Network Critical - The Window to your Network

Giving Thanks

This is the week of the Thanksgiving celebration in the United States commemorating the Pilgrims' celebration in 1621 of their first successful harvest. The Thanksgiving holiday traditionally is one where families break from the stresses of daily life, come together and take a moment to appreciate their blessings. Often, just before dinner, each person at the table says one thing for which they are thankful. With this testimony, everyone hears out loud that regardless of their struggles, there is much for which to be thankful.

Our business lives are busy, hectic and stressful. It is good to take a moment every once and a while to step back and show some appreciation for the people and things that enrich our lives. Here is a toast from Network Critical showing our appreciation and thanks to everyone that makes our mission possible and helps our company thrive.

  • Our Customers - Network Critical is very fortunate to have a fiercely loyal and supportive customer base. We want to thank all of our customers for having faith in our company and our products. Your loyalty and your continued input help us grow and improve every day. Thank you.
  • Our Suppliers - Without reliable suppliers providing high quality components our finished products could not be of the quality and reliability that our customers require. Schedules and forecasts are always changing. Cost pressures are a continuous challenge. Our suppliers are truly partners in our business and foundational to our success in the market place. Thank you.
  • Our Channel Partners - Reaching out to prospects, providing design and product expertise, and developing lasting local relationships makes our channel partners an integral part of our business. Channel partners add value by integrating various products into systems that help our customers analyze, protect and manage their networks. Our network of channel partners enables our expanding global reach and integration into many new customer applications. Thank you.
  • Our Technology Partners - Providing strategic products to our customers for network analysis, WAN acceleration, application performance management, compliance, security and other network imperatives, technology partners are a critical ally to our business ecosystem. Customers call on our partners for strategic needs. Our partners call on us to make the critical connections integrating their systems into the customer’s network. These partnerships offer our company a greater presence in the market. Thank you.
  • Our Employees - Without our dedicated and talented employees there would be no Network Critical. We enjoy the luxury of having a diverse global team who help us innovate, design, produce, market, sell and ship high quality network products to all corners of the globe. This diverse group of smart and focused individuals collaborate daily to reach our product, customer service and financial goals. Thank you.
  • Our Competitors - Wait, what? Our competitors make us better. They push us to perform better, support our customers better and innovate faster. We are also fortunate to be in an industry where competition is based on need and value. We respect our competitors for their honesty and integrity in the market place. Thank you.

Just as networks are a conglomeration of individual pieces working together to provide tremendous value as a single system, our industry is exactly the same. We realize that without the contributions and support of the many individual segments of our business ecosystem, we could not thrive. So, to all the parts of the system, thank you.

Posted: 23/11/2016 13:52:33 by Network Critical with 0 comments

Three Myths that Make you Vulnerable to Ransomware


Ransomware is the fastest growing, and one of the most troubling, IT criminal enterprises attacking networks today. In fact, new business models for growing and spreading ransomware are actively being marketed. Ransomware as a Service (RaaS) is a new and efficient model that reduces entry barriers and start-up costs for criminals who want to gain entry to this lucrative market.

A recent report from the Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology (ICIT) notes that poor endpoint security is one of the key factors in the growth of ransomware attacks. As this new criminal phenomenon gains steam, the headlines and articles will work their way from IT magazines to mainstream media. In the mean time, it is critical to develop security practices to protect your network and your business from these malicious attacks.

"I have nothing worth stealing" - This may, in fact, be a true statement for many individuals and small businesses. However, the objective to most ransomware attacks is not to steal your data. The objective is to collect a ransom (fee) in return for decrypting your data and returning your computer or network back to normal operation. Therefore, it does not matter if your data has no value to anyone on an open market. If it has value to you, it can be a target. Something as simple as your iPhoto files of family events can be a valuable target. If the information has value to you, it is a potential target. A very important protection from this type of attack is to back up your important files on a regular basis. Also, be sure to back up to a drive that is not connected to your computer or network. Ransomware attacks can attack back-up files if they are connected to your device or network.

