Network Security Assessment: What It Is and Why It Matters

As technology continues to advance, protecting your organization’s data and assets is more important than ever. Research shows data breaches affected over 155.8 million individuals in the United States alone in 2020. It’s essential for your organization to be proactive in securing your assets, understanding the risks within your organization, and creating plans for how to respond to potential data attacks, breaches, or exposures. Completing a network security assessment is often the first step in protecting your organization from threats.

What is a network security assessment?

A network security assessment, or a security risk assessment, is a comprehensive review of a network’s security measures. It involves auditing all assets within your network or system to identify potential vulnerabilities or potential entry points for attackers within it. This may include running hypothetical attacks on your system to learn how your organization may deal with an attack or breach. The goal of this assessment is to best determine how to protect information, data, devices, and networks from internal and external threats.

There are two common types of network security assessments. Each of them follows different methodologies and provides unique benefits. The two kinds of network security assessments are:

  • Penetration tests: Penetration tests mimic actual attacks on your network. This allows you to evaluate how effective your network’s defenses are at withstanding threats. Penetration tests can also be useful for assessing the potential effects of attacks on specific assets, such as what may happen if an attack exposes certain types of data or causes breaches within specific systems.
  • Vulnerability assessments: Vulnerability assessments use automated testing tools to analyze applications, computer systems, and network infrastructures to identify potential vulnerabilities and their associated risks within the systems. These assessments typically classify and prioritize each vulnerability, providing your organization with an ordered list of risks to address to best protect your network.

6 reasons network security assessments are important

Risk security assessments provide a range of important benefits to your organization, such as:

  • Saves money: Failing to protect your network can be costly for your organization. Based on an IBM report, the average total cost of a data breach in 2021 is $3.86 million. Similarly, it requires an average of 280 days to identify and contain a breach, costing your organization important resources and time.
  • Identifies vulnerabilities: Evaluating the security of your system is a comprehensive process. However, the result is a thorough report of potential weak spots within your organization. This makes it easier for you to address these vulnerabilities to create a more robust, secure network.
  • Improves efficiency: Performing an assessment helps you understand how your current defenses protect your assets in the event of a breach. This provides you with a realistic idea of what kind of plan you will need, helping you respond to attacks more efficiently to resolve the issues quickly.
  • Reinforces procedures: Assessing your network may highlight areas where employees don’t follow certain company procedures or policies, such as not updating passwords as often as recommended. However, this creates the opportunity to remind employees about standard protocols, preventing potential issues.
  • Ensures compliance: Protecting your assets is crucial for all industries, but it’s especially important for those that handle sensitive personal information, such as those within the medical industry. Completing a network security assessment helps ensure you’re following all necessary requirements for industry compliance and protecting data.
  • Highlights assets: Operating an organization often requires managing a significant number of devices, data networks, applications, and more. It may become difficult to track all of your assets, especially with a combination of hardware, software, and cloud-based tools. However, an assessment forces you to create a comprehensive list of all assets, creating a live view of everything.

How to perform a network security assessment

Use these steps as a guide for how to do a risk assessment in network security:

  • Inventory all resources: Take an inventory of your organization’s most valuable assets that you want to test for vulnerabilities and ultimately secure. This includes your entire IT infrastructure and organizational assets like data, devices, and networks. Creating a comprehensive inventory provides you with a roadmap of your network and assets, helping you better identify the problem or attacker if there’s ever a breach or attack on your systems.
  • Assess asset vulnerability: Examine each asset with a comprehensive assessment to identify vulnerabilities to potential internal or external attacks. This often includes assessing internal weaknesses, reviewing employee behavior policies, reviewing which third parties have access to your assets and networks, scanning all network ports and vectors, and scanning your Wi-Fi network, Internet of Things, and all other wireless networks.
  • Test defenses: Consider using a penetration test to assess how easily an attacker may breach your system. These tests mimic actual attacks, providing you with accurate results for how well your defenses protect your assets. This helps you identify potential risks within your network.
  • Address vulnerabilities: Review the results of your testing to identify areas of improvement. Many assessment tools automatically classify and rank risks, helping you prioritize which concerns to address first. Make and finalize plans to resolve risk issues, and consider testing their effectiveness as you work through improving each vulnerability.
  • Continue to monitor your security: Repeat the assessment process often to help protect your assets from additional risks or threats that new technology or attackers may pose. Monitor the effectiveness of your defenses, and look for new vulnerabilities frequently. This may ensure your organization can respond to all attacks or breaches efficiently and quickly.

Completing a network security assessment could be the difference between protecting your organization and clients or leaving their most important information vulnerable. vCom can help. We help you manage and navigate your IT needs based on what’s most important for your organization. This helps you centralize your assets, allowing you to avoid unnecessary third-party access to your most important information and creating vulnerabilities.