Layered Security: Protecting Businesses Against Cyber Attacks

Organizations in the financial sector or those handling sensitive information, such as credit card numbers or Personally Identifiable Information (PII), know that their company is a prime target of cybercriminals. Preventing cyberattacks and avoiding their repercussions requires a layered cybersecurity approach.

What is Layered Security?

Layered security is when you install multiple tools, or products, in order to prevent a single security vulnerability from compromising your system. If a cybercriminal breaches one security tool, your resources will still be protected since the other layers of security will identify and stop the malicious activity.

Having layered security gives hackers obstacles to overcome, minimizing their chances to perform a successful cyberattack. Banks, credit unions, and other financial institutions should realize how important it is to implement a layered approach to security. Organizations in the financial industry maintain a lot of compelling data and should do everything to prevent issues.

According to the Federal Reserve Bank Mobile Financial Services Survey, 71% of banking customers regularly use online banking, and 43% use mobile banking.

In addition, the 2021 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report shows that the financial and insurance sector suffered from 721 incidents, with 467 of them having had confirmed data disclosure. Around 96% of these attacks had financial motives. Additionally, most of the data compromised was personal (83%) and bank (33%) information.

To guard against these risks, you should protect different areas of your organization’s core system by implementing layered security controls.

The 7 Layers You Should Cover in Your Cybersecurity Strategy

IT professionals practice layered security because they know that cybercriminals will most likely compromise single-layer protection sooner or later. With layered security, the vulnerabilities of one layer can be reinforced by the strength of the next one, which will create a more robust system overall.

Your layered security strategy should cover all seven layers of the Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) model. The OSI model consists of layers in which computer systems use to communicate over a network.

Cybersecurity threats exist in all these layers, so it’s best to protect your company’s data by applying different security measures in the following network areas:

Layer 7: Application

The application layer is the area that’s closest to the end-user. It provides protocols that allow the software to send and receive information directly from users and display meaningful data. Examples of application-layer protocols include Domain Name System (DNS) and Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP).

Since layer 7 is the area that’s most accessible and exposed to the world, it’s also one of the hardest layers to defend. Some cyberattacks under this layer include parameter tampering, distributed denial-of-service attacks (DDoS), SQL injections, and HTTP floods.

To fend off malicious activity, your layered security strategy should have protections such as multi-factor authentication (MFA). Having an authentication system is a simple but effective way to disrupt hackers from attaining insidious access.

Layer 6: Presentation

Decrypting and encrypting data for secure transmission happens at the presentation layer. The presentation layer sets up the data for the application or the network. It takes the data transmitted by the application layer and prepares to transmit it over to the session layer.

The most common threats under layer 6 are malformed Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) requests. Cybercriminals can target your server by tunneling HTTP attacks via SSL. A way to mitigate this threat is to offload SSL from the origin infrastructure.

Additionally, you can scan the application traffic for signs of attacks or policy violations using an applications delivery platform (ADP). Encryption is also a great defense-in-depth strategy you can include for presentation layer security.

Layer 5: Session

When two devices (computers or servers) communicate, the session layer creates “sessions” or communication channels. This layer ensures that the sessions are open while data is being transferred and closed when the session ends.

Your session layer becomes vulnerable when DDoS attackers exploit a flaw in the Telnet server running on the switch. When this happens, Telnet services will become unavailable. You can prevent this threat by reminding operators to check in with your hardware provider and ask if there’s a patch or version update that can reduce this vulnerability.

Layer 4: Transport

The transferred data goes through the transport layer, wherein it gets coordinated between end systems and hosts. This layer is responsible for organizing how much data to send, where it goes, and at what rate. The most common example of layer 4 is the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP), which goes hand-in-hand with the Internet Protocol (IP), also known as TCP/IP.

Regardless of whether sensitive information is transmitted, organizations must use Transport Layer Security (TLS) to secure all communications between web browsers and servers.

TLS is an Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) standard that protects your networks from message forgery, eavesdropping, and tampering. You can apply TLS on email, web browsers, instant messaging, and voice over IP (VoIP) applications.

Layer 3: Network

The network layer forwards packets and uses network addresses (IP addresses) to route these packets to different destination nodes.

The most common layer 3 threats are spoofing, information gathering, and sniffing. DDoS attacks are also some of the usual router-related cyber threats. In this attack, hackers enlist multiple hosts to overwhelm a target router with requests until it overloads and no longer accepts genuine requests.

If your employees access your servers remotely, your internal network can be vulnerable to intrusion and unauthorized access. To prevent cybercriminals from infiltrating your data, you should build a strong security framework. A firewall is the most common security measure for network-level threats.

For your defense-in-depth strategy, you can add intrusion detection and prevention systems to help you manage network traffic and keep sensitive customer information from being stolen. Patch management can also help your network layer to be more secure.

Layer 2: Data Link

The data link layer provides the data transfer connection between two directly connected nodes on a network. Layer 2 has two parts—the Logical Link Control (LLC) layer and the Media Access Control (MAC) layer.

Since the data link layer is responsible for network access, error notification, and flow control, its vulnerabilities include broadcast storms, sniffing, insecure or absent virtual LANs (VLANs, or lack of VLANs), and misconfigured or malfunctioning network interface cards (NICs). When you don’t protect layer 2 from these threats, it can cause serious issues on a network segment or the entire network.

A way you can prevent these exploits is by improving your port security. You can configure switches to limit ports that respond to DHCP requests, apply static ARP, and install Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS).

Layer 1: Physical

The physical layer is the physical and electrical representation of the system. Layer 1 includes all the physical cables and wireless connections between networks.

The usual threats that occur in this layer involve electrical signal interruption. It can mean human vandalism, such as physically cutting cables. You can mitigate this by having multiple circuits to the internet. Additionally, you can strategically place your servers and storage at several cloud data centers so that you can switch to wireless access.

Incorporate a Multi-Tiered Cybersecurity System

Unauthorized users, viruses, and hackers are the enemies of cybersecurity. A layered security strategy is a much-needed safety net that all companies should use to protect their critical business data from threats, whether the information is their own or their clients.

Keep your business protected against cyberattacks with Q5id. Our identity authentication system can help you stay safe from data breaches and other fraudulent activities. Get in touch with us to know more about our security solutions.

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