The sophistication of cyber threats is constantly evolving and escalating. The challenge of enterprise security will always be finding ways to keep pace with the sinister creativity of malicious actors that threaten the ever-expanding attack surfaces of corporate and public sector networks.
To successfully meet this challenge, you need to empower your operators with relevant actionable information. The best defense is an operator with immediate access to comprehensive, insightful analytics that enables him to effectively respond in minutes.
Throughout the industry, emerging network detection and response (NDR) technologies, like those offered by WireX Systems, are replacing legacy intrusion detection systems (IDS). The pattern and attack signature matching that IDS systems rely on is insufficient in dealing with the zero-day cyberattacks threatening modern environments.
The benefits of intrusion detection systems
The primary functions of an IDS are to monitor inbound and outbound network activity and detect anomalies and attack signatures that typically signify an unauthorized attempt to access system assets or data. Once the IDS detects an anomaly (signature), operators will receive an alert.
IDS systems rely on an extensive attack signature database that is challenging even for leading solutions to keep updated with the latest threats. This limitation and several others erode the security posture of organizations that rely solely on IDS. Let’s look at some of the main problems for using today’s IDS systems, which are the enormous amounts of false positives, the very high skillset that is required from the operator in order to figure out what really happened and dealing with zero day threats.
False positives: An IDS system generates a significant number of false positives. When security teams receive thousands of alerts per day, it overburdens the operators. Each one of these alerts should be examined and there is a considerable possibility for human error in determining whether to ignore or accept an alert as a legitimate attack. Over time this is obviously leading to the operators ignoring most alerts as “noise”.
Operator expertise: An operator must be an expert in the TCP/IP networking stack and understand how to perform packet traces and detailed analyses of network sessions to interpret the results he is getting. “Gluing back” these bits and bytes is no easy task even for the most skilled analysts and is usually very complicated and tedious.
Zero day threats: New techniques to bypass the existing signatures are appearing at a much faster rate than the ability to update these databases leaving these IDS systems ineffective to say the least.
The benefits of network detection and response
The primary function of NDR is to use real-time network traffic analysis to detect and investigate threats targeting your network. One of the main benefits of an NDR system (like WireX) is its ability to empower your operators with forensic investigation capabilities and enable automatic collection, correlation analytics and visualization. Enabling these capabilities are powerful machine learning and analytics engines that leverage recent incident information to predict and prevent future attack patterns.
NDR provides an integrated, set of capabilities that greatly enhances detection, investigation, forensics and threat response capabilities for operators protecting the network. Network detection components gather data across environments and apply machine learning and AI algorithms to identify threats that have never even previously occurred. The investigation capability provides operators with near real-time insights and contextualized information that speed up and improve the results of forensics analyses. Furthermore, response capabilities automate the application of robust security workflows that prevent system breaches and mitigate damages before they occur.
What are the differences between the NDR and IDS systems?
NDR and IDS systems both monitor network traffic to detect malicious activities and provide immediate analytics to mitigate these threats. So what are the key differences? From a birds-eye view, the limitations inherent in IDS systems best define the differences between them and NDR.
Let’s start with the most critical: IDS systems are heavily reliant on maintaining a database of common signatures and anomalies tied to attack patterns. While vendors do their best to keep these databases up to date with the latest threats, they often fail to keep up with the rapidly evolving pace of innovation and creativity from malicious actors.
In contrast, NDR systems use a robust suite of machine learning features and AI to create predictive behavior profiles capable of identifying and mitigating day-zero security threats that signature-based systems will likely miss (until they see the specific attack over and over again).
Another key differentiator between NDR and IDS is in investigation and forensics capability. IDS systems are primarily limited to malware and well-understood attack signatures.
NDR systems like WireX can leverage investigation and forensics features to protect against insider threats, prevent the abuse of credentials and permissions, and fully identify the scope of data exfiltration and breaches.
For a more specific example of the differences, IDS systems commonly rely on something akin to NetFlow to recognize patterns of behavior across the network. NetFlow inspects packets to provide metadata to determine information such as the source/destination IP addresses and source/destination ports. IDS systems compare this information to common attack patterns in the signature database to identify suspicious activity occurring at that moment.
When an IDS performs this comparison, it makes what is called a “point in time decision.” If a threat pattern is detected, the specific session will be flagged, and in some cases, the network flow may be recorded. If the traffic appears legitimate, the IDS will not flag the session or record any information about the data transmitted. From a forensics perspective, this has a significant impact in scenarios where it is later determined that a system was compromised. The traffic data is lost to the follow-up investigation and forensics process unless the attack was detected in the first place.
In contrast, NDR applies a far more holistic and long-term approach to monitoring the same traffic. In addition to the metadata, NDR systems inspect the packet payload information, dissect protocols and provide insight into internal data exchanges between network-enabled applications. NDR systems are capable of storing this information for extended periods. The application of machine learning to this data allows NDR systems to determine the “patient zero” of infected systems well after an attack has taken place.
Elevate network detection and response with WireX’s Contextual Capture™
WireX’s Contextual Capture™ is a powerful NDR tool that empowers enterprise security teams to handle more threats in significantly less time by providing unprecedented network visibility in the cloud and on-premises. Instead of merely capturing raw packets, Contextual Capture™ continuously analyzes and translates packet information into human-readable, actionable intelligence.
By monitoring the entire enterprise network stack and transforming traffic into behavior-aware intelligence, Contextual Capture™ delivers months of in-depth visibility with up to a year of payload data retention, which is more than 25 times the typical full PCAP (packet capture) solution. Advanced visualization features provide operators with an immediate view of the most relevant analytics and statistics during an event.
Contextual Capture™ transforms inexperienced operators into data scientists
Traditional security investigation tools overburden your enterprise security teams who are likely already resource-constrained and scrambling to contain a data breach. These methods force your highly experienced team members to spend their time manually examining days of network packets and sessions totaling hundreds of terabytes.
When the team completes their work, they have little visibility into the transactions of the impacted applications. Related sessions are uncorrelated. User actions that could provide the team and machine learning algorithms the information needed to diagnose and prevent a future attack remain buried in mountains of application logs soon to be pruned by retention policies.
With WireX’s Contextual Capture™, state-of-the-art analysis engines continuously identify impacted applications and reconstruct and correlate related sessions. They extract and store application content for long-term use independent of application-layer logging configurations. This information takes on the user-action classification, which provides operators a view into the precise actions a user performed in an exposed system in a clean, simple user interface. A fast and intuitive search feature allows even inexperienced operators to easily analyze user activities across multiple applications.
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