Incident Response & Forensics:
Why Network Observability is Your Secret Weapon

Incident Response & Forensics: Why Network Observability is Your Secret Weapon

In today’s cyber threat landscape, incident response (IR) and digital forensics are non-negotiable for any organization. But what if I told you there’s a way to supercharge your IR and forensics capabilities? Enter network observability.

What's the Big Deal with
Incident Response & Forensics?

  • Incident Response (IR)
    • Swift Containment: IR is about minimizing damage. The faster you identify and isolate an incident, the less it can spread.
    • Damage Control: Effective IR helps you restore systems, mitigate losses, and get back to business as usual ASAP.
    • Learning from Mistakes: Analyzing incidents helps you strengthen your security posture and prevent future breaches.
  • Digital Forensics
    • Understanding the “Who” and “How”: Forensics digs deep into the evidence to identify the attacker, their tactics, and the extent of the compromise.
    • Legal and Regulatory Compliance: Detailed forensic reports may be required for investigations, litigation, or to meet compliance standards.

The Observability Advantage:
Shining a Light on the Network

Network observability is the ability to comprehensively understand the health, performance, and security of your network in real-time. Here’s how it elevates your IR and forensics game:

  • Early Detection: Observability tools provide granular visibility into network traffic, anomalies, and potential indicators of compromise (IOCs). This enables proactive detection and response, often before an attacker can cause significant damage.
  • Faster Triage: When an incident occurs, observability data acts as a “fast-forward” button. You can quickly pinpoint the source of the attack, affected systems, and the attacker’s movements. This accelerates the triage process, allowing for targeted containment.
  • Precise Forensics: Network observability provides a treasure trove of forensic evidence. You can track the attacker’s every step, the commands they used, and the data they exfiltrated. This level of detail is invaluable for investigations and legal proceedings.
  • Data Correlation: By integrating network observability data with other security tools (like SIEMs and EDRs), you gain a holistic view of the incident. This correlation helps you uncover patterns, identify root causes, and refine your security strategies.

Why are the tools secret weapons?

Network TAPs (Test Access Points) and Full Packet Capture (FPC) form the cornerstone of network observability. TAPs provide a non-intrusive, reliable way to access raw network traffic, ensuring no packet is missed or altered. This comprehensive visibility, combined with FPC’s ability to store every packet for later analysis, enables deep insights into network behavior, performance bottlenecks, and security threats.

Network Analysis tools can then dissect this rich data, providing a granular view of applications, protocols, and user activities. This combination unlocks the ability to troubleshoot complex issues, identify anomalies in real-time, and proactively mitigate security risks, making it an indispensable arsenal in the pursuit of comprehensive network observability.

Full Packet Capture (FPC) and Network Analysis are a secret weapon for CISOs due to several key reasons:

  • Unparalleled Visibility: FPC captures and stores every bit of network traffic, providing an unfiltered view of all activity. This level of visibility is unmatched by traditional monitoring tools, which often rely on sampled data or summaries. This allows CISOs to:
    • Detect Stealthy Threats: FPC can uncover hidden or obfuscated threats that may evade traditional security tools.
    • Investigate Incidents Thoroughly: FPC provides the raw data needed for in-depth forensic analysis, enabling CISOs to understand the root cause, impact, and scope of security incidents.
  • Retrospective Analysis: FPC acts like a DVR for your network. CISOs can rewind and replay traffic to analyze past events, even if they were not initially identified as suspicious. This is invaluable for:
    • Threat Hunting: Proactively searching for indicators of compromise (IOCs) that may have been missed.
    • Compliance Audits: Demonstrating adherence to regulatory requirements by providing detailed records of network activity.
  • Contextual Awareness: Network Analysis tools extract meaningful insights from the raw FPC data. By correlating events, identifying patterns, and applying advanced analytics, CISOs can:
    • Understand Network Behavior: Gain a deep understanding of normal traffic patterns, making it easier to detect anomalies and potential threats.
    • Prioritize Risks: Focus on the most critical threats by identifying the most vulnerable systems, users, and applications.
    • Optimize Security Controls: Fine-tune security policies and configurations based on real-world data.
  • Proactive Defense: The combination of FPC and Network Analysis allows CISOs to move from a reactive to a proactive security posture. By identifying and mitigating threats early in the attack lifecycle, they can:
    • Prevent Data Breaches: Detect and stop attacks before they can cause significant damage or data loss.
    • Reduce Downtime: Minimize the impact of security incidents on business operations.
    • Strengthen Resilience: Build a more robust and resilient security infrastructure.
  • Regulatory Compliance: In many industries, regulatory frameworks mandate the ability to monitor and log network traffic. FPC and Network Analysis provide the necessary capabilities to meet these requirements, demonstrate due diligence, and avoid costly penalties.

