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Network Infrastructure

Network analysis can find malware before it strikes

Network analysis can find malware before it strikes

We’ve long been proponents of active network analysis. For as long as I can remember, we’ve implemented it as a part of most major network projects that we’ve done. The idea that, if you can find an issue early it won’t become a major issue down the road is a pretty basic one – or so I thought.

Make sure that you’re consistently monitoring and analyzing the performance of your network. It should be a major part of your network security strategy. The money that you spend now will more than pay for itself in the future.

Credit: Justin Network traffic analysis should be used more in the fight against malware. That’s because pointers show up on the network “weeks and even months” in advance of new malicious software being uncovered, scientists from the Georgia Institute of Technology explain in an article on the school’s website . The researchers, who have been studying historic network traffic patterns, say the latest malware tracking should take advantage of inherent network-supplied barometers and stop simply focusing on trying to identify malware code already on networks and machines. By analyzing already-available, suspicious network traffic created by the hackers over a period of time, administrators will be able to pounce and render malware harmless before it can perform damage. “You know you are sick when you have a fever, before you know exactly what’s causing it,” says Manos Antonakakis, an assistant professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Georgia Tech. “The first thing the adversary does is set up a presence on the internet, and that first signal can indicate an infection.” For example, registering domains is something hackers do and consequently can be tracked. So, by acting on that first sign of a potential infection—a dodgy domain […]

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Here’s How Branch Offices Can Reinvent The Traditional WAN

While some companies are still utilizing traditional WAN services, it’s likely that we’ll start to see less of those kinds of services in the future. As an alternative, IT companies will be using one of the two WAN services that will still be available; the Internet and MPLS. But, with only those two “services” to choose from, these companies will need to find a way to best design their branch offices’ WAN, without sacrificing efficiency and cost.

So, how can this be done? Companies will need to reinvent the WAN to work in a completely different way. Here’s the thought behind it.

The Traditional Approach

The traditional approach of managing a WAN has always been through the use of multiple hardware-based appliances in each branch office. This allowed for a wide range of functionality across different locations. It was typically done by having a T-1 based access to a service provider’s MPLS network at each branch office, as well as high speed internet links spread across each data center. Though this approach has worked fine up until now, companies are realizing that this way can’t keep up with the technological demands of the future..

The Need for Change and New Policies

These inconsistencies and slow downs have, needless to say, led to different approaches to the traditional WAN.

One survey from 2015 reported that users wanted a WAN that could support real-time apps like voice and video, increased security, better application performance, and cloud access all at a cheaper cost. This has led to the introduction of the SD-WAN, or Software Defined WAN. Now, companies can expect to get their needs met, without needing to learn about an entirely new system; just a traditional one with a few tweaks.

Of course, with the reinvention of the typical WAN, companies will also have to rethink their policies. With more devices being added to a network along with different users, certain standards need to be implemented. Each user needs to be given a different security profile, so that the network will be secure at each branch without slowing things down. Of course, implementation of new business policies will also mean maintaining consistent and appropriate configuration throughout. This could be a challenge with a new WAN system.

Better Access to Cloud Services

As mentioned before, one factor which led to the reinvention of the WAN was the need of better access to cloud services. Since users often have the ability to connect through multiple service providers, the branch network should be able to choose the best service provider based on the specifics of that network. In many cases, it’s a cloud service.

Additionally, network organizations want to get rid of Internet backhaul to save on costs and improve performance. With the new WAN approach, companies have the option of enabling local, direct Internet, and cloud access from various branch offices. This means they can utilize at the cloud as they wish, while making access to it easier, faster, and more secure.

Change of Location of Functionality

With the traditional WAN, optimization and security which contributed to the quality of functionality, was either provided onsite or at a corporate data center. While it’s still okay to do it this way, the reinvention of the WAN allows for other locations to host network functionality. Some of these locations include the communications service provider’s central office or the cloud service provider’s facility. As opposed to multiple hardware-based devices that were used in the past, companies now prefer the deployment of a single intelligent device that can be controlled from a central standpoint. Though, that doesn’t necessarily mean all companies will switch over to this style immediately.