"Perimeter security is not critical" - The ICIT report mentioned above also states that, “Of the lines of network defense available to an organization, end point security is uniquely capable of stemming the growing ransomware menace.” It is also important to note, however, that endpoint security is one of many potential protections that should be deployed. The Next Generation Firewalls with integrated Intrusion Prevention and Data Loss Prevention appliances are a few examples of current perimeter protection devices to be deployed. The TAPs that are used to connect these devices look like a wire to the network and provide fail-safe protection, keeping the network alive in the event of power loss to the appliances. While it is best to use a multi-stage security approach including anti-malware software, the end points are the foundation.

"It might be cheaper just to pay up' - Various reports on this subject show that only a very small percentage of ransomware victims actually pay up. However, there are so many attacks, it is still a very lucrative business. Sometimes, in fact, the ransom is not the initial target. While the victim is chasing the ransomware attack, the attacker is actually perpetrating another attack elsewhere in the network stealing important confidential information.

Ransomware is growing fast and becoming an easy cybercrime model. Once Ransomware software is developed it is usually made available “off the shelf” to potential new cyber criminals. As Ransomware templates spread into criminal enterprises, these attacks will become more common. Perhaps more distressing, is that ransomware attacks may soon extend beyond networks and computers to IoT devices such as key fobs, vehicle control networks, industrial control equipment, medical devices and others.

For now, the best defense is to layer up the security starting with a foundation of strong perimeter protection and adding malware protection software, email security, and sound access policies for users. Train users so everyone who touches your network will be aware, vigilant and skeptical of unknown messages.

Ransomware is a big business these days and it preys on the uneducated and unprepared. Be educated and be prepared.

Posted: 18/11/2016 19:49:40 by Network Critical with 0 comments

Network Packet Broker is the New Security Appliance

When budgeting for cyber security products one thinks of firewalls, IPS, DLP and similar appliances for perimeter protection. Also included are more sophisticated security appliances that combine learning and automated analysis to identify an attack in progress, anticipate next moves and take protective measures in real time. Then you have behavioral based security appliances that learn normal patterns, identify network anomalies and application vulnerabilities.

A new wave of planners is including the Network Packet Broker (NPB) as another important security appliance. From enhancing security appliance efficiency to protection of network availability, the NPB is indeed the foundation of a network security strategy and should be included early in the planning cycle.

An advanced cyber threat protection program employs many levels of security, and potentially numerous appliances connecting and protecting many links. The NPB is more than a connectivity device for these appliances, it actually helps the appliances perform to their maximum effectiveness and provides additional security features to the protection product suite as well.

Intelligent Network Packet Brokers connect all the necessary security appliances to network links and direct packets to the correct appliances. One technical caveat is that some NPBs have integrated TAPs on some ports while others do not. Always be sure that your network connections to the NBP are covered by integrated TAP technology or by an external TAP. Here are the critical NPB features that are foundational to a robust cyber security plan:

  • Multi-appliance management - Connecting multiple appliances to each link is costly and can have a negative impact on overall network reliability and availability. The more appliances that are directly attached to a link, the higher the probability something will happen to break the link and cause an outage.
  • Aggregation of link traffic - The cost of connecting multiple security, analysis and compliance devices to every link may be cost prohibitive. Leaving certain links unprotected, however, may cost much more by leaving an open door to hackers. In fact, many high availability networks often have redundant appliances built in to the security design. So, connecting redundant protection on links makes the problem of cost and availability even greater. Aggregation allows network engineers to look at link throughput and allow multiple lower speed links to be protected by a single appliance. For example, four Gigabit links that have a throughput of 200 Mbps each, could all connect to the same appliance on a 1Gbps port.
  • Filtering and Mapping - Some specialized security and performance appliances focus only on a specific type of traffic. If an appliance only evaluates HTTPS, for example, why waste CPU cycles by sending it SMTP traffic? The NPB can filter out traffic that is not relevant to the appliance and map only the traffic the appliance needs to the appropriate port. This also, further reduces the amount of data on each network port mapped to an appliance allowing a higher link-to-appliance ratio, thereby reducing costs.
  • Load Balancing - As networks transition to higher link speeds like 10Gbps and above, load balancing allows a single high speed network port to send traffic to multiple lower speed appliance ports. This helps maximize utilization of existing appliances without being required to purchase more expensive and complex higher speed appliances.
  • Pass-through of in-line traffic - The NPB will allow connection of in-line appliances that are required to detect and block malware in real time. In-line devices are the most critical appliances to connect through a Network Packet Broker. An in-line appliance that fails or otherwise goes off line will take down the network link. NPB passes through the traffic and features of the connected in-line TAP, or in-line TAP port. The NPB can provide a bypass or a redundant path for network traffic ensuring high reliability, availability and security for every connection.