Real-World Impact: Case Study

Imagine a ransomware attack. With network observability, you could quickly:

  • Detect the initial infection vector (e.g., a phishing email, a vulnerable server).
  • Trace the ransomware’s lateral movement across your network.
  • Identify the command-and-control (C2) servers used by the attacker.
  • Gather detailed logs of the encryption process.

Armed with this information, you can isolate the affected systems, disrupt the attacker’s communication, and potentially recover encrypted files. The forensic data will be crucial for legal action and improving your security posture.

Key Takeaways

  • Network observability is a force multiplier for incident response and forensics.
  • It enables early detection, faster triage, precise forensic analysis, and improved threat intelligence.
  • Implementing network observability is a strategic investment in your organization’s security and resilience.
  • Full Packet Capture and Network Analysis provide CISOs with a powerful combination of visibility, context, and proactive defense. By leveraging these tools, CISOs can gain a deep understanding of their network’s security posture, detect and respond to threats more effectively, and ultimately safeguard their organization’s most valuable assets.

13 Top CISO Priorities and Trends in 2024

As we navigate through 2024, Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs) face an evolving landscape of challenges and responsibilities. The digital transformation has accelerated, and with it, the complexity of cybersecurity threats has increased. Here are the key priorities and trends that CISOs are focusing on this year.

1. Evolving Compliance Standards and Regulations

One of the foremost concerns for CISOs in 2024 is keeping up with the changing compliance standards and regulations impacting cybersecurity. With data breaches becoming more frequent and severe, governments and industry bodies are tightening the rules around data protection and privacy. CISOs must ensure their organizations are compliant with these evolving standards to avoid hefty fines and reputational damage.

2. Cybersecurity Programs and Board Engagement

Cybersecurity is no longer a technical issue; it’s a business imperative. CISOs are now regular participants in board discussions, emphasizing the need for robust cybersecurity programs that align with the organization’s strategic objectives. They are advocating for increased budgets and resources to develop strategies that can withstand the sophisticated cyber threats of today.

3. Rise of Identity and Access Management (IAM) and Zero Trust

The “never trust, always verify” principle of Zero Trust architecture has gained significant momentum in 2024. Coupled with robust IAM solutions, organizations are adopting granular access controls, multi-factor authentication (MFA), and continuous monitoring to minimize the potential for unauthorized access and lateral movement within networks. This shift is crucial in addressing the expanded attack surface created by remote work and cloud adoption.

4. The Rise of Polymorphic Malware

The advent of AI has given rise to polymorphic malware, a new breed of self-evolving threats. These sophisticated forms of malware use AI to learn and adapt to security systems, making them particularly hard to detect and neutralize. CISOs are prioritizing the development of advanced defense mechanisms to protect against these adaptive threats.

5. Ransomware and Extortion Mitigation

Ransomware attacks, often coupled with extortion tactics, pose a significant threat. CISOs are focusing on preventative measures like robust backup and recovery mechanisms, employee awareness training, and incident response planning. Cybersecurity insurance is also gaining traction as a means to mitigate financial losses in the event of an attack.

6. Understanding Cybersecurity Responsibility

CISOs are working towards a culture where cybersecurity is everyone’s responsibility. By implementing comprehensive training programs, they aim to educate all employees about their role in maintaining security. This includes awareness of phishing scams and the importance of not clicking on suspicious links.

7. Data Breach Prevention

Negligent behavior by employees remains a significant cause of data breaches. CISOs are focusing on minimizing these risks by educating staff on the proper handling of sensitive information and employing technologies to safeguard against accidental disclosures.

