Network Critical - The Window to your Network

Network Critical to Attend the Arizona Tech Summit, September 2016

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As part of our ongoing global event schedule, we’d like to take this opportunity to inform our readers that the Network Critical team will be exhibiting at the 8th Annual Arizona Tech Summit in Phoenix, AZ next month. This is in keeping with our sustained efforts to support business at a local level in the North American region as well as around the globe.

The 8th Annual Arizona Technology Summit is coming back to the Phoenix Convention Center (South Ballroom) on September 14th 2016 from 7am-5pm.

The theme for 2016 is "Conquering Your IT and Security Objectives". Attend The Arizona Technology Summit to get the right tools and make vital connections to best prepare your company for the broad spectrum of ever-changing technology trends.

The Network Critical team will be joined by Array Networks as we demonstrate our TAP and Packet Broker technologies and their ability to simplify the connection of security and performance tools to networks. While Network Critical is a global developer of network access technologies, we believe that these local events are important and valuable venues to meet with network engineers and designers.

So, if you are near Arizona on the conference date, please feel free to contact us at marketing-team@networkcritical.com and arrange an appointment!

If you are interested in finding out more information surrounding the event, details can be found here: arizona.technologysummit.net/

Posted: 01/09/2016 19:03:09 by Network Critical with 0 comments

Ransomware and Perimeter Security

Your computer has been encrypted. Worse yet, your TV has been infected. What now? The functionality of many internet connected devices is vulnerable to ransomware attacks. This is true for consumers as well as large businesses. There are, however, a couple of points to note that may be somewhat uplifting in all the doom and gloom around Ransomware.

First, to help you feel a little better about life in a world suddenly infected with anonymous, unchecked and seemingly unstoppable extortion threats, it may not be as widespread as reported. It is, however, a growing threat. A Kaspersky Lab Bulletin reported that Ransomware attacks were increased by 48.3% in 2015. Ransomware is the media darling these days and is garnering worldwide coverage. This media coverage is, in fact, a good thing. It is warning both consumers and businesses to be alert to the threat and to take preventative measures to avoid attacks or to make attacks more difficult for the perpetrator.

A little education can go a long way to helping make life a little easier in a difficult environment. Let’s take the ransomware encrypted TV that has lost its functionality unless the owner pays a fee to the people who rendered it inoperable. If that person has read this blog, he or she would know that simply resetting the TV to factory defaults would likely clear up the problem. On iPads using Safari, clearing history and clearing cookies and data will likely remove the ransomware and restore normal operation. So, that is a little bit of good news to brighten your day.

There are, however, many more complicated forms of Ransomware that infect and encrypt larger networks and can have a devastating effect on business operations. Note that it is not theft of data or confidential information that ransomware criminals are after. They just want to make your life miserable and disrupt your business so that you will pay the ransom to return to normal operation. Your data is still the target, but it is the means, not the end. So the question is how to protect data and the network from such attacks, which leads us to protection.

The second point is about strong protection from Ransomware and other attacks. There has been much said that perimeter protection is “old school” and not capable of protecting networks. On the other hand, perimeter protection is proven technology and has been continually updated and improved. So, Next Generation Firewall (NGFW) is actually a Firewall with integrated Intrusion Protection System (IPS). Data Loss Prevention appliances (DLP) can also add to your NGFW protection by establishing and enforcing policies which manage accessibility and multi-level download permission to data on your network servers. These are all critical and foundational technologies to establishing strong network protection. Surprisingly, many reports suggest that as many as 30% of large networks are not using such security.

These appliances can easily be connected to network links using TAPs that will provide the access ports and manage the real-time information flow from the network to the security appliances, and back to the network. TAPs do not have IP addresses, are not known to the network and provide fail-safe and by-pass technology in the event of an appliance failure. These important features provide high network availability while allowing security devices to protect important network assets.

Installing NGFW and DLP, however, is not the total solution. A robust network protection program also includes such things as anti-virus software, multi-factor authentication and consistent end point back-up in case something does happen to your critical data. SC Magazine reports that IT decision makers believe that up to 42% of corporate data is stored on end point devices. So, safeguarding the Data Center is only part of the solution. The end points must also be protected and backed up.

