What Are the Best Practices for Network Access Control?

Network access control (NAC) is a security solution that monitors the devices and users connected to a network, identifying unauthorized ones and blocking access. It also ensures that the devices comply with up-to-date patches and antivirus software.

Maintaining consistent security across diverse user and device types can pose challenges. This is especially true in the hospitality industry, where staff must work remotely with various devices and connections.

Authentication

Authentication is integral to network access control because it verifies that a user or device is who they say they are. This helps limit the damage a hacker can do if they gain unauthorized access to your network. It is typically accomplished using passwords, but this method isn’t foolproof. Multi-factor authentication, which requires users to provide more than one verification factor, adds an extra layer of security and makes it more difficult for hackers to gain unauthorized access.

Implementing strong password policies, which encourage users to create complex passwords and update them regularly, is another best practice for network access control. It can also be helpful to require two-factor authentication, which provides additional security by requiring users to supply a password and a one-time code sent to a smartphone or separate user account.

Other types of network access control best practices include enforcing the principle of least privilege, which limits what a user can do on the network to only what they need for their job. Regularly reviewing access logs, which should be done at least every two weeks, can help identify unauthorized activity and areas where policies must be tightened.

Network access control (NAC) is essential to a comprehensive data protection strategy. Varonis augments your NAC solution by providing powerful features for classifying and protecting your most sensitive data.

Policy Enforcement

The best practices for network access control include applying the least privilege principle, which means you shouldn’t give any user more access to your systems than necessary. This means that you should keep an eye on what is being used so that you can identify trends and check whether people are following your policies. It can also mean reviewing access logs regularly. Every two weeks is a good frequency, although you can increase or decrease this based on traffic patterns and incidents.

The other main component of network access control is policy enforcement. This is where NAC solutions such as F5’s BIG-IP Policy Enforcement Manager come in. Using a graphical interface allows you to create and enforce identity-aware, context-based policies.

NAC policies can be applied pre-admission to authenticate and verify endpoint devices or prevent them from connecting to the network where they aren’t permitted. They can also enforce security policies on connected endpoints to reduce the risk of breaches or other threats.

NAC also includes tools to detect potential network vulnerabilities, such as web filters blocking access to potentially malicious sites. They can also see the type of operating system a device uses, its version number, and other data that can help reduce exposure to risks.

Network Segmentation

Network segmentation separates different parts of your network so that each part can only see the relevant data. This is one of the most essential best practices for network access control, and it provides multiple benefits that improve security, visibility, scalability, and manageability.

A traditional approach to network segmentation involves deploying hardware appliances, like routers, switches, and firewalls, to separate your network into discrete sections with distinct controls. This is also known as physical or perimeter-based network segmentation. However, modern NAC solutions can implement logical segmentation using the capabilities built into your devices. These devices can easily distinguish between different users and systems within a segment, allowing for the enforcement of policy rules based on each system’s need for access to specific data.

Logical segmentation typically doesn’t require new hardware and can be a more cost-effective alternative to traditional approaches. In addition, adopting a zero-trust model and the principle of least privilege makes it easy to design policies for network segments that allow access to the minimum set of resources necessary for each task.

The ability to carve out slices of your network based on need-to-know data also makes monitoring each segment’s performance easier. For example, you can keep traffic for printers, VoIP phones, and other IoT devices on a dedicated segment and apply specialized quality-of-service settings to ensure continued operation without slowing everyone else’s work down.

Incident Response

Network access control (NAC) solutions provide security and authentication for devices connecting to a network. They help organizations ensure compliance with industry regulations, reduce potential vulnerabilities, and keep the network secure.

Preventive measures include security policies, antivirus software, and employee cybersecurity training. But incident response is the key to containing an attack, mitigating damage and risks, and returning to normal operations quickly. The OODA cycle of observing, organizing, detecting, and acting helps guide security teams through this process.

A well-defined, well-rehearsed response plan is critical. Teams should be prepared for various scenarios, including data breaches, malware infections, and ransomware attacks. They should be able to identify precursors and indicators of an attack, analyze those signals, and then respond with appropriate actions to mitigate the threat.

An effective access control system will log every entry and exit, making it easy for teams to review the granular details of what users and systems are doing on their networks. Ideally, organizations should review these reports regularly, such as every two weeks. This will help catch policy or best practices lapses that can leave the business vulnerable to attack. It also provides an excellent opportunity for teams to assess their overall security posture and take steps to improve. For example, they may invest in new technology or enhance existing tools.

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