Let’s Not Forget NFW

Some enterprise IT organizations are adopting Network Functions Virtualization as a means of changing the location of functionality. NFWs are a means of replacing traditional connectivity hardware, like routers and firewalls, with software that can be used on off-the-shelf servers. Virtual Network Functions, or VNFs, will become very important in enabling network organizations to consolidate branch office resources onto a single SD-WAN. So, keep an eye out for these.

Concerns of Reinventing the WAN

While there are a lot of exciting things to look forward to with this new approach, there are some concerns that are leaving some users skeptical or somewhat hesitant to go forward. One is that WAN optimization is believed to be in decline, while another reason is security concerns. A different WAN design can certainly make things more efficient, but only if it is done correctly. Obviously, businesses don’t have time to waste.

Therefore, organizations who plan to utilize the reinvention of the WAN will need to implement security at each point while also maintaining efficient network connectivity.

The WAN as we know it will still be here, but it’s how companies can reinvent it, design it, and implement it that will determine the role it plays in a company’s network overall.

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Things to Consider Before Your Company Connects to a WAN

Today, companies rely on the internet and technology more than ever in order to make their business as productive as it can be. One aspect of this involves moving over to the cloud to expand their presence on a wider basis. By moving over to the cloud, IT organizations will then have the capacity to serve their own clients with the tools they need to operate. However, this would require a different type of network, like a WAN, to cover all the bases. By using a WAN, companies can connect their various branches to the headquarters, collocations, and right back to the cloud.

Sounds simple, right?

Unfortunately, not so much. Utilizing wide area connections, while convenient, can involve a lot of security risks. If your company is thinking of using a WAN in the near future, then there are some things to consider beforehand.

A Loss of Personal Control

When using a WAN in the cloud age, you will no longer have as much control over your own network. Now, you have to trust the cloud vendors you’re using and hope that the information passing through is protected and that access is limited to administrators. This means signing more service level agreements, and understanding that those SLAs won’t necessarily support you. This means that if a breach were to occur that wasn’t necessarily your fault, your company will still have to take the blame regardless.

More Access Points Means More Compliance

Though more companies are adopting cloud services, not all of them have been willing to connect their remote devices to the application providers just yet. This is because if companies want to have direct access at each branch, they also have to follow compliances at each individual point. So, if a company has 3,000 remote locations, a different set of security policies would need to be set up and maintained at every single one. This can be a headache to set up and manage thereafter.

The Inclusion of Enterprise Mobile Devices

When hooking up your company to a WAN, the first focus is on computers. But, realistically, at any given time, people will want to and need to use their mobile devices to access the cloud as well. Is this type of flexibility something you’re going to want for your company? Then that will need to be discussed with security vendors; many of whom are just as new to this as you are.

Will the Connections Be Private or Public?

If you’re a large company, a WAN connection may not be treated the same at each point. For example, certain industries, like retail companies, are able to use a local internet exit on a public network, since in general, there’s not too much sensitive information to protect. However, if that company is also connected to a branch which manages online shopping, now you have customer credit card numbers in the picture. Therefore, the local exit of the connection at that branch would be (or should be) private. Your company needs to be aware of each one of these hook ups and the security risks involved at each point.

Performance Quality isn’t Always Great

Most companies backhaul all internet bound traffic to the company headquarters by augmenting their MPLS circuits via internet based connections. However, this can create some inconsistencies across the network, and seriously slow down the performance overall. This also occurs when the speed and quality of the servers used don’t match up with the speed and quality of the connection equipment, and vice verse. All these things can cause a slow down and diminish the user experience on the whole. One way to speed it up is by using mini-DMZs, or avoiding backhaul to the main data hub altogether. But, this would be yet another obstacle and equation to figure out.

Existing in the cloud age means you can do a lot more with your company than ever before. While a WAN connection can really benefit your business, you might want to think twice before switching over.

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