8. Supply Chain and Third-Party Vendor Risks

The compromise of third-party vendors and supply chain attacks continue to be a focal point. CISOs are enforcing robust risk management practices to assess and mitigate risks associated with external partners and vendors.

9. AI-Enhanced Cybersecurity

AI and machine learning (ML) are no longer buzzwords; they are integrated into modern security operations. In 2024, CISOs are leveraging AI-powered tools for threat detection, incident response, and vulnerability management. AI’s ability to analyze vast datasets and identify patterns aids in detecting anomalies and predicting potential threats, enhancing overall security posture.

10. Queryable Encryption

To protect sensitive data even if systems are compromised, CISOs are employing queryable encryption. This allows data to remain encrypted even during processing, significantly reducing the risk of data exposure.

11. Securing the Cloud and Supply Chain

As cloud adoption accelerates, securing cloud environments and the intricate web of third-party vendors comprising the supply chain has become paramount. CISOs are prioritizing robust cloud security configurations, regular vulnerability assessments, and stringent vendor risk management practices to address potential vulnerabilities that could be exploited by attackers.

12. Proactive Regulatory Compliance

The regulatory landscape for data protection and privacy continues to evolve. CISOs are proactively ensuring compliance with frameworks like GDPR, CCPA, and emerging regulations to avoid hefty fines and reputational damage. Automation tools and dedicated compliance teams are becoming essential to navigate the complexities of regulatory compliance.

13. Addressing the Cybersecurity Talent Shortage

The shortage of skilled cybersecurity professionals remains a pressing concern. CISOs are investing in upskilling existing staff, partnering with educational institutions, and exploring innovative recruitment strategies to attract and retain talent. Additionally, automation and managed security services are being employed to bridge the gap and ensure adequate security coverage.

Conclusion

The role of the CISO has never been more critical. As guardians of digital trust, CISOs in 2024 are at the forefront of defending against an ever-changing threat landscape. By prioritizing these key areas, they aim to create a resilient and secure environment for their organizations to thrive in the digital age.

NIS2: The Next Wave of European Cybersecurity and the Vital Role of Network Observability

NIS2 - The Next Wave of European Cybersecurity and the Vital Role of Network Observability

As the European Union (EU) gears up to implement the Network and Information Systems Directive 2 (NIS2), organizations across the continent are preparing for a significant shift in cybersecurity regulations. With a focus on bolstering the resilience of essential services and critical infrastructure, NIS2 introduces stricter requirements for risk management, incident reporting, and supply chain security. Amidst these changes, network observability emerges as a crucial tool for compliance and proactive threat detection.

NIS2: A New Era of Cybersecurity

NIS2 is a comprehensive update to the existing NIS Directive, aiming to address the evolving cyber threat landscape and strengthen the EU’s overall cybersecurity posture. Key changes under NIS2 include:

  • Expanded Scope: NIS2 applies to a broader range of sectors, including energy, transportation, healthcare, financial services, and digital infrastructure.
  • Stricter Requirements: Organizations will be required to implement stricter risk management practices, incident reporting procedures, and supply chain security measures.
  • Increased Penalties: Non-compliance with NIS2 can result in significant financial penalties and reputational damage.

The Importance of Network Observability

Symbol Photo - by DALLE

Network observability plays a pivotal role in meeting the demands of NIS2. By providing comprehensive visibility into network traffic, performance, and security, organizations can:

  • Identify and Mitigate Risks: Network observability enables organizations to identify vulnerabilities and potential threats in real-time, allowing for proactive risk mitigation.
  • Streamline Incident Response: In the event of a security incident, network observability helps organizations quickly detect, investigate, and respond to the threat, minimizing damage and downtime.
  • Ensure Regulatory Compliance: By continuously monitoring network activity, organizations can demonstrate compliance with NIS2’s stringent reporting and incident management requirements.
  • Enhance Supply Chain Security: Network observability helps organizations monitor the security posture of their supply chain partners, ensuring that they also meet the required standards.

