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Common Types of Network Security Vulnerabilities

Understanding Network Security Vulnerabilities

A network security vulnerability is a weakness within a system or its design that can be exploited by an attacker to gain unauthorised access to a company’s network and systems. These types of network security vulnerabilities can be categorised as either internal or external, depending on their origin.

  • Internal Network Vulnerabilities: These vulnerabilities stem from weaknesses within an organisation’s own systems or processes. Common causes include misconfigurations, software bugs, poorly written code, or even human error by employees.
  • External Network Vulnerabilities: These vulnerabilities reside in the devices or platforms that a company uses in its daily operations. These can be inherent weaknesses in the software or hardware itself, or vulnerabilities that arise due to outdated or unpatched systems.

The ISO/IEC 27005 standard further categorise common network vulnerabilities based on the type of asset they affect. This broader classification system allows organisations to address a wider range of security risks, including:

  • Software vulnerabilities
  • Hardware vulnerabilities
  • Personnel vulnerabilities (human error)
  • Organisational vulnerabilities (process or policy weaknesses)
  • Network vulnerabilities

10 Common Types of Vulnerabilities in Network Security

1.     Mobile Devices

Mobile devices, including laptops, smartphones, and tablets, are ubiquitous within both on-premises and remote work environments. These devices are often used for work purposes, either through company-issued equipment or Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies. Unfortunately, mobile devices can introduce a number of security risks to an organisation’s network.

A significant concern is the physical theft or misplacement of mobile devices.  Employees who connect these devices to the corporate network to access sensitive information create a potential security breach if the device is lost or stolen. In such cases, the stolen device becomes a direct access point for attackers seeking to infiltrate the network.

2.     Internet of Things (IoT)

The Internet of Things (IoT) encompasses a wide range of devices that collect and transmit data over a network. However, these devices often fall outside the traditional security perimeter of an organisation’s IT systems. Many companies utilise various IoT devices within their offices, such as smart thermostats, security cameras, or even internet-connected refrigerators.

Securing IoT devices becomes even more complex in remote working environments.  Employees’ homes may contain a variety of personal IoT devices like smartwatches, ovens, and televisions. While these devices may not be immediately considered as common network vulnerabilities, robust IoT security practices are essential for an organisation’s overall digital well-being. Hackers can exploit vulnerabilities in these devices to gain a foothold on the network and potentially move laterally to access more critical systems.

3.     USB Flash Drives

While seemingly innocuous, USB flash drives can pose as one of the most common network security threats. These devices can harbour malware that automatically executes upon insertion, potentially compromising the system.  The proliferation of cloud-based storage solutions has fortunately diminished the need for routine USB drive usage in modern work environments. 

However, the potential risk remains.  Employees encountering an unidentified USB flash drive connected to a company device should refrain from inserting it.  It is advisable to consult with colleagues regarding the device’s origin before taking any action.

4.     Firewalls

Following the border router, firewalls act as a critical line of defence, safeguarding data from attackers seeking to exploit different types of network vulnerabilities. These powerful network security systems function by filtering incoming and outgoing traffic, blocking unauthorised access to a computer or network and protecting sensitive data and devices from cyberattacks.

However, misconfigured firewalls can render them ineffective, creating significant security risks. One such risk arises from overly permissive firewall rules. These permissive rules may inadvertently grant access to unauthorised users or allow malicious traffic to pass through the firewall.

5.     Single-Factor Authentication (SFA)

Single-factor authentication (SFA) is an authentication method that relies on a single piece of information, typically a password, to verify a user’s identity. While convenient, SFA poses a significant security risk. Malicious actors can readily bypass SFA through various means, including phishing attacks that trick users into revealing their passwords, or by obtaining them from compromised databases on the dark web.

6.     Password Management

Many users, when permitted to choose their own passwords, gravitate towards simple and easily recalled options.  Unfortunately, this tendency to select weak passwords is one of the most common types of network vulnerabilities.  Inadequate password complexity and reuse across multiple accounts are common pitfalls that can be exploited by malicious actors.

7.     Wi-Fi Security

Both modern offices and remote workforces rely heavily on Wi-Fi connectivity. Wireless access points offer distinct advantages, promoting mobility, communication, and collaboration. However, improperly secured Wi-Fi networks can introduce significant security vulnerabilities. Attackers can exploit weaknesses in Wi-Fi configurations to gain unauthorised access to an organisation’s network, potentially compromising sensitive data and systems.

8.     Email Services

Email remains a cornerstone of business communication, facilitating the exchange of information both internally and with external parties. This communication often involves sensitive data, such as:

  • Personal identification information (PII)
  • Health information
  • Bank account details
  • Intellectual property
  • Trade secrets
  • Financial data

Unsecured email services are one of the most common types of vulnerabilities in network security that cybercriminals can exploit. Attackers frequently leverage social engineering tactics, including CEO fraud, spear phishing, and general phishing campaigns, to manipulate employees into divulging sensitive information.

Furthermore, unsecured email can serve as a gateway for attackers to infiltrate an organisation’s network. Once inside, they can engage in a variety of malicious activities, including:

  • Data exfiltration: Stealing sensitive information stored on the network.
  • Message interception: Monitoring email communications to gain unauthorised access to confidential data.
  • Malware distribution: Tricking employees into installing malware that can further compromise the network.

9.     Outdated Software

Failure to promptly install critical software updates creates significant security risks for organisations. Unpatched software introduces vulnerabilities that cybercriminals can exploit to steal sensitive data or infect systems with malware. In fact, a substantial proportion of successful cyberattacks involve known vulnerabilities that were left unaddressed through a lack of patching.

10.  Insider Threat

The most common network security threats extend beyond technical flaws in system architecture, misconfigured routers, or outdated software. One of the most concerning threats originates from within an organisation itself: insider threats. These threats encompass both inadvertent and deliberate actions by employees that can jeopardise the confidentiality, integrity, or availability of an organisation’s data and systems.

Unintentional Insider Threats: Employees can unknowingly introduce security risks through human error. Clicking on malicious links in phishing emails, failing to follow proper data handling procedures, or using weak passwords are all examples of unintentional insider threats.

Malicious Insider Threats: In some cases, employees may intentionally misuse their access privileges for personal gain or to harm the organisation. Examples of malicious insider threats include data theft, sabotage, or the sale of confidential information to competitors.

The Constant Vigilance of Network Security

Network security is not a one-time fix; it’s an ongoing process of vigilance and proactive measures. By systematically identifying and addressing different types of network vulnerabilities – from misconfigured firewalls to weak passwords and insider threats – organisations can significantly strengthen their digital defences.

Remember, a secure network is the foundation of a resilient organisation. Don’t wait for a breach to expose your vulnerabilities. Contact Intelliworx for a vulnerability risk assessment today.

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