All these NPB features, and many more, are available to make security appliances more efficient and more cost effective. Often the security plan is developed independently of the connectivity plan. If appliance connectivity and deployment are included early on in strategic security planning, protection can be enhanced and costs may be reduced. It is time to change our thinking to look at Network Packet Brokers as Intelligent Security Visibility Devices making network traffic visible and available to the panoply of appliances that may comprise our security solutions.

Posted: 11/11/2016 17:22:23 by Network Critical with 0 comments

Data Connectors - This week, we are in Austin!


This is a quick one to let our readers know that Network Critical will be attending the Data Connectors Conference in Austin, TX this week. The event will take place at the Omni Hotel, Downtown Austin, and will be held on Wednesday, 9th November.

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 Austin 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/austin-wednesday-11-09-2016/

Posted: 08/11/2016 14:37:06 by Network Critical with 0 comments

What do Airlines and Hospitals Have in Common?


Airlines

We're sorry, your flight has been delayed due to computer problems. We do not know when it will depart so stay at the gate.” “We’re sorry, your flight has been canceled. Please see customer service at Gate 14.” “We’re sorry, you will not be spending tonight on the exotic Caribbean Island as you expected. Our computer problems will have you spending the night on our luxurious metal benches here at Gate 8.”

Anyone who has traveled very much has heard these announcements. The airlines are always “sorry” but what are they doing about it? Given the rash of recent computer issues with Airlines, it seems the answer is ‘not much’.

Southwest Airlines recently canceled more than 1000 flights due to a system failure. Delta Airlines had a massive computer outage that caused the cancellation of over 2000 flights and took about a week to get back to normal operation. The British Airways check-in system crashed causing disruptions and flight delays in the United States.

SABER, a single reservation system is used by subscription by 400 airlines, 220,000 hotels, and 425,000 travel agents. Major change, therefore, is very complex and expensive.

Hospitals

A letter comes to you in the mail. “Sorry, but your personal and very private information may have been compromised.” Community Health Systems operates 206 hospitals in the United States. In August, hackers broke into their computer system and stole social security numbers, insurance information, medical records and other data from 4.5 million patients.

Kansas Heart Hospital suffered a debilitating Ransomware attack. They paid the ransom, Then the surprise…the hackers only restored part of the system demanding additional ransom to fully restore the system.

Methodist Hospital in Kentucky declared an internal emergency as a result of a ransomware attack. The hackers copied patient records and locked them demanding ransom money to un-lock the patient files. When Methodist Hospital paid the ransom, the hackers only returned half of the locked data demanding more money to completely restore the system.

Data security, it appears, has not been a top priority for many health-care organizations. The health-care industry spends very little on IT compared to other industries, says John Halamaka, Chief Information Officer and Dean of Technology for Harvard Medical School. “Where do you think you’re going to find the vulnerabilities?” he says. The medical industry is a target because it is the “low hanging fruit”.

Health care systems also have become interdependent on Operating Systems integrated into medical devices, record storage, purpose built computers used throughout most patient-doctor interactions. Change in the Operating System will also require updates by a variety of medical device products designed to interface with the Master System. As the baby boom generation ages and medical care becomes increasingly automated, bringing systems up to date and tightening security is a critical care issue that must be addressed.

The Common Link

The common link is that both airline and health care systems are generally based on older technology. The upgrade issue that health care and airline systems face is difficult and expensive. However, the alternative might be more complex and expensive.

As these systems continue to age and the corporate apologies begin to weigh on the bottom line, a tipping point will be reached. That is the point when investing in updated technology and security will become less expensive than dealing with the growing number of outages, intrusions and liabilities of the aging systems. Hopefully, that tipping point will be reached sooner rather than later.

Posted: 04/11/2016 18:21:23 by Network Critical with 0 comments