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How to Learn Network Security: Online Courses and More

Network security is an in-demand skill in the IT sector because it’s invaluable when it comes to protecting a company’s data. Every company that has a digital presence must invest in network security and cyber security. 

Learning network security in addition to other technical skills could help you stand out from other professionals who are hoping to start a career in the tech industry. Regardless of whether you’d like to pursue a career specifically in cyber security, knowing how network security works can be hugely beneficial.

Read on to see some of the best network security courses and resources that will help you build this valuable set of skills.

What Is Network Security?

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Network security is the process of creating a set of policies to ensure the integrity of a computer network. The goal is to protect the data within those computers from malicious hackers and other types of cybercrime. 

These protection processes involve both software and hardware, which ensures that they are effective against a wide variety of cyber security problems. Network security is also meant to protect against possible employee negligence.

Due to businesses’ increased use of cloud services, cyber security is now also expanding into this area. Companies are investing huge sums of money into network security in the hopes of warding off data breaches and cyberattacks.

What Is Network Security Used For?

a mobile phone displaying "security off or on"
Network security is important because without it all of a company’s data could be compromised. 

Network security is used to protect files, directories, and all other data inside a computer network. This includes preventing misuse, cyberattacks, and unwanted parties from accessing your network. Below is a list of types of the types of network security applications.

Access Management

One of the roles of a network security expert is to control who can access a computer network within a company. Every business has a management hierarchy and related security controls. Not everyone in the company should have access to the same data. 

A network security engineer will make sure that only the relevant people can access a certain segment of a network. This way, unauthorized personnel can’t browse through confidential information.

Preventing Malware

Preventing malware is one of the most crucial tasks of a network security expert. Malicious software, known as malware, is one type of cyberattack. There are many kinds of malware, and all have the ability to negatively affect a computer network. 

Some malware may corrupt files, while others will delete files. There are worse forms that can damage a company’s entire computer network. That’s why protecting against malware is so important. 

Network security professionals must use anti-malware software to monitor potential virus traffic and check for suspicious behavior. This way, they can prevent the malware from gaining entry.

Data Loss Prevention

Data loss prevention is a way of keeping employees from sharing sensitive information about their employer. To do this, network security engineers create policies and rules, modifying software to prevent employees from printing, sending, or downloading sensitive information. 

Email Security 

Even if an email looks innocent, employees should be aware that most malware comes from emails. Most employees don’t even realize that they have encountered a malicious email.

A network administrator’s role is to ensure email security to prevent these infiltrations. They do this through a combination of installing cyber security software and training employees to spot suspicious emails.

Firewall Security

Firewall security is another essential piece of the information security puzzle. Network security specialists filter incoming data to stop any malware that could be sent in.

Some network security engineers also implement a next-generation firewall to maximize security. This type of firewall monitors cloud-based threats and also has an intrusion prevention system (IPS).

Learn Network Security: Step-by-Step

Learning about network security can take a long time. Since security protocols need to be updated often, you will need to continue learning throughout your career in network security. But to get started, there are a few fundamentals you should study. Follow the steps below to start getting more familiar with how to keep networks safe.

1. Study the Principles of Network Security and Cyber Attacks

To understand how network security works, you will need to dive into the fundamentals, like access control, malware prevention, confidentiality, and authentication. 

2. Learn About Intrusion Detection Systems

Intrusion detection systems (IDS) were developed to protect data from malicious activities. These systems help monitor the activities going on in a computer network to help the administrator identify potentially harmful anomalies. 

There are several types of IDS, as listed below.

  • VM-based IDS
  • Perimeter IDS
  • Host-based IDS
  • Network IDS

Learning about IDS is a necessary part of developing network security skills. You’ll need to be able to identify potential threats and prevent unauthorized users from doing harm.

3. Security and Pen-Testing

A penetration test (pen-test) is commonly used in network security. It is a simulation test for how your company’s computer network would react to a potential cyberattack. By conducting one of these, you’re imitating a cybercrime to check if your network is secure. These tests are very effective at identifying any weaknesses in your network.

4. Programming and Scripting

Most network security positions do not require you to code. However, having programming skills can help you gain promotions to higher-level jobs in the network security sector. Some of the popular programming languages you could consider learning are Python, C, and C++. 

5. Practice

The best way to develop your network security skills is to practice them. It is a good idea to sign up for a course that focuses on providing hands-on practice assignments to students. After that, you can practice with your own internal network to discover which techniques are the most effective.  

The Best Network Security Courses

Network security requires a lot of practice and preparation. However, if you don’t want to spend four years getting a bachelor’s degree in computer science, you can choose to learn through bootcamps, online courses, and self-study. 

Some of the most high-quality and affordable options for studying network security online are listed below. 

IT Fundamentals for Cybersecurity Specialization

This program offered by IBM via Coursera covers the most fundamental aspects of cyber security, including access control, database vulnerabilities, and penetration testing. It also delves into other interesting topics like digital forensics and firewall management. The course takes about four months to complete.

Cyber Security Analytics Bootcamp

Flatiron School offers this 480-hour online course taught by cyber security industry veterans. You can choose whether you’d like to attend full-time or part-time. In it, you’ll learn about network administration, strategy, analysis, and threat intelligence.

There are many different payment options available for this course. You can pay the $15,000 upfront, pay in installments, or take out a student loan.

Network Security

This EdX course will give you all the tools you need to master network security. You’ll learn about network security audits, access management, and how to build defenses against cyberattacks. This is a free class hosted by the Rochester Institute of Technology, and has an optional certificate for $249.

Keep in mind that this course requires a major time commitment of 10 to 12 hours per week for eight weeks.

Network Penetration Testing

SANS Academy is a renowned cyber security institution that offers more than 60 courses in the field. This course is focused on how penetration testing can be used to protect systems. In it, you’ll learn about in-depth scanning, password attacks, and other pen-test fundamentals.

The course lasts six days, and can be taken in-person or online. To sign up, you should also have background knowledge of TCP/IP, and knowledge of basic Windows and Linux command lines.

Cybersecurity: Managing Risk in the Information Age

This Harvard University course is focused on business risk and cyber security fundamentals. It covers the principles of network security, as well as some legal aspects of cyber security. The program lasts eight weeks, and puts a lot of emphasis on practice. 

The course is taught by Eric Rosenbach, a renowned IT professional who has worked on public and virtual private networks for years.

Is Learning Network Security Right for You?

an animated shield surrounded by a spherical network
Becoming a network security professional takes time and practice, but it’s worth the effort.

If you’re interested in cyber security and are looking for a career with a lot of job security, then this is a good area to focus on. However, one thing to keep in mind is that this skill requires a lot of technical knowledge.

Learning network security will look good on your resume, and help you land a job. Since network security engineers are in high demand, they are also very well-paid, bringing in an average of $115,000 per year according to Geekflare.

Fortunately, it is also likely that this skill will remain highly sought after for years to come. A data breach at a major company can cause losses of millions of dollars, so companies are willing to shell out to keep their information safe.

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