With increased dangers lurking in digital spaces, the need for cybersecurity is now a commonly known fact for just about all business owners.
When it comes to protecting their network, most start with the basic firewall. While added layers are required, there is something even more fundamental that should not be overlooked: the physical connection itself. It is like making sure you have secure and quality doors and windows prior to putting alarms on them.
So, what type of internet connection is the most secure?
To answer this question, I consulted with Robert Lozanski, a member of AT&T's Solution Consultant team whose primary role is to design full networking solutions for businesses. In the following paragraphs, let’s go through the different types of connections and assess the quality - as well as the security level - of each one.
Meet the contenders
First off, it is important to understand the different types of internet connections. The most common ones are copper, fiber, and wireless networks.
Copper: Copper cables are the original internet connections. They transmit data in the form of electrical signals. While this type of connection has been used for years, copper is difficult to maintain, has limited speed options, and degrades with time. As a result, many providers are making a shift away from it.
Cellular: A cellular network provides access to the Internet by transmitting data over the air. The network connects to cellular towers rather than cables in the ground. While cellular internet has made huge technological advancements with the rollout of 5G, it still has its limitations. Cellular networks currently have lower speed tiers than many wired options – but this may change in the future.
Fiber: Fiber optic internet uses a network of bundled strands of glass called fiber optic cables to deliver internet service through pulses of light. Fiber optics are the newest and most reliable type of internet connections. They also offer the highest speed options.
Assessing the security of the connections
A common way to assess a network is by measuring it against the CIA triad: Confidentiality, Integrity, and Availability. Among the different internet transport types, some are more secure than others because of the way they fulfill the three CIA requirements. In other words, a secure network will have high levels of confidentiality, integrity, and availability.
As of 2023, 5G wireless connections have security layer options and speeds that make them strong contenders in the networking market. However, wired connections are still the primary choice for businesses prioritizing their internet connections due to wired connection’s reliability and bandwidth availability.
According to Lozanski, "while a cellular network solution is utilitarian for its mobility and flexibility, wired connections still offer an added layer of security because they will provide faster speeds and performance. A cellular connection can perform like a broadband connection with fluctuations throughout the day, but it won’t offer the same speeds.”
Between the two wired connections mentioned, copper and fiber, there is not much competition. With speeds up to 1Tbps, fiber moves at the speed of light and offers availability and reliability that copper wired connections cannot provide.
However, the search for the most secure connection does not stop there. Even though fiber optic connections are made of glass and move at the speed of light, the way the connection is delivered may vary, and in turn offer different levels of security. The simplest way to break down this difference is to differentiate between a shared and dedicated connection.
A shared connection is where multiple units share the same bandwidth with limited speeds available. This is the type of connection most people picture when they think of Fiber, and it's becoming an increasingly cost-effective and popular option. Unfortunately, shared fiber is limited in its availability, as it is only available in qualified areas where providers build their infrastructure. Although fiber infrastructure has grown rapidly, there are still places that do not have shared fiber facilities at all. See if you qualify for AT&T shared Fiber here.
A Dedicated Connection, also known as a point-to-point connection, is where the provider builds out a single line of fiber to an individual customer. Unlike shared connections that segment out the bandwidth to neighboring units, a dedicated connection is reserved for a single unit. When using the CIA metric for security, a Dedicated Fiber Circuit comes out on top. Below is the breakdown:
What makes a Dedicated Fiber Circuit secure?
A secure network is one where the right people have access to needed information, while others are kept out. One highlight of a dedicated connection is that it travels on its own network and is aggregated directly to a wire center. This makes it much harder to hack into as the connection isn't shared by multiple users.
Lozanski brought in an example, "A dedicated fiber circuit is extremely private for businesses that host their infrastructure onsite, such as web-hosting servers and email servers. Dedicated internet is an ideal option because it is physically safer.
It is important to note, however, that while a dedicated circuit may provide some protection on a physical level, the connection will still lead to the public internet and additional layers of Cybersecurity are essential to ensure a truly confidential connection. In the event of an attack, a shared connection with the right layers of security would likely fare better than an unprotected dedicated fiber circuit. The physical connection is just the foundation, and utilizing a Dedicated circuit on its own does not ensure full privacy.
The integrity of a network is measured by the accuracy, completeness, and consistency of the data that travels on it. Through his many consultations, Lozanski sees a trend that highlights the importance of a connection with high integrity. He said, "Nowadays, many businesses utilize VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol). This is data that you don't want there to be any issue with."
Instead of using traditional copper landlines to host their calls, businesses use VoIP to put voice data over the internet. While it is more cost effective and boasts numerous benefits, this solution creates a higher reliability on the internet connection. If the internet is not stable, the data may be disrupted, and the voice quality will go down.
"With AT&T Dedicated Internet, you are able to prioritize mission critical data and you are guaranteed call quality when it comes to VoIP. Dedicated Internet can add a Class of Service component that you cannot get with another type of connection," Lozanksi continued.
If a network is not available to its users, it is simply not secure. The owners of the network need to be able to seamlessly access their resources. Lozanski said, "The piece of the puzzle that differentiates a Dedicated Fiber circuit is that it is the only connection backed up by Service Level Agreements for availability, latency, jitter, and packet loss. While the SLA's may vary per carrier, at AT&T we guarantee 100% availability service level agreements on our Dedicated Fiber Circuits. We will have your internet connection up 24/7, 365 days of the year".
On a shared connection, multiple users share the same bandwidth. Like traffic on a highway that becomes congested when many cars travel on it at the same time, a shared connection may slow down during peak busy hours. No matter the provider, shared connections run on 'best effort' speeds without the same kind of service level agreements. This can result in slower repair time and for many businesses, a loss of revenue and security.
Who are Dedicated Fiber circuits for?
Dedicated Fiber used to be utilized mainly by enterprise-level customers due to the large-scale networking needs of these types of businesses and a higher monthly cost. However, as more businesses move online and increase their digital presence, many find Dedicated Fiber an increasingly enticing option.
Lozanski added, "Generally, any business that needs to prioritize mission-critical data may be interested in a Dedicated Circuit. While the monthly cost may be higher, it is important to also analyze the impact and financial loss the business may incur if their internet is down". Oftentimes, the additional cost of Dedicated Fiber may be offset by bundling multiple services together.
At the end of the day, no matter the connection you choose, note that the physical connection is only the first layer. While a Dedicated Circuit will provide a solid foundation, it is equally important to consider what is being layered on top of the network to protect it. Cyber threats are only increasing and to be prepared, the first step is to be informed.
Click here to learn more about AT&T Dedicated Fiber and request a free consultation to see if it’s a good fit for your business this year.