Network Observability Tools

A variety of network observability tools are available to help organizations meet the challenges of NIS2. These tools include:

  • Network Traffic Analysis (NTA): NTA tools analyze network traffic patterns to identify anomalies and potential threats.
  • Intrusion Detection and Prevention Systems (IDPS): IDPS tools monitor network traffic for signs of malicious activity and can take automated actions to block attacks.
  • Security Information and Event Management (SIEM): SIEM tools collect and correlate security events from various sources, providing a centralized view of the organization’s security posture.
  • Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR): EDR tools monitor endpoint devices for signs of compromise and can take automated actions to contain threats.

The Future of Cybersecurity in Europe

NIS2 marks a significant step forward in European cybersecurity. By embracing network observability and investing in the right tools and technologies, organizations can not only meet the requirements of NIS2 but also proactively defend themselves against the ever-evolving cyber threat landscape.

How can NEOX NETWORKS help you with your NIS2

NEOX NETWORKS can assist you in complying with the NIS2 Directive by providing professional data extraction tools for monitoring, analysis, and security in critical infrastructures. Their solutions ensure a reliable source of network data, which is essential for the continuous monitoring and protection of corporate networks, whether IT or OT. With our expertise, we can offer your organization robust support to meet the comprehensive measures required by the NIS2 Directive.

Enhanced Network Visibility and Monitoring:

  • Network TAPs: FPGA-based NEOXPacketRaven Network TAPs ensure lossless and, thanks to data diode functionality, unidirectional routing of network traffic in order to make it available to security and monitoring tools.
  • Network Packet Brokers (NPBs): NEOX NETWORKS’ NPBs are responsible to provide analysis and monitoring systems with all data streams of the Network TAPs or other data sources distributed in the network, reliably and aggregated. Using dedicated ASIC hardware, which is used in every NPB, both simple and complicated filter rules can be created to ensure an optimized data flow towards the analysis systems.
  • Network Traffic Analysis (NTA): NEOX NETWORKS’ NTA solutions provide deep insights into network traffic, enabling real-time monitoring and analysis. This helps organizations identify anomalies, suspicious activities, and potential security breaches, which is crucial for early threat detection and incident response under NIS2.
  • Network Monitoring Solutions: NEOX NETWORKS provides network monitoring solutions that collect and analyze network data in real-time. These solutions offer insights into network performance, bandwidth utilization, latency, and other critical metrics, helping organizations identify and troubleshoot network issues quickly.

NEOX NETWORKS Product Portfolio

Supply Chain Security:

  • Network Segmentation: NEOX NETWORKS can help organizations implement network segmentation, creating isolated zones within the network to limit the spread of threats and protect critical assets. This is particularly important for managing supply chain risks, as NIS2 emphasizes the need to secure interconnected systems and services.

Compliance and Regulation:

  • Data Recording and Retention: NEOX NETWORKS’ solutions enable organizations to record and retain network traffic data for compliance and forensic purposes. This ensures that organizations can meet regulatory requirements for data retention and provide evidence in case of security incidents.

Improved Network Performance and Troubleshooting

  • Application Performance Monitoring (APM): NEOX NETWORKS’ APM solutions monitor the performance of critical applications and services running on the network. This helps organizations identify bottlenecks, optimize application performance, and ensure a smooth user experience.
  • Network Forensics: In case of a security incident or network outage, NEOX NETWORKS’ solutions can provide detailed forensic data to help investigators understand the root cause and identify the responsible parties.

Call to Action

As the implementation of NIS2 approaches, it is crucial for organizations to assess their cybersecurity posture and invest in network observability solutions. By doing so, they can ensure compliance, protect their critical assets, and maintain the trust of their customers and stakeholders.

Why a Data Diode Function is so important for Network TAPs

Why a Data Diode Function is so important for Network TAPs

Data diodes guarantee unidirectional communication and ensure that data traffic in the network, no matter what type of media is used, can only flow in one direction.

Unidirectional network devices with data diode functionality are typically used to ensure information security or protection of critical digital systems (CRITIS), such as industrial control systems or production networks from cyber attacks.

This data diode function is crucial in a Network TAPs (Test Access Points) as it helps to ensure that network traffic only flows in the intended direction and that any unauthorised access of the network is prevented, helping to prevent data tampering and leakage.

Data Diode function for Network TAPs
Data Diode Function with active Network TAPs

By allowing data to flow in only one direction, a data diode ensures that sensitive or confidential information on the network cannot be viewed or stolen by unauthorised users. This is especially important for organisations that handle sensitive data, such as financial institutions and government agencies.

