The science behind network security protocols is the mathematics of encryption. In computer technology, encryption converts plain text or any other type of data from its readable form to an unreadable version. The only way the encryption can be broken is through a decryption key.

The decryption key can be shared for immediate two-way communications, or it can be unique for additional privacy and security. Regardless of the encryption methods and standards, encryption is the most important "scientific ingredient" for providing data security across networks.

Network security vs. endpoint security

Network security practices and protocols are the steps and configuration rules to thwart virus and malware attacks on the network. Network security protocols are distinct from endpoint security. Endpoint security focuses on such efforts as machine learning and AI to stay ahead of threats. Network security essentially focuses on how devices and systems interact.

A definition of network protocols

The Technopedia definition of network protocols is "formal standards and policies comprised of rules, procedures and formats that define communication between two or more devices over a network."

So, Network security protocols govern the "connective tissue" between those communications. Network protocols incorporate every process that results in establishing communication between the hardware on the network-computers, servers, routers IP (commonly and every other device on the network. For network protocols to work, both the sender and receiver of a network connection must be set up and confirmed. That setup ensures that the data and network communications are compatible. Compatibility applies to both the hardware and software tools that communicate on the network.

How the science of VPN fits into network security protocols

VPN encryption hides the user's data in an unreadable and coded format safe from snoopers and hackers. All the user's login details are kept secure, and the encryption provides residual benefits in privacy.

VPN services like Surfshark, for example, allow users to sign in to servers located outside their geographical area. In addition to masking the user's actual IP address, a VPN can bypass geo-blocking and net censorship.

Recommended VPN communication protocols are OpenVPN and IKEv2. Each provide reliable and fast VPN connections. IKEv2 is the most up-to-date protocol; OpenVPN is open-sourced and highly configurable and used by many VPN providers like Surfshark. Read more about VPN protocols on the Surfshark protocols guide page.

General types of networking protocols include the following:

  • Communication protocols such as TCP/IP and HTTP. These are basic data communication protocols.

  • Network management protocols such as SNMP and ICMP. These protocols regulate network governance and maintenance.

  • Network security protocols, which include SSL SFTP, and HTTPS. Each of those protocols provide their own level of web security. (Look for the "S" after the HTTP on a web address for the most secure connection.)

The Ingredients of Network Security

Security guru Stephen Northcutt wrote about network security basics over ten years ago. Those basics involve the science of network security and a vision that is applicable today:

1. Protect networks and systems with the correct tools and an intelligent evaluation of the threat.

2. Build in capabilities to detect and identify when a network configuration changes or when some traffic on the network causes a problem.

3. React quickly when detecting problems to return the system to a safe state.

An in-depth scientific plan for network security

The foregoing triad of protect, detect, and react provide the foundation for an in-depth network defense. The big players in network architecture like Microsoft, IBM and Cisco, often employ product-centric schemes to preserve network security. However, those schemes have the following approaches in common:

  • Controlling access through blocking unauthorized users and devices from entering the network. This means that users need only to access network resources required to do their job.

  • Segmenting the network. Network segmentation creates segregated sub-networks. Segmenting not only speeds up performance, but also can contain security breaches.

  • Installing the tripwires of intrusion and detection systems. Network traffic scanners detect and identify attacks. They correlate network activity signatures with known attacking techniques.

  • Observing network behavior anomalies. Recognizing and tracking normal network behavior is the product of effective analytics. Those analytics-dashboards, alarms, and statistical reports-help spot breaches or impending network outages.

  • Employing anti-malware and virus detectors. Intrusion threats consist of vectors that attempt to spread across the network. Network security must prevent both initial infection and detect/isolate malware that gets past protective measures.

  • Building firewalls. A Firewall is the "border guard" between the network and the outside world. Firewalls follow user-defined rules to construct a barrier against unauthorized network entry. Firewalls are no substitute for an in-depth defense, but they quickly raise the alarm to add human judgment to the defense mix.

  • Supplementing the computer automation with a "human firewall." Email security awareness and employee training can thwart phishing. Over 90 percent of malware and other network security problems comes from innocent-looking email. The email is poisoned with links and attachments that can release Trojans, spyware, and ransomware.

  • Safeguarding against data leaks. Another element of the "human firewall" is the recognition that people can be a weak link in network security. In-depth network security must include technologies to prevent anyone from deliberately or accidentally sending sensitive data outside the network.

  • Detecting and locking down insecure applications. Attackers often deploy computer applications to bypass network security. Network security must include security processes-hardware and software-to thwart intrusive and insecure applications.

  • Employing network security management products. Modern security information and event management tools, or SIEM software, are just the ticket for real-time threat monitoring and analysis. The software correlates events along timelines and monitors each user on the network to determine the source, cause, and corrective action required to keep the network safe.

  • Paying attention to internet security. Controlling and monitoring web access and use means avoiding and blocking unsecured web sites. Web-based threats use browsers to infect networks.

  • Concentrating on mobile device and wireless security. Wireless devices can detect and automatically connect to any other networked hardware. They can serve as a side entrance to the network. Each device on the network must be secured.

  • Using a virtual private network (VPN). A VPN, among other things, authenticates and provides a secure, encrypted connection between the user and the secure network.

Summary and Conclusions

The science behind network security protocol relies on communication processes and mutual compatibility between network users. Encryption is the key to network security and the most important element.

Network security is likewise a schema of practices, which require an in-depth approach. The approach begins with access controls, employing software to monitor and protect the network, and recognizing that the human element is what makes a network most vulnerable.

Finally, VPN encryption protocols of OpenVPN and IKEv2 provided fast, stable, and secure network connections using encryption. The encryption masks the users' location and can thwart net censorship and geo-blocking.