Network-Attached Storage (NAS) Security: Everything You Need to Know

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Network-attached storage (NAS) security is the measures a company takes to protect critical enterprise and customer data within NAS environments from both internal and external threats. NAS security helps businesses take control of their network-attached storage rather than passively allowing incidents to happen. 

Securing NAS environments is critical for all enterprises because it enables them to stay compliant with data protection and privacy laws, protect proprietary information, and provide the best experience for customers. 

What is NAS security?

How does network-attached storage (NAS) security work?

Rather than a specific, vendor-offered type of software, NAS security is a set of best practices that businesses implement to protect their networked storage. Working in conjunction, NAS security protocols help guard networks and the files stored on them from both inside and outside threats.

However, because NAS security requires multiple protective avenues, it’s critical for IT and storage teams to carefully manage each facet of their storage security strategy. NAS systems face threats from multiple sources.  

Top 4 NAS vulnerabilities

Network-attached storage systems are subject to vulnerabilities within networks, computer systems, and internet connections.

Unsecure network configurations

If the network to which the NAS storage devices are connected is an open network, all NAS devices are automatically vulnerable to any threats on that public network. Unencrypted network sessions also make NAS systems vulnerable.  

Unprotected passwords

Network access passwords, storage management passwords, and any other credentials left in the open or shared unsafely are at risk of wrongful use. An attacker inside an office or data center could read written credentials, and an attacker on the network could steal credentials sent through messages or emails. When credentials are stolen, they can then be used to log into a file system. 

Insufficient authentication

If users on the network aren’t required to prove their identity and their right to access the system, employees untrained in security practices could wreak havoc on a NAS. Threat actors are more easily able to hack a session when they don’t need to provide authorized credentials to enter a storage system. 

The internet

Because some NAS systems are connected to the public internet rather than only a company network, they’re exposed to the internet’s vulnerabilities, too. Public internet vulnerabilities include denial of service (DoS) attacks, botnets, and malware-infected web pages.  

Learn more about the importance of securing your NAS environment.

Key components of NAS security

Key features of NAS security include people and access management, clear internet security protocols, and dedicated software updates. 

Access controls

All users on the network should be required to authenticate their identity at each entry point, including management portals, file storage applications, and even mobile devices connected to the network. Authentication uses something that the user knows, has, or is — for example, knowing a password, having a generated passcode, or using biometrics like facial recognition. 

Device approval 

If a NAS system is connected to a company network, all other non-storage devices that connect to the network, like employee mobile devices, should require approval. Mobile devices and Internet of Things technology (like sensors or smart speakers) typically don’t have the security controls that company devices do. If an attacker gains access to a sensor or other device that’s connected to the company network, they could laterally move and access the storage devices on the network as well. 

IT teams should approve every device that accesses the company network. One way to prevent unauthorized network access is having a separate network for all employees’ personal devices.

Network security

Protecting the network where NAS systems reside is critical to protecting the data. Network protection includes installing firewalls at the entrance of a network and performing network security monitoring. These technologies help businesses closely manage the traffic that enters their network. 

Learn more about network security practices. 

Internet security practices 

Some NAS systems are connected to the internet and must be protected from internet threats, like website malware and botnets. Again, malicious traffic can move laterally between devices that don’t require authentication. NAS devices are often targets for attacks because they don’t have heavy security controls. They’re particularly vulnerable when they are connected to the public internet, which is frequented by plenty of malicious code.

People management

Employees are one of the biggest threats to enterprise stored data, and although they often simply make mistakes when compromising NAS systems, some insider threats are intentional. Authentication requirements help manage employee access to stored data, but so do frequent security training sessions. IT and storage teams should regularly discuss security protocols to promote a transparent culture and also make it more difficult for any insiders to behave maliciously. 

Learn more about insider threats to IT security.

Regular system and software updates

NAS management software should be updated immediately when a new update is released. It should be patched just as quickly if a vendor or internal IT team identifies a vulnerability. Experienced attackers take quick advantage of active vulnerabilities, so IT and security teams must be prepared to immediately defend NAS systems and other storage. 

Learn more about the importance of updating software.  

How to secure your NAS

To secure an enterprise’s network-attached storage, follow a few key practices. 

Train all employees

All employees should be trained thoroughly on how to recognize attacks, like phishing. Even employees who aren’t on any storage or technical teams should know basic security practices, like not allowing strangers into the office or data center where the NAS is located. 

Update all operating systems and firmware 

All system software should be updated regularly, including patches for known vulnerabilities. IT teams and system administrators should continually check NAS vendor updates to know what vulnerabilities have been identified and how they should be corrected.

Secure internet connections

IT, storage, and networking teams should secure all connections to the public internet. Examples include strict IP address allowlists, HTTPS connections, and encryption.  

Manage passwords securely

All passwords for storage devices or the network should be stored securely, such as in a password management system. They should never be shared over email or business communication channels, nor should they be written down in any public setting. 

Read our guide to securing your NAS here.

Top NAS security tools 

Microsoft Active Directory and other authentication tools can be connected to NAS environments. These software solutions allow businesses to require user authentication to access NAS systems. Active Directory and similar tools, like Okta Lifecycle Management and JumpCloud, are useful for businesses that need to restrict access to important business applications, like CRM solutions that store customer data. 

Kaspersky offers a NAS security solution with features like antivirus protection for storage, configurable file scanning, and the Kaspersky Security Center for centralized management.  Kaspersky’s solution supports NAS platforms from vendors, like Oracle, IBM, NetApp, and Hitachi Vantara. Businesses that want a NAS-specific security platform should consider Kaspersky.

Rubrik offers immutable NAS backups for petabytes of enterprise data, including unstructured volumes. This backup solution has a search feature designed for businesses to quickly search and recover files. If an enterprise wants a comprehensive backup platform along with its NAS backups, Rubrik is a good choice. 

Bitdefender GravityZone uses machine learning (ML) models, trained on billions of endpoint file samples, to more accurately identify malware. The Bitdefender client determines whether each opened, read, or edited file requires an anti-malware scan based on set business policies. Consider Bitdefender GravityZone for NAS environments with many endpoints on the network. 

Read more about top cybersecurity solutions next.

Benefits of securing your NAS

Some of the key benefits of maintaining a secure network-attached storage environment include:

  • Having increased accountability and security awareness among all employees.
  • Improving an enterprise’s overall data protection stance.
  • Decreasing the likelihood of data theft in an organization. 
  • Saving money by decreasing outages and maintaining reputation with customers.

Bottom line

Storing sensitive business and customer data on a network increases attackers’ opportunities to access that data because there are multiple entry points. Businesses must secure company networks, devices, and internet connections by updating software, managing storage access, and approving devices on the network. And all employees should know exactly what vulnerabilities their storage systems have and how to mitigate those vulnerabilities. 

Jenna Phipps
Jenna Phipps
Jenna Phipps is a staff writer for Enterprise Storage Forum and eSecurity Planet, where she covers data storage, cybersecurity and the top software and hardware solutions in the storage industry. She’s also written about containerization and data management. Previously, she wrote for Webopedia. Jenna has a bachelor's degree in writing and lives in middle Tennessee.
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