Securing network components


Abstract

The objective of this paper is to provide information regarding the network that can be established within an organization. This will also help us in judging the functionalities of different components that are necessary for networking. At the last we will see what security threats each component can create and how should we minimize or rectifies those security threats. This paper is discussed two main components of networking, physical infrastructure and network switches and routes.

Introduction

Computer is becoming the necessity of every field. Small, large and medium sized organizations need computers and they cannot survive in the business market without the access of computers. Networking is the main part that connects one computer to another computer and also connects it with internet. Computer networking makes the work and communication easy among the workers within the organization and outside the organization as well. The basic function of networking is to join two or more computers for the purpose of sharing data among employees of any organization. Organizations cannot grow if they miss any component. The organizational networking can be further sub divided into LAN and WAN. LAN is local Area Network that is used for small purpose or within one locality or building. WAN is Wide Area Network that is used for medium or large purpose or within different buildings of the organization. Every networking especially in medium-sized organizations is based on few components. Each component is essential and supports the other component.

Components of the networking

There are 10 important components that are essential for the networking process in the organizations:

 Physical infrastructure

The physical infrastructure of the organizations is based on the building, accommodation and style of the building. Electrical wiring, ducting, computer cabling, patching and tagging are the important elements in computer networking. We have to look into detail of each of the physical component required to lay network in any organization To start with, company first have to hire a good network engineer, who should give them in laying network. He or she will also guide them which building to be hired (if required) for networking purposes or how to change the current laid network (if any). If a company is already having a network then network administrator first have to understand the network and then if required have to change it. Let us take an example that company want to shift their building to another place and wants to have a network there. First of all network administrator have to make network diagram that he will use to lay the network. Then he has to visit all rooms that are needed to have computer systems so that he can have the electrical work done along with ducting and computer cabling. Ducting for the computer systems should be done alongside electrical and computer cabling. Network administrator sometimes also have to identify the place where computer systems will be going to be placed in the rooms so that he can have the cabling and ducting done till that point. Network administrator also has to place tags on each cable so that he or she can document the thing and can be used for the future purpose. Computers, printers, scanners and servers that are going to be used at either end of the cabling as a result of this networking exercise that has been done by the organization. There are two types of diagrams that are required at the start of the networking process. One is network diagram and the other is logical diagram. (Fulmer, 2009)

Threats and Vulnerabilities

Electrical wiring is the biggest threat in computer networking. If the cable that has been used by the network administrator is not the standard cable or recommended cable it can caught fire in case of any fluctuation. Similarly, the recommended cable for computers to link data from one computer to the other is Cat 5 or Cat 7. Network diagram and logical diagram should be clear and should not have any loop hole. If they have had any loop hole, network can choke resulting in problem for both the users of the computer system and the network administrator as well. Switches and routers are being used to pass data from one computer to the other. If cabling has not been done properly or their tagging has not been done properly, if can create a problem for the network administrator to identify the problem if arises any. Sometimes, only one system over the network doesn’t respond properly, so it is the duty of network administrator to bring back that system over the network. He or she needs to trace the cable that has been laid down during the formation of the network. If the cable is properly tagged and the name and number of the user at both computer end as well as at the switch it becomes easier to trace and rectify the problem. (Orszag, 2008)

Mitigation techniques for infrastructure

First of all network administrator should not compromise on quality of electrical equipment that is going to be used during the networking process. He or she should use the standard electrical wiring and electrical switches that should be used for this purpose. Each cable should be properly insulated so that they should not catch fire. Furthermore, the room temperature should remain normal so that temperature doesn’t affect the cabling that has been used. Then the administrator should use the recommended cable required for the transfer of data from one computer to the other. Network logical diagram plays one of the most important roles in the networking process. The topology (Bus, Star, Ring, Mesh and Tree) that has been adopted for the transfer of data is being referred in this network logical diagram. If the administrator has chosen wrong topology for the data transfer, it may result in choking the entire networking of the organization. Last but not the least, if any problem arises to a network it is network administrator’s duty to rectify it. If he has not done any labeling at the cable end or in networking language have not done any tagging of any of the computing cable then it would be difficult for the administrator to identify the root cause of the problem and then to solve it. Therefore, each part while laying a network all the steps are necessary and play their part at the same place. (Eberts, 1990)