When important corporate resources are spread throughout the network, protection becomes the responsibility of everyone who touches the network, not just the IT department. It is important, however, for the IT group to spearhead strong and consistent security policies that are disseminated throughout the organization and ingrained into corporate culture. It is not important for every user to understand the technology behind IPS, DLP, NGFW or even IP networking. It is important for everyone to understand that they need to backup their data on a non-networked device regularly so if their device is compromised, important information is retrievable. It is important for them to know how to manage email, how to separate personal and business activity even though both may be accessed by the same device. It is important for them to adhere to the corporate security protocols on their personal device if they are using it for business and personal access.

It is good that the media is exposing threats such as Ransomware so people are aware and can take action to protect their devices and data. However, sometimes the dark cloud is not quite as dark as it may seem in the news. This is just the latest fad and it too will pass (and the next demon will appear). In the meantime, be aware, be wary and be secure.

Posted: 25/08/2016 15:41:11 by Network Critical with 0 comments

Visualizing the Next Age

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Last Sunday, a black South African shattered a world record in the Olympic men’s 400 Meter run. That race provided dramatic evidence about how our world has changed, and will continue to change. During the Apartheid in South Africa, black athletes were not allowed to compete and represent their country in the Olympic Games or any international competition. In the Rio 2016 Olympic games, a black athlete from South Africa competed and won for his country.

This is a radical example of how dramatically social conventions can change in a relatively short period of time. The struggle and ultimate transition of South Africa from Apartheid to racial integration was not an easy one and had to start somewhere. That somewhere was a man with a vision.

Ingenuity, invention and innovation all require forward vision. This concept is pretty commonly touted in business seminars and motivational meetings everywhere. Gandhi, Gates, Jobs, Mandela, King, and Kennedy all shared radical new visions about how our world’s future could be, and they worked to make their vision become the new normal. Visions of a different world, however, start with an understanding of history (how we got to where we are) and current norms (where we are now). It is not enough to know about history, dates of battles, etc. To visualize the future, it is necessary to understand history. What changed over previous historical periods? Why did those changes occur? How did change come about? How did historical change alter the lives of our ancestors and set the stage for the present?

Life at the beginning of the 20th century was (obviously) very different from today. In 1900, the following things did not exist: Radio, Air Travel, Automobiles, Penicillin, Television, Computers, Internet, Bottled Water, Disneyland and Cell Phones. In 1900, no one would have thought that, in their lifetime, people would be flying from New York to London. In 1900, no one alive could possibly imagine that nearly all the information in the world would be available instantly, at any time, anywhere, and to anyone with a 3” by 5” device in their pocket.

With that background, we can talk about vision and the future. From our current perspective in the very early 21st century, it is unlikely that we can predict the changes that will alter our lives and those of our children in the next 80 plus years. However, by looking at the technological, political and social changes that took place from 1900 to 1999 we can easily surmise that life in 2099 will be much different than today. How do we plan for what has yet to be invented? How do we prepare for the next revolution?

First, let’s assume that we, the current generation of global leaseholders, do not screw up so badly that there will be no 2099. With no crystal ball, we quite seriously have no idea whether or not we will annihilate our planet and all its inhabitants with nuclear warfare. Conversely, we might eliminate sickness, poverty and even conquer death itself in the next 84 years. We just don’t know. However, we can visualize an incrementally improved world from where we are today, and work toward achieving that vision.

By understanding the past and visualizing improvement for the future, we can create systems and technologies for tomorrow. Visualization of the future starts with the study of today’s trends. If we can see where we are heading in the relatively short-term, we can adjust our educational systems and even thought processes to prepare for longer term opportunities.

A study of historical trends shows that we are in the process of moving from an Industrial Age to an Information Age. Not news, you might say. No, but it is critical to understand how the new age is changing our lives and to actively adjust our systems and conventions to support and accelerate the transition. Information Age trends are making international borders less relevant, economies more interconnected, physical location less important, disease less deadly and a well educated workforce absolutely critical.

Governments and educators need to work together to adjust education systems in order to teach new methods of working and interacting with information. Schools from elementary through University need new classes and majors that focus on the creative analysis of data, and critical thinking. Corporations will need to create internships and entry level opportunities to help build a mass of informed workers. Governments need to work together with these corporations to develop re-training programs for workers left behind in industries that are falling away. What we now view as new and revolutionary ways of learning and education will become the new normal as the Information Age develops and matures.

