What is Network Security? - Definition & Fundamentals

Instructor: Christopher Shupe

Christopher has worked in several areas of IT, including Helpdesk Support and Network Administration, and has completed a BA in Mass Communications.

This lesson offers a brief overview of network security fundamentals. We'll define the basic definition of network security and cover the scope of the field.

What Is Network Security?

We live in an age of information. Ignoring the fact that you're reading this on a computer screen right now, very little you do doesn't involve computers somehow. Now, with many devices communicating with each other over wired, wireless, or cellular networks, network security is an important concept.

In simple terms, network security is securing the network. Easy enough, right?

Network security actually includes a few concepts that might surprise you and can be as simple as passwords or as complex as corporate disaster recovery. Studying for the CISSP, a well-known industry certification taken by many who deal in network security, also includes elements of law, management of personnel, and even physical security. Security operators might work with locksmiths, construction engineers, lawyers, and other professionals to bring the whole concept together.

Fundamentals of Network Security

At its core, network security refers to three core elements, known as the CIA triad:

  • Confidentiality - Only those who are supposed to access the data can access it. We use the term 'access' because we're not just talking about reading it, but any form of interaction with the data should be by those who have proper authority.

  • Integrity - The data that's there is only changed when it's supposed to be. A good example is a scene you might have seen in a movie in which a student sneaks into school and changes his grades. In this case, the file with his grades has reduced integrity since it can't be trusted to be accurate.

  • Availability - The data is there when it is needed. This may seem strange in the view of security, but remember that data in network security is the same as money in a bank vault. Is your vault secure if someone can walk in and take money out without authority?

Now, all of that is about access, or any sort of usage of data or the devices containing that data. That's why understanding the elements of access is so important. Guess what, there is a list for that.

  • Authentication - You are who you say you are. While there can be various forms of identification used, authentication is usually through a PIN like your debit card uses or the login on your email account.

  • Authorization - You are where you're supposed to be. Try walking into a secured area without a good reason and permission, and see how that works out for you. Probably not well.

  • Accounting - Professionals sometimes call this logging. This means that everything you do is properly noted, and any changes to data can be tied to a user account. To go back to the debit card example, this would be your bank statement.

Who has the key to your data?
Key to Data

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