Network switches and routers

Switches and routers are networking devices where switches create networks while routers connect networks. Both the networking devices are equally important in the formation of LAN and WAN. Switches receives message from one computing devices and send the same to the destination computing devices. The term switch normally refers to that multiport device that serves as a bridge between the processes and redirects the data towards its destination computing device. This data processing is normally done by the 2nd layer of Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) model. There are some switches that are already available in the market that uses 3 layers of OSI model to process and are therefore named as multilayer switches. (Robert, 2000)

Functionality

In general wording to teach a layman, switch is that networking device which receives messages from one computing devices and then sends the message to the destination computing devices where it should reach. Switch can be termed as an advanced form of hub which receives one message and then re-transmit it to the all connected computing devices whether the message is meant to be delivered to that computer or not. Normally small office or home users uses only one switch but medium or large companies use multiple switches on which the whole network works.

As discussed above about the layers of OSI model few switches operate on any one of those layer that includes data link and network. Switches that are capable enough to use different layers of OSI model are known as a multilayer switch.

Switches can also be used for commercial use have a built-in interface that can connect different networks which includes Ethernet, ATM etc. Switches that are being used for commercial purpose operates upon different layers of OSI Model and also operate upon different type of network topologies to connect one end to the other. Switches that need to work on layer 3 also have to have a router to support them, so it can be said that router is also a compulsory part for if switches have to work on layer-3 of OSI model.

Switches can also be used where a large amount of data analysis is required and company needs to have a security check on that as well. In this case switches can be connected with WAN routers for the analysis purpose. A firewall can also be plugged in with the switch to stop any intrusion over the network from external sources. (Matthew, 2011)

Threats and Vulnerabilities

In case of medium based organizations, data is the most important part for them. They try to have that secured at any cost therefore, they try to have an internal security system and uses different authentication levels for the users. Hacking of the network and erasing data from the systems are two threats that can be faced by any organization. Layer 2 of the OSI model is known as data link layer and is used to manipulate data within the organization computer systems. Switches are being used to cater the security threats on this data link layer.

Currently network security is being done by the support of switches that build networks that have more features, can perform better and have the highest level of optimization. IP networks have at a large scale during the past few years and use of high end switches is one of the features that have been adopted. They also play the most important part in moving data over the network but should have reliability and secured at the same time. Switches that are being made by Cisco are the market leaders and play a major role in the building any network these days.

The data-link layer or commonly known as Layer 2 of OSI model act as a median role in transferring data within company and within other layers of the OSI model for the usage. Sometimes they have to face security challenges. Although, companies try to make network security as strong as possible but still it remains the weakest part of the network and Layer 2 can have security threats as well. Companies normally provide highest level of security for OSI model layer 3 and above and neglect layer 2 which plays the most important part in the network. Companies have to understand the threats at layer 2 of the OSI model and should rise bar for its security. (Zimmermann, 1980)

Mitigation of Switches and Routers

Different kind of security shield is a primary function that is required for securing any network from outside intrusion. For this purpose, firewall plays as an important role. Networks today use packets of data to be sent from place to another. Firewalls act as a middle role in this regard. It can be software or a hardware that is being used to cater the flow of traffic over the network and sometimes stop them in entering the network but it is important to know whom to stop at the network and whom to reject from the network. Personal computers normally come with a software based firewall that has been provided by the operating system they are using over their system. In large networks, routers pass data to the firewall that after accessing the authenticity transmit it towards the destination. There are many types of firewalls that are being used. First is Network layer firewall or commonly known as a packet filter. It operates at lowest level of the TCP/IP stack and doesn’t allow packets to pass through. Firewall sets basic operating procedures which have to be met if anyone must have to send or received packets of data. Network administrator can define new set of rules so that it become easier for him to access the authenticity of the network and can also use default set of rules. (Oppliger, 1997)

Discussion

Each networking component is necessary for the proper functioning of the network. Any defect at any level may hinder the operation of the network. Ranging from infrastructure to switches, each component plays its role in the smooth operation of the network. Any threat to the network must be dealt on priority purpose and must be rectified for the smooth operations of the network.


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