Why Enterprises are Investing in Network Security Analytics

August 11, 2017

As hackers have changed their methods, businesses and IT security experts have had to change how they approach cyber security in order to keep up. Unfortunately, the industry as a whole is much more reactive than it is proactive—companies often don’t know what type of defenses they need or what vulnerabilities they have until a hacker attacks them. By that time, it’s really too late to protect your sensitive data. The loss has occurred, and in some cases, you may not be able to recover. Even if you have the data backed up, if you’ve lost personal data from customers, your reputation may have taken such a large hit that you can’t rebuild.

But it’s not all hopeless. By investing in network security analytics, a company can get a much better look at where its protections are weak and what kinds of attacks they’re likely to face. New tools, new methods, and new approaches are necessary to keep up with today’s hackers, viruses, and other malware. Here are a few of the ways you can use network security analytics to make certain you’re investing in the right things.

Your Network is Ready to be Analyzed

Today’s modern computer networks are already set up to be easily analyzed. Most devices have SPAN ports that allow you to use NetFlow/IPFIX to gather information and analyze it for security purposes. This means you can very easily determine any network security threats you may be facing and react to them as quickly as possible. Even if you don’t find anything that might indicate a threat, you can use the information to get a better view of your network.

Security Analysts Have Years of Experience

Anyone in the security analysis field is likely to have spent a good amount of time with tools such as Wireshark, NMAP, Ethereal, TCPdump, and many other tools. They know what it takes to protect your network, and they know the top tools and programs they’re going to need to use. Don’t hesitate to rely on their expertise in network security analytics. It’s what they specialize in, after all. If you don’t have one of these experts on your IT team yet, it’s time to start looking for one. With so many cyber-attacks occurring, you can’t afford to be without a team of professionals to combat them.

Analytics Can Be Used to Determine the APT Kill Chain

Most APTs, or Advanced Persistent Threats, follow the kill chain experts from Lockheed-Martin outlined. This chain has seven different phases: Reconnaissance, Weaponization, Delivery, Exploitation, Installation, C2 (Command and Control), and Actions on Objectives. By making use of network security analytics, you can actually detect and block potential attacks and other malicious activity in each of these stages. By identifying attacks as early as possible, it’s much more likely that you will successfully defend against them.

Analytics Gather Information from Layers Two to Seven

The OSI stack is made up of a number of different layers, and the best analytics tools are able to gather, process, correlate, and analyze data from many different layers in real time. Once gathered, this data can also be used for retroactive remediation, allowing you to look at long sequences of different events. You’ll be able to pick up small details that indicated an incoming cyber-attack and map out exactly what happened and when it happened, allowing you to better prepare your security for the next assault. You may even see times when you were attacked and never realized it.

It’s Easy to Combine Network Security Analytics with Threat Intelligence

When working to prevent malware and other phishing attacks, it’s important to make use of threat intelligence feeds. These feeds bring in outside information and another perspective on various network attacks and threats. Your network security analytics, on the other hand, mostly focus on your internal information. By bringing in this outside perspective via threat intelligence, you’ll gather specific data about the tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) that hackers are currently using.

Threat intelligence that comes from organizations that have been attacked can also contain a number of Indicators of Compromise (IoCs). These IoCs can include things such as the names of malicious files, IP addresses, domains, and URLs. By combining your network security analytics with threat intelligence feeds, you can see where and how cyber-attacks have occurred and note any signs that you may be under attack. You can then preemptively block these attacks to improve your security.

If you’re attacked, you should consider sharing any threat intelligence you’ve gained with others. The more information is shared, the less chance hackers have of successfully attacking multiple targets. If they find that they can’t steal as much valuable information, they may give up their attacks.

Use Network Security Analytics to Bridge Your Network Operations and Cybersecurity

Network security analytics draw on both network operations and cybersecurity, bringing these two teams together. They will work closely together to battle any detected malicious activity, shoring up vulnerabilities and remediate compromised systems. You can also make use of network security analytics to create a dashboard used by both teams to view protocols, network services, IP addresses, and other information. This is also a good place to share the latest security threats so that everyone involved in protecting your network understands the current methods hackers are using.

Going Beyond Your Network

While your network is a good place to begin analytics, it’s not the end. You can use it as a stepping stone to move on into other security efforts. For example, you may want to supplement your network security analytics with other projects that involve monitoring your critical data, users, and endpoints. All of this analytics can then be brought together to create an integrated platform from which you can oversee your entire operation and detect intrusions and other attacks.

Many of the biggest names in security and network processes have built up network analysis tools. Cisco, IBM, and a number of other companies now offer these tools as well as network forensic apps and more. By making use of network security analytics and these tools, you can keep your data as safe and as secure as possible.