Staying Safe in Times of Cyber Uncertainty

Network Security vs Application Security

Network security and application security are related but distinct aspects of a corporate cybersecurity strategy. Learn the differences and how evolving IT environments and the emergence of zero trust security is changing this.

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What is Network Security?

Traditionally, many organizations have taken a perimeter-based “castle and moat” approach to network security. Security solutions such as a next-generation firewall (NGFW), intrusion prevention system (IPS), and secure web gateway (SWG) were deployed at the point of connection between the corporate network and the public Internet. With most corporate applications, users, and devices located on-site, this provided visibility and control over all traffic entering and leaving the corporate network.

With the shift to cloud computing, remote work, and mobile devices, the traditional network perimeter has dissolved, rendering this traditional approach to network security ineffective. The modern take on network security attempts to secure users, apps, and devices wherever they are.

What is Application Security?

Application security deals with potential security threats to Internet-facing applications and APIs. These include vulnerabilities such as those listed in the OWASP Top Ten list and security misconfigurations on public-facing applications. These vulnerabilities are commonly described by the Common Weakness Enumeration (CWE) and individual vulnerabilities are assigned Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE) codes.

AppSec solutions may be applied both in development and production environments. For in-house code, developers may use source code analysis tools and other DevSecOps solutions to identify and remediate vulnerable code before it is released into production. Companies may also use web application firewalls (WAFs), cloud access security brokers (CASB), and other solutions to protect production applications against exploitation.

Network Security vs Application Security

Network and application security both share the common goal of protecting the organization against cybersecurity threats. Often, there is also overlap between the two as perimeter-based network security solutions may also provide protection to web applications against exploitation.

However, they also have significant differences, including:

  • Security Responsibility: Responsibility for network and application security may rest with different teams within an organization, or responsibilities may be divided between multiple teams. For example, responsibility for AppSec in development and fixing vulnerabilities may fall to developers, while IT and security staff may be responsible for network security and protecting vulnerable apps in production.
  • Location: Historically, network security was focused on perimeter-based defenses deployed on the enterprise network. AppSec, on the other hand, needs to be deployed to protect applications where they are (on-prem, cloud-based, etc.).
  • Attack Surface: AppSec focuses on threats to an organization’s web-facing applications and APIs. While network security solutions may also protect these apps, they also offer threat detection and prevention for the rest of an organization’s IT infrastructure as well.
  • Lifecycle Stages: AppSec applies to every stage of the software development lifecycle as developers should attempt to identify and correct potential design and implementation issues in an application from the planning stage. Network security, on the other hand, is limited to production environments.

Migrate to Zero Trust Model

In the past, application and network security were largely distinct. While perimeter-based solutions may offer protection against both types of threats, network solutions largely protected the enterprise network, while AppSec tools focused on protecting web applications and APIs wherever they are.

As the traditional perimeter dissolves, so do many of the differences between the tools and approaches that organizations use to implement cyber security solutions. Organizations are increasingly moving toward a zero-trust security model, which enforces the principle of least privilege across an organization’s entire IT environment. Before any access request is granted, it is evaluated to determine if it is legitimate based on predefined access controls.

Zero trust security applies to both internal and external access requests, completely erasing the concept of the perimeter that was previously a core component of network security. By moving security to where the user, server, apps, or device is, this approach to security more closely resembles traditional application security. Additionally, many solutions that implement zero-trust security, such as secure access service edge (SASE) solutions, incorporate both application and network security solutions as well as secure remote access in the form of zero trust network access (ZTNA).

Harmony Connect Solution

While corporate networks are evolving away from traditional security models, the need for application and network security is as great as ever. Companies are the victim of cyberattacks more frequently than before, and exploitation of web app vulnerabilities is a common attack vector.

Limiting the threat of data breaches and other security incidents requires a security model that evolves application and network security to meet the needs of the modern enterprise. Learn more about the differences between App and network security and how zero trust erases these distinctions in this whitepaper.

As corporate networks evolve to include cloud infrastructure, mobile devices, remote workers, and the Internet of Things (IoT), the zero trust capabilities of SASE solutions are essential to ensuring that a company has security wherever it needs it, not just at the network perimeter. To learn more about protecting your network, apps, and remote workers with zero trust security, sign up for a free demo of Check Point Harmony Connect.

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