Network Security and Management
Challenges – Part 3: Agility

The Need for Agile Cyberdefense – and How to Achieve it

Key Research Findings

  • 75% of organizations report significant challenges with alert fatigue and 82% report significant challenges with tool fatigue
  • 91% of respondents report significant challenges in “integrating solutions to streamline processes, increase productivity and reduce complexity”.
  • Investigations are often slow and resource-intensive, with 15% of issues taking longer than a day to investigate and involving four or more people in the process.

In part two of this series of blog posts, we looked at Visibility as one of the key challenges uncovered in the research study Challenges of Managing and Securing the Network 2019.

In this third post, we’ll be discussing another of the key challenges that organizations reported: Agility

From a cybersecurity and performance management perspective, the term “Agility” can mean two different things. In one sense it can mean the ability to investigate and respond quickly to cyber threats or performance issues. But it can also refer to the ability to rapidly deploy new or upgraded solutions in order to evolve the organization’s ability to defend against, or detect, new security threats or performance issues. 

To keep things clear let’s refer to these two different meanings for agility as “Agile Response” and “Agile Deployment.”

Enabling Agile Response

In the last post, we looked at the data sources organizations can use to improve their visibility into network activity – namely using network metadata, combined with full packet data, to provide the definitive evidence that enables analysts to quickly and conclusively investigate issues. 

In order to leverage this data, the next step is to make it readily available to the tools and teams that need access to it. Tools can access the data to more accurately detect issues, and teams get quick and easy access to the definitive evidence they need to investigate and resolve issues faster and more effectively. 

Organizations report that they are struggling with two significant issues when it comes to investigating and resolving security or performance issues. 

The first is they are drowning in the sheer volume of alerts being reported by their monitoring tools. Investigating each issue is a cumbersome and resource-intensive process, often involving multiple people. As a result there is typically a backlog of issues that never get looked at – representing an unknown level of risk to the organization.

The second issue, which is compounding the alert fatigue problem, is that the tools teams use are not well-integrated, making the investigation process slow and inefficient.  In fact, 91% of the organizations surveyed reported significant challenges in “integrating solutions to streamline processes, increase productivity and reduce complexity.” The result is analysts are forced to switch from tool to tool (also known as “swivel chair integration”) to try and piece together a “big-picture” view of what happened.

Integrating network metadata and packet data into security and performance monitoring tools is a way to overcome both these challenges:

  • It gives teams access to a shared, authoritative source of truth about network activity. Analysts can pivot from an alert, or a metadata query, directly to the related packets for conclusive verification of what took place. This simplifies and accelerates investigations, making teams dramatically more productive and eliminating alert fatigue.
  • It enables a standardized investigation process. Regardless of the tool an analyst is using, they can get directly from an alert or query to the forensic detail – the packets – in the same way every time. 
  • It enables data from multiple sources to be correlated more easily. This is typically what teams are looking to achieve through tighter tool integration. Network data provides the “glue” (IP addresses, ports, time, application information etc.) that enables data from other diverse sources (log files, SNMP alerts etc.) to be correlated more easily. 

By leveraging a common, authoritative source of packet-level evidence organizations can create a “community of interoperability” across all their security and performance monitoring tools that drives faster response and greater productivity.

By integrating this packet-level network history with their security tools, SecOps teams can pivot quickly from alerts to concrete evidence, reducing investigation times from hours or days to just minutes.

Endace’s EndaceProbe Analytics Platform does this by enabling solutions from leading security and performance analytics vendors – such as BluVector, Cisco, Darktrace, Dynatrace, Micro Focus, IBM, Ixia, Palo Alto Networks, Splunk and others – to beintegrated withand/or  hosted on the EndaceProbe platform. Hosted solutions can access analyze live packet data for real-time detection or analyze recorded data for back-in-time investigations. 

The EndaceProbe’s powerful API-based integration allows analysts to go from alerts in any of these tools directly to the related packet history for deep, contextual analysis with a single click. 

The Road to Agile Deployment

The research showed that many organizations report their lack of visibility is due to having “too few tools in too few places in the network.” There are two reasons for this. One is economic – and we’ll look at that in the next post. The other is that the process of selecting and deploying new security and performance monitoring solutions is very slow.

The reason deploying new solutions is so slow is that they are typically deployed as hardware-based appliances. And as we all know, the process of acquiring budget for, evaluating, selecting, purchasing and deploying hardware can take months. Moreover, appliance-based solutions are prone to obsolescence and are difficult or impossible to upgrade without complete replacement. 

All these things make for an environment that is static and slow-moving: precisely the opposite of what organizations need when seeking to be agile and evolve their infrastructure quickly to meet new needs. Teams cannot evolve systems quickly enough to meet changing needs – which is particularly problematic when it comes to security, because the threat landscape changes so rapidly. As a result, many organizations are left with security solutions that are past their use-by date but can’t be replaced until their CAPEX value has been written down.

The crux of the problem is that many analytics solutions rely on collecting and analyzing network data – which means every solution typically includes its own packet capture hardware. 

Unlike the datacenter, where server virtualization has delivered highly efficient resource utilization, agile deployment and significant cost savings, there isn’t – or rather hasn’t been until now – a common hardware platform that enables network security and performance analytics solutions to be virtualized in the same way. A standardized platform for these solutions needs to include the specialized, dedicated hardware necessary for reliable packet capture and recording at high speed.

This is why Endace designed the EndaceProbe™ Analytics Platform. Multiple EndaceProbes can be deployed across the network to provide a common hardware platform for recording full packet data while simultaneously hosting security and performance analytics tools that need to analyze packet data. 

Adopting a common hardware platform removes the hardware dependence that currently forces organizations to deploy multiple hardware appliances from multiple vendors and frees them up to deploy analytics solutions as virtualized software applications. This enables agile deployment and gives organizations the freedom to choose the security, application performance and network performance solutions that best suit their needs, independent of the underlying hardware.

In the next post, we’ll look at how a common platform can help address some of the economic challenges that organizations face in protecting their networks.