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How to open the ‘window of visibility’ into your network

Every infrastructure has its weaknesses. However, if you are not able to identify these weak spots and their potential impact on your business, it is impossible to have a comprehensive view of the security and reliability of your network. ‘Network visibility’ is one of the most talked about concepts in the networking world right now. Unfortunately, without access to the right tools and resources, you will have a ‘tunnel vision’ view of your IT environment.

What is ‘network visibility’ and why do we need it?

In a nutshell, network visibility is insight into all data, users and activity within your infrastructure. The better the visibility, the easier it becomes to make informed IT decisions to improve performance and security. It is like having a bird’s eye view of your entire IT ecosystem. This allows you to expose security blind spots, eliminate inefficiencies, and monitor the performance of your applications and systems.

But what are the challenges that businesses are facing?

Last year, Fidelis Cybersecurity’s conducted their annual State of Threat Detection Report which involved CISO’s, CTO’s, CIO’s and security analysts across a range of industries. This study discovered that 49.02% feel they lack visibility into their entire cyber terrain and 55.03% disclosed that they don’t have control over blind spots within their network. They also discovered that almost 50% do not engage in threat hunting activities as they either do not have the time or skillset to do so, (although 70% believe it’s necessary in today’s cyber landscape).

Without being able to contextualise security incidents or automate threat hunting activities, businesses can’t identify hidden threats within their network.

Although security stacks are growing, many IT teams still do not have necessary automation or visibility into the security of their network. This is often due to having underutilised security features, a lack of internal expertise or a plethora of point solutions which do not integrate or share information. This valuable data often remains hidden as tools are segmented between NetOps and SecOps.  Unfortunately, this is the state of too many security programs today. Despite an array of security solutions, IT departments lack the visibility needed to safeguard their network. Instead of being able to make strategic network decisions based on pervasive insight and automated threat intelligence, security teams are faced with multiple blind spots and a subsequent increase in cyber-risk.

As businesses add more and more point solutions, they have a higher number of connected devices and increase in network traffic. This can be a challenge as it means there is more information and devices which need to be monitored and analysed. However, as network deployments are often conducted without considering the full capabilities of the solution or whether they can fully integrate with the existing security stack, this leads to gaping security holes which security teams may not even be aware of.

Examples of security blind spots?

Businesses are not static, every day they face internal changes to their systems and network.  Whether this is opening a new office, deploying a new security solution, installing new hardware or moving to the cloud. On the other hand, security controls and network integration are becoming increasingly more complex. With each new element which is added or changed, (however minor it may seem may) it could cause a network blind spot. A new security paradigm is emerging which means that security professionals not only need to keep threats out, they also need to have deep insight into internal activity. For obvious reasons, detecting threats within blind spots is a huge security challenge.

Blind spots are caused by several factors and often create bottlenecks that can degrade network performance.

Here are a few examples of common blind spots:
  • The ‘bring your own device’ trend- Personal laptops and mobiles do not usually have the same necessary security features that are required on corporate devices. When a user connects a personal device to your network, it could expose your business to unwarranted security threats.
  • Misconfigurations- Whether this is hardware devices which are poorly configured due to lack of time/expertise of the technology or misconfigured SPAN ports which are generating a high level of latency.
  • Failure to update software- Your employees must follow a stringent software update process for an application to remain within your network. To prevent cyber-breaches, it is important to have complete visibility about whether this protocol is being routinely followed.
  • Unauthorised wireless access points- Often employees install rogue wireless access points within their office environment. This could provide bad actors a virtual gateway into your corporate network.
  • Shadow IT- Employees may not think of the security implications of installing an unauthorised server application without corporate approval. However, as most will not regularly update and patch software vulnerabilities, this practice exposes the corporate network to cyber-risk. After all, most organisations who were affected by the WannaCry ransomware attack had not applied the Microsoft software update patches.

How to open the window of visibility into your network

The basic objective of achieving network visibility is being able to gather data from systems and hardware and deliver this information to a platform which can analyse and monitor it for cyber threats and network anomalies.

The first step to achieving full network visibility is to raise awareness about the importance of implementing a visibility architecture. From there, you need to communicate this message to all departments to ensure this mindset is shared with the entire organisation. For instance, departments such as technical support, system development and security should not be working in isolation, instead they need to be working collaboratively towards the same shared goal. You then need to identify an advanced tool which will enable your business to gain this level of in-depth visibility.

Introducing Cisco Stealthwatch

  • Cisco Stealthwatch- is a security analytics solution that uses enterprise telemetry from your existing infrastructure. It provides deep network visibility, advanced threat detection, and accelerated threat response capabilities. Its advanced behavioural analytics will give you peace of mind that you know who is on your network and what they are doing.
  • Contextual network-wide visibility- Stealthwatch can provide enterprise-wide visibility for both on-premises and public cloud infrastructures. It provides actionable intelligence which includes insight into the user, their device, location, time-stamp and application usage.
  • Predictive threat analytics– Stealthwatch uses a range of advanced techniques to detect cyber threats before they can develop into a fully-fledged attack. It has the power to quickly detect and analyse anomalies using machine learning and high-fidelity threat detection. This allows your IT team to focus on digital transformation and the most critical threats which your business may face. Cisco Stealthwatch is powered by Cisco Talos threat intelligence, this leading threat intelligence research team offer the most up-to-date information about the global threat landscape.
  • Visibility into encrypted traffic– Hackers can benefit from encryption because it means that malicious traffic can ‘slip through the net’ if businesses are not decrypting traffic to identify potential threats. Stealthwatch is the only solutions which can analyse encrypted traffic for malware without decryption.
  • Automated detection and response- Context-driven enterprise-wide visibility helps organisations to detect and prioritise threats like encrypted malware, insider threats and policy violations.
  • Retrospective investigation- Stealthwatch can also provide network audit trails for forensic investigations into past events and for compliance monitoring, it also integrates with all your existing security controls which gives complete, pervasive insight across your environment.

You can’t protect what you can’t see, let us help you eliminate security blind spots.

Starting the process of ‘opening the window of visibility’ into your network can be overwhelming if you do not seek the support of security experts. Here at Equilibrium we are Cisco Premier Partners with an Advanced Cisco Security Certification. As Stealthwatch and security experts, we are well placed to offer step by step support in setting up and monitoring a full visibility architecture. If you would like to get in touch to chat to a Ciso Security expert, please use the details below.

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