Another important advantage of the data diode function in Network TAPs is that it helps prevent malicious attacks on the network, for example.

The unidirectional flow of data means that a data diode can prevent hackers from accessing the network and installing malware or other malicious software. This in turn helps protect the network from a variety of threats, including viruses, ransomware and denial-of-service attacks.

In summary, the data diode function is an important component in Network TAPs as it is instrumental in ensuring the security and integrity of network traffic. Since it only allows data flow in one direction without any retroactive effect, it can prevent data breaches and malicious attacks and improve the availability of the network.

Conclusion

Companies that handle sensitive data should consider integrating the data diode function into their Network TAPs to ensure their network security.

Network TAP vs. SPAN Port

netzwerk-tap_vs_span-port

In my current article, I would like to discuss the topic of network access using Network TAP and show you the advantages of this technology.

Nowadays, networks are the core element for the transport of communication data and the exchange of electronic information. The number of network-enabled products is increasing rapidly and the medium of the Internet has long since become an integral part of our lives. In the home sector, too, manufacturers are relying more and more on network-capable elements, thus enabling users to have convenient access (to such devices) regardless of their location.

Life without the internet is hardly imaginable and today’s computer networks are very important.

But what happens if the network fails
or is not available in the usual way?

Network Monitoring

The impact of a network failure can have huge financial consequences and may well cause worldwide chaos. With a proactive monitoring system, you can continuously monitor your IT service quality and thus significantly minimise the risk of a failure. Permanent monitoring of your IT infrastructure also helps you with investment decisions, as you can obtain detailed analyses and evaluations from the information obtained and thus derive trends. Especially when it comes to capacity planning or ensuring QoS (Quality of Service), comprehensive monitoring is indispensable.

A network monitoring system is not an off-the-shelf product and this article is about network monitoring using the so-called “packet capture” method. With this method, all network data to be analysed is evaluated byte by byte. The transmitted digital information is recorded by means of capturing and analysed by the monitoring tool.

But where does this data come from and how reliable are these sources of information?

Network Taps are best suited for this measurement technique. What are these devices and how are they used? Network Taps usually have four physical ports and are transparently looped into the network line to be analysed. The information transmitted on the network ports is mirrored on the monitoring interfaces.

This technique provides a 100% insight into the network events and allows the data to be analysed without affecting the network performance. Since every single transmitted network packet is copied out of the line, one would also be able to create a “backup” of one’s network data with this method.

Technical advantages of Network TAPs:

  • Network Taps do not impair the function of the active network line at all
  • 100% transparent and invisible to hackers and other attackers
  • Network Taps are passive and behave like a cable bridge (fail-closed) in case of failure
  • Completely transmits the network data
  • The integrity of the data is guaranteed
  • 100% reaction-free due to galvanic isolation (Data Diode Function)
  • Network packets with CRC errors are also routed out
  • Non-compliant data according to IEEE 802.3 are copied out
  • Works protocol-independent and supports jumbo frames
  • Classic network taps forward the data in full-duplex mode
  • Overbooking of output ports excluded
  • No tedious configuration required, once installed it delivers the desired data
  • Errors due to incorrect packet order excluded
  • Configuration errors excluded, as commissioning is done by Plug’n Play
  • Media-converting Network Taps available for the widest possible range of applications

If you have performance problems in the network or already have a failure, fast action is usually called for. In such situations, you have little time to configure SPAN ports and want to start troubleshooting immediately. But what if there is no SPAN port available at the time or the password to the switch is not at hand? But it can also be much worse, namely that the switch is busy due to a DDoS attack or a bandwidth-intensive application, making analysis on the SPAN port virtually impossible.

It could also happen that the switch is not available in the usual way due to a malicious attack. Especially for security reasons or to detect industrial espionage, network taps are indispensable, as they emit data at the physical level, regardless of what is happening in the network, and thus always allow reliable network analysis and monitoring.

Application examples of Network TAPs:

Network Forensics and Data Capturing
Example – Network TAPs for forensic analysis

Conclusion

There are many reasons to use Network TAPs and we hope that we have been able to give you an overview of the benefits in this article.

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