Just as air travel increased inter-continental interaction in the early 20th century, the Internet, satellite, and cellular technology have made global communication and interaction instantaneous and ubiquitous. Network Critical (www.networkcritical.com) is proud to support the global information revolution by creating internship programs with our local Universities and providing Information Age employment opportunities across country borders on four continents.

Who knows what the future will bring? Understanding history, and creating a vision of the future will help us be ready for the next big thing. Remember, we can not go back and undo what we have done, so we had better visualize change, prepare for opportunity and make good decisions going forward.

Posted: 17/08/2016 15:02:12 by Network Critical with 0 comments

Data Connectors - This week, we are in Sacramento!

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This is a quick one to let our readers know that Network Critical will be attending the Data Connectors Conference in Sacramento later this week.

The event will take place at DoubleTree by Hilton in Sacramento, and will be held on Thursday, 18th August.

Data Connectors conferences are one of the premier technology security events, focused on the latest products and best practices available in an educational environment. You will find local product sources & seminars and have the opportunity to meet with representatives from many of the top security companies.

The Network Critical team will be demonstrating our TAP and Packet Broker technology and their ability to simplify the connection of security and performance tools to networks. While Network Critical is a global developer of network access technologies, we believe that these local events are important and valuable venues to meet with network engineers and designers.

So, if you are near Sacramento on the conference date, please feel free to contact us at marketing-team@networkcritical.com and arrange an appointment!

If you are interested in finding out more information on this, or other, Data Connectors events, their website details are as follows: www.dataconnectors.com/event/sacramento-thursday-08-18-2016/

Posted: 15/08/2016 12:05:28 by Network Critical with 0 comments

Life (and Network Management) is Like a Steeplechase

Life is like a Steeplechase. Have you ever heard that line before? It is likely that you have not. The Steeplechase is not exactly the glamor race of the Olympics - even though it has been an Olympic track and field event event for almost 100 years.

Given that this is not the most well known Olympic event, I will explain the event and the life analogy as we go along. See if you can identify the common thread that connects the race and life to corporate network management. So let’s run the race and see how it goes.

  • The Olympic Steeplechase is 3000 meters - seven and a half laps around the track. For the readers in the United States, that is about 2 miles. Not a sprint. You need to be in it for the long run.
  • The first lap has no hurdles. The race allows you to get warmed up for the difficult obstacles ahead with a nice flat track and no jumps.
  • After you pass the finish line of the first lap, you start to encounter hurdles. But you are prepared so you jump the first three with no problem. The hurdles are actually fixed with a flat top so you can actually use the hurdles to propel yourself further forward.
  • Just when you think you are doing fine, the fourth hurdle has a giant puddle on the other side! You jump that fourth hurdle and end up in the water. So now you have to run the rest of the race with wet feet. But, you might have noticed, from that first water jump, that the water is deeper nearest to the hurdle and more shallow further out.
  • The next six water jumps are expected and you work hard to not just clear the hurdle, but to propel yourself as far from those water hurdles as possible, so you will be able to continue the race quicker than those who remain mired in the deeper water.
  • After the final hurdle, you face the finish line. You are exhausted and your feet are wet but if you planned your race well and learned a better approach from each hurdle, you are satisfied that you ran a good race.
The life analogies with the Steeplechase are fairly obvious. But what do they have to do with network management? Well, here it gets a little obtuse, but interesting nevertheless.
  • Network management is not a sprint. Planning, analysis and management is ongoing.
  • Once a new deployment is installed and operational everything seems to be humming along just as planned.
  • Then the real world steps in and clients start to call with previously unforeseen issues.
  • Once the rash of client issues are resolved to everyone’s satisfaction, you get hacked.
  • The first malware attack is discovered and blocked but the attacks continue. You learn from early attacks that better defenses need to be deployed and you shrink the threat landscape.
  • After a great deal of real world experience, enhanced security, policy development, employee training and continuous monitoring your network is as secure as can be…for now. 

The last bullet is where network management strays from both the Steeplechase and Life analogies. There is no finish line. The need for continuous monitoring, threat landscape reduction, policy revisions and employee training updates never ends. This race is never won. Technology changes, networks grow, new threats are presented every day.

