Smita Dave
Senior Solutions Marketing Manager

5 Security Risks that Network Visibility Helps Manage

June 30, 2017 by Smita Dave
Visibility Economics calculator

When it comes to books or movies, I always end up picking horror over comedy. There is something about a chill going down your spine and your heart pounding with fear. In today’s digital era, the Internet crime sagas are keeping me on the edge of my seat. Believe it or not, some of them provide the extra scream factor too.

If you have been following the news, the dark web seems to be getting darker and terrifying. We are seeing a marked uptick in volume and creativity of brazen attacks today – from ransomware spikes to mega super huge security breaches – clever sophisticated attackers raking in the moolah and stealing personal, private, financial, behavioral, and historical information. The recent WannaCry cyber attack, the hacking incident that led to an incredible $81 million fraudulent transfer from Bangladesh Bank and Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital, which paid a whopping $17,000 ransom to regain access to files locked by ransomware were some of the most sensational attacks of recent times.

But are we learning from these real-world stories? It is easy to say, what does all this have to do with me? I am not affected. Well, you may be the next victim. It is time. Time to assess your network risks. Time to understand visibility economics. Time to take a serious note of your IT setup - your infrastructure - and mitigate the havoc poor network visibility can wreak in your organization.  Without the proper tools and systems in place to continuously gather, process, compare, and analyze network behavior, you can easily miss the vulnerabilities in your networks. The more network and security intelligence you have, the better you'll know how to best protect your organization – and your customers' data.

Here are five security risks that network visibility helps manage for your organization.

  1. High value data in your network

You may be in a healthcare or financial services business that is growing. Or, you are a government organization storing highly confidential personal information. Or more simply, your organization is expanding by the sheer volume and variety of data it carries, adding to the nightmare of administering and managing your IT infrastructure. Whatever the industry you are in, you have high value data that needs protection and security. Target was the victim of a cyber attack losing millions of their customers’ financial data and personal information. Neiman Marcus suffered a security breach resulting in the theft of 1.1 million customers’ credit card information. How do you avoid these ghastly leaks?

The reality is, few IT administrators have a complete  picture of what's really going on inside the network, and lack the automated visibility and analytics tools that can quickly identify, interpret, and act on threats. Smart visibility tools can help you learn from attack patterns, even on attacks that fail. Network packet brokers (NPBs) that sit at the core of a smart network visibility architecture are essential to enterprise network monitoring. They can help you easily aggregate data from multiple tap points, de-duplicate it, and distribute it to the security tools that help you inspect and detect attacks. Tap into a visibility solution to protect your high value data that thieves are prowling around for.  

  1. Moving to the cloud

The move to the cloud is definitely on the rise and you are probably already on that bandwagon. Cisco predicts that by 2019, over half of all cloud workloads will be in the public cloud. This represents an increase of 44% year-on-year growth. Whether you choose to move to a private, public, or hybrid cloud model, it comes with a looming reality of inherent loss of network visibility. And unfortunately, you can’t secure what you can’t see. Isn’t that scary? A recent Ixia survey revealed the top security concern with cloud adoption was a “loss of control over network data”.

So, how do you combat this horrifying reality. Especially with more and more enterprises moving to a multi-cloud strategy and over 36% enterprises using three or more clouds but not using security tools to protect their cloud environment. It is important to complement your moves to the cloud with the right solution to eliminate the opacity and gain a high degree of real-time visibility into the inner workings of your cloud platforms. A good option would be a virtual infrastructure with cloud visibility and control tools that speaks your cloud language and helps you see pervasively inside your cloud. And then, nothing’s stopping you from being on cloud nine.

  1. More access points, larger attack surface

If a fear of a cracked smartphone or - horror of horrors – hot coffee on your keyboard is nightmarish for you, think about the very real threat that you and your devices are exposed to. Years ago, there was a single ingress/egress point to get into the network. Today, all of that has changed. The rise of mobile devices, Wi-Fi access points, cloud applications and software-defined everything has increased the number of entry points into a company. For instance, it is common for a worker to connect to some kind of “free” Wi-Fi network when travelling, browse the web and infect their mobile device. Come back into the office, attach the device to a company access point and spread the malware.

Smart visibility tools can tell you which of your servers receives the most network attacks, which users tend to be associated with blocked malware, and even what types of attack vectors are most commonly tried against your system. Good visibility tools highlight these trends, so you can adjust your policies to secure and restrict certain users, or harden the defenses of targeted servers.

  1. Size does matter

As you grow your business, your employee base grows too. With more than 50% of global worforce being millennials by 2020, they want the same experience they are used to at home – high tech gear, multiple devices, high speed apps and more. So, they bring their technology to work. And when users add their own Ethernet switches, access points, use offsite data storage (like Box), or add something else to the network, company security policies are often subverted which opens the door to security, compliance and liability issues. IT usually finds it difficult to keep track of these devices, especially as they can appear sporadically, like Wi-Fi hot spots. So, what’s the way out of this alarming situation?

The good news is that certain NPBs offer application intelligence which uses context aware data processing. It is an extended functionality that allows you to go beyond layer 2 through 4 packet filtering to reach all the way into layer 7 of the packet data. IT teams can identify hidden applications, mitigate network security threats from rogue applications and user types, and reduce network outages and/or improve network performance due to application data information. You hence get a complete view of your network. You can now stop blaming the millennials you just hired.

  1. Beware of Blind spots

The growth and ensuing complexity of your organization, along with pacifying your users’ needs, often obstructs your network visibility with "blind spots". This comes at the cost of your network security, making complete and accurate data capture impossible. Thus, opening windows of opportunity for creepy hackers to pounce on you.

To end blind spots in your network, you need to be proactive and see everything to avoid the “unknown” disasters. The best solution is to implement a good visibility architecture. It’s not hard or complicated, but it does require some planning.

Let’s face it. Network visibility tools help you discover things about the network and user behaviors that were never before realized, and in turn help to bolster security policies. The important thing to realize is how risky is your network? How prone are you to malicious attacks? How well can you see inside your network? Target, Yahoo, Apple, Home Depot, Banner Health, Neiman Marcus, and thousands of enterprises are learning the hard way. You have a choice.

Ixia’s Visibility Economics calculator helps you assess your network risk areas and how quickly you can recoup and upgrade an investment in network visibility. Make a start by calculating your risks today. Answer 9 simple questions and identify the best solution that helps you reduce your risks and costs considerably. Remember, historical hacks come back to haunt. Avoid being the next headline with a new horror tale to tell.

To learn more, read my blog on what is the Visibility Economics calculator and how it works.