intelligent than ever before, incorporating advanced security capabilities like login denial, data traffic structuring etc.
On top of this, as Virtualization becomes more common, routers and switches will also transform from physical to virtual components, thereby presenting a unique set of challenges that cybersecurity and network professionals need to account for in order to provide security to hybrid and exclusive cloud environments.