Network Critical is a Steeplechase coach. Taps and Packet Brokers like the SmartNA-X™ portfolio, can help network managers deploy analysis devices to improve future performance based on past experience. They can provide connectivity to security devices that will shrink the threat landscape and help keep your shoes dry. Finally, they can simplify the deployment of all your tools to help you stay ahead in a race that never ends.

Posted: 12/08/2016 09:10:58 by Network Critical with 0 comments

Olympic Gold in Hacking Scams

“Just click here to claim your FREE Olympic tickets.” “Urgent Message…Your granddaughter is in Rio. She had an accident and you need to wire money to her now.” “Enter here to win a dinner date with an Olympic athlete.” If you are in Rio, don't click on any of those links! In fact, don’t click on any link.

Rio 2016 will be the biggest global gathering of humanity since the last Olympic Games, it will also be one of the most internet-intensive games in the history of the world. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, email and Smartphones will be connecting athletes, promoters, businesses, fans, workers, security personnel and others in Rio with the rest of the world. What happens in Rio will not stay in Rio! It will immediately be broadcast to the rest of the world via the internet.

There will indeed be a variety of TV, satellite and cable coverage of the games and surrounding events, however, the Internet can not be rivaled in terms of immediacy and totality of event coverage both on and off the field of competition. The internet is also unrivalled in terms of opportunity to instantly reach out to millions of people in tune with a common theme. This scenario is a dream for cyber advertisers… It is also hacker heaven.

The 2016 Olympics is the perfect storm for cyber security. Remember, hackers do not necessarily need to be at the games, but you can be certain that their presence will be felt in Rio. There will be millions of people who will be away from their homes and offices, using hotel WiFi, wireless smartphones to communicate well beyond the perimeter of their secured corporate and personal networks. For personal communications there are precautions that should be taken; for business communications, there are precautions that must be enforced.

There is a prevailing culture in business today that one must always be in touch with the company…handling emails, taking calls and making deals. Whether traveling on business or traveling on vacation, studies have shown that people will monitor their emails. However, remote communication with the corporate network can leave companies vulnerable to hackers and others snooping from less-secure public networks.

Corporate networks should always have robust perimeter security. Beyond that, there should be access policies in place managing remote access to servers containing sensitive or confidential information. More often than not, most employees who have email accounts also have full access to corporate servers.

It is usually not necessary for most employees to have open access to corporate servers. Data Loss Prevention (DLP) appliances can set and enforce policies for access and distribution of information stored on corporate servers. These policies, for example, can restrict download of particular data formats, such as social security numbers or patient ID numbers. DLP policies can also set limits on who can access information and what media can be used for downloads, such as restricting portable drives.

Connecting DLP appliances to networks can be fairly simple. Using fail-safe TAPs like the SmartNA-X from Network Critical (www.networkcritical.com), network managers can connect appliances, risk-free, and maintain network availability even if the appliance goes down, or needs to be taken out of service. TAPs also provide secure connections with features such as Autolock, which shuts the physical interface if the appliance is unplugged from the TAP. TAPs allow multiple appliances to be connected to the same link. Therefore, analysis and performance appliances can all get visibility into the same traffic without having to break the link multiple times as these tools are added or changed out.

Now might be a good time to take a look at information access policies within your company. As your employees go to Rio, make sure that your confidential corporate data does not go with them. Remember... what happens in Rio, will not stay in Rio!

Posted: 04/08/2016 13:10:40 by Network Critical with 0 comments

Global Security, Local Education: Data Connectors, Sacramento, August 2016



This is a quick one to let our readers know that Network Critical will be attending the Data Connectors Conference in Sacramento later this month. The event will take place at DoubleTree by Hilton in Sacramento, and will be held on Thursday, 18th August.

Data Connectors conferences are one of the premier technology security events, focused on the latest products and best practices available in an educational environment. You will find local product sources & seminars and have the opportunity to meet with representatives from many of the top security companies.

The Network Critical team will be demonstrating our TAP and Packet Broker technology and their ability to simplify the connection of security and performance tools to networks. While Network Critical is a global developer of network access technologies, we believe that these local events are important and valuable venues to meet with network engineers and designers.

So, if you are near Sacramento on the conference date, please feel free to contact us at marketing-team@networkcritical.com and arrange an appointment!

If you are interested in finding out more information on this or other Data Connectors events, their website details are as follows: www.dataconnectors.com

Posted: 04/08/2016 13:09:47 by Network Critical with 0 comments