What Is Network Visibility And How Is It Maintained?

It is no secret that thieves always hide in dark corners. Like rats or roaches, they seek out the areas where you don’t go…and once there, they propagate. Many malware infestations have occurred in this way. In fact, most cyberattacks involve the exploitation of a “blind spot” that an organization failed to guard properly. That brings us to the subject of network visibility.

What Is Network Visibility?

This is just a term that describes your ability to monitor all parts of your home or business network. Obviously, there are different levels of network visibility, depending on the amount of security needed. That being said, 100% visibility should always be the goal.

The Importance Of Network Visibility

There are several reasons why any large network should strive for 100% visibility. First of all, it is obviously better from a security perspective. Better visibility means that there are fewer dark holes and corners in which an intruder (or their malware) can hide.

A lack of network visibility has been responsible for many cyber attacks in the past. One recent and high-profile example would be the hacking of the Colonial Oil pipeline. This is an obvious example because these criminals clearly found a blind spot. No one expected a pipeline to be hacked because it simply hadn’t happened before now. This only illustrates the importance of preventive measures.

On a secondary note, network visibility is also conducive to better network performance. There are many things that can slow down a network, whether they be hardware-related, software-related, or otherwise. Either way, network monitoring makes it easier to find and deal with such issues.

Achieving Better Network Visibility

There are a lot of ways in which your network visibility can be improved. The first and most important step is some sort of network monitoring software. There are many kinds of network monitoring software out there, and some of them have been combined with other types of software to create multi-functional solutions. SIEM software would be one good example of this.

Network Monitoring Software

All network monitors work by showing users the flow of “packets” that travel over the network. All internet data is broken up into small packet files so that it can be transmitted more easily. They will also often show a tree-like diagram that maps all of the devices and servers that comprise the network. This makes it a lot easier to see when something changes or when something is out of the ordinary.

There are many types of packet monitors. The problem is that many of them are not automated at all. Thus, they are only effective when a qualified individual is using them. They require constant human monitoring, and that is not very efficient in terms of time or money. Thankfully, many network monitoring programs come with analysis functions that can identify threats without the need for constant attention. It stands to reason that this software will become more automated as time goes on.

Covering All The Bases

It isn’t enough to simply track the packets flowing across your servers. That’s a good start, but you also need to make sure that all parts of the network are logging data and reporting it properly. Every program and application on any given device should keep activity/event logs, and these are often some of the best tools with which to recognize a problem.

Your ideal network visibility plan should include:

  • Detection of “spoofed” websites or applications
  • Encryption at all levels
  • Detection of weak passwords so that they can be changed
  • Constant updating of all security software and system patches
  • Tracking of network privileges
  • Real-time metrics showing network performance and resource allocation
  • Tracking of all applications that access the internet (most of them)
  • Visibility at the router level
  • Visibility of all DNS requests
  • Tracking of all installation operations
  • Discovery of and access to all connected IoT devices

Some Of The Most Common Blind Spots

To give you some ideas and get your thinking in the right direction, let’s discuss some of the most common blind spots that we frequently see.

1. “East-West” Traffic

This is a key cybersecurity concept that many people don’t understand. Traffic that takes place between your network and the outside world is normally referred to as “north-south traffic.” It comprises data that comes directly from the larger internet, or which is directly sent back. Most security solutions concentrate on this kind of traffic with the idea of cutting off an attack at the earliest possible juncture.

That being said, there is another kind of traffic, and that is the kind that occurs between different devices and servers on the same network. Sometimes also called “lateral” traffic, considerably less attention has been paid to the security aspects of this traffic. This lack of visibility makes it easier for APT (Advanced Persistent Threat) malware to move amongst different parts of the network. Apart from the initial penetration, this kind of malware uses lateral movement almost exclusively.

2. “Physical Access” or Insider Threats

It is very important to keep sensitive passwords and credentials from falling into the wrong hands. Unfortunately, criminals don’t always simply steal these credentials. Sometimes, they will go so far as to infiltrate companies and organizations. Thus, they don’t have to steal those crucial passwords because they tricked your organization into giving them willingly. Needless to say, strong background checks and constant vigilance are the best tools here. Also, it is a good idea to keep your most sensitive data under lock and key (and on a device that isn’t capable of accessing the internet).

3. The Cloud

The cloud simply hasn’t been around long enough for all of its security holes to be closed. That is why most authorities will warn against the dangers of putting highly sensitive data in the cloud. Until these issues are resolved, the cloud will remain a frequent blind spot for many.
Conclusion

If you are looking for a little more knowledge, or if you are seeking managed IT support services, you can call PCH Technologies at (856)754-7500. We offer the finest IT services in New Jersey, and you can test that claim for yourself!