Network Traffic Analysis (NTA) is a process of monitoring and tracking the network activity for suspicious behaviour. The process takes the help of manual analysis, rules for detection, machine learning capabilities, and behaviour analysis.
Whether a cyber threat leverages human error or relies on a software vulnerability, access to an organization’s network is critical to the attacker. If the network is compromised, the malicious actor gets insights into the number of devices connected and ways to spread the malware.
Of course, things like DNS Sinkhole will only help in one way. How can you make sure that your network is protected and has the ability to detect/mitigate a threat?
With the help of Network Traffic Analysis solutions, you can do just that.
Importance of Network Traffic Analysis
Everything communicates with the internet. So, no matter the type or number of devices connected, all kinds of interactions go through the network.
If we analyze the traffic, we can learn more about it, and detect anomalies to keep things secure.
Network Traffic Analysis lets us do it and more, which makes it a crucial part of a cybersecurity strategy.
In case you want to dive in deeper as to why the network includes a ton of essential information, you can explore the TCP/IP Protocol and the OSI Model. When you go through these resources, you will realize what are all the things that happen in our network.
However, you do not need to be an expert at networking concepts to read the rest of this article.
While I may have told you the gift, why does Network Traffic Analysis matter so much?
Let’s get into a tad more details:
Not just the ability to detect abnormal network behaviour, but NTA also gives you better visibility to your network. This helps you know how your firewall is working, which are the most important points, what are the insecure ports, and how much network traffic you are dealing with every day.
All of this information should help you come up with an effective cybersecurity strategy.
It is not just limited to an external malicious actor; with NTA, you can even detect the use of VPNs or any traffic from the internal network trying to exfiltrate data.
So, malicious inbound network connections to detect unauthorized use of services within the network NTA solutions give you enhanced protection from various cyber threats.
It’s Important: But What Can You Do With It?
By now, it is evident that NTA is a crucial part of cybersecurity.
But, what exactly does it do? Do you only get information from it?
Network Traffic Analysis is not all about information gathering. It is about monitoring, detecting, blocking, and logging.
NTA has an all-in-one purpose when it comes to network security. Here are some of the highlights:
- Rogue access detection: It is easier to detect an abnormal inbound connection, but it is tough to check for any rogue network activities. With NTA’s features, you can detect the smallest network abnormalities that can prompt you to investigate further and check for any insider threats.
- Ransomware detection: Getting infected with ransomware involves certain network activities, including connecting to malicious domains or extraction of unusual amounts of data. All of those can be detected.
- File access: While there are various technologies to secure files, access to it or the movement of it can be detected using NTA.
- User profiling: An organization can choose to track internal user activity to keep a close watch.
- Detecting network congestion or downtime: You can detect if a part of your network needs attention for downtime or unusual traffic.
- Real-time monitoring: Device activities, network interactions all of it can be seen using an NTA solution.
Network Traffic Analysis: How Does it Work?
NTA focuses on the network data to get information regarding connections, traffic, and user activities.
To make it work, you need to understand or identify the data sources in your organization. The implementation should ensure that the data being collected from the network is useful.
Depending on the scale of your network, you can decide to pick the data sources manually or use data automation for large-scale deployments. Once done with the sources, you can set up the NTA solution to monitor and process all the available data.
Overall, the NTA will monitor two types of network data: Flow Data and Packet Data.
Network Flow Data describes connections over the network. It can include information such as the IP address, port number, timestamp, protocol, and if the device is approved. Furthermore, the volume of the traffic can also help detect more than usual network data flow.
Packet Data is all about the contents of the traffic. Of course, the content cannot help detect an attack quickly, but it should help with the investigation.
Ultimately, the Network Traffic Analysis solution will go through all such types of data to make meaningful deductions. It can involve manual intervention, AI-based scans, or behaviour patterns to detect abnormal activities.
How Does Network Traffic Analysis Enhance Security?
Actionable data enhances the security of every platform. And, with NTA solutions, you get that as an end result.
So, how exactly does it help enforce better security?
- Broader view of your network: As I mentioned above, NTA gives you better visibility of your network, meaning you get to know about all the connected devices, routers, firewalls in place, and every nitty-gritty detail to help you secure things tightly.
- Detect cyber threats: Whether it is ransomware or a DDoS attack, the real-time data and its anomaly detection capabilities should help you keep a close watch on cyber threats.
- Insights for effective investigation: Even if something slips past your network, with sufficient data from NTA, you can resolve the issue and get to the root of it.
- Identify policy compliance: Considering you can detect unauthorized network activity, you can check the effectiveness of any Zero Trust security solutions implemented and how to comply with any policy requirements that come along with it.
- Monitoring benefits: You get to know if a part of your network is affected (or down). So, if you know it in real-time, it will help you defend against any ongoing cyberattack or troubleshooting issues.
Additionally, with the range of information that you get from NTA, there can be many subtle security improvements that you can do.
What to look for when choosing a Network Traffic Analysis Solution?
With every network traffic monitoring solution, there are different features that cater to every type of organization.
Of course, it is recommended to research it all before you pick an NTA solution. To help you with the process, let me highlight some of the important things that a Network Monitoring Solution needs to have:
- The NTA should be capable enough to collect data from all kinds of sources, including the ones that involve the traffic and the content. So, with an abundance of data, you will have an accurate analysis of any situation.
- It is essential to pick data sources for efficient data collection. You should not collect just about everything, resulting in a massive data dump that is tough to organize, sort, and analyze.
- Data retention and collection mechanisms are vital. You need to have a balance of retaining past data for a particular duration and collecting real-time data. If you keep decades-old data, it could unnecessarily increase storage costs and complexity.
- All the solutions provide you with a report of the analysis being done. The better it is presented, the better it is for the employees and members of an organization to understand.
Benefits of Network Traffic Analysis
Network Traffic Analysis helps enhance security and create a better cybersecurity plan for the future.
Some other benefits of it include:
- Proactive resolution: With real-time monitoring, it would be faster to solve an incident that affects a network because of a cyberattack.
- Improvements to the network: Not just security, but the traffic analysis can also reveal the pain points of the network and help improve it for better performance and reliability.
- User monitoring: User activity can be tracked with NTA to ensure that no unauthorized interactions take place that hamper the organization.
- Reports for shareholders and investors: Essential reports always keep the investors and shareholders assured about the state of the business and the care being taken to maintain it. And, NTA reports give them a good sense of security.
- Fulfill compliance requirements: To seamlessly fulfil new/modern compliance requirements that reflect the public’s trust in the organization, NTA helps check most of the ticks.
Network Traffic Analysis helps in all the ways one can image to enhance an organization’s network security.
To make sure you make the most out of it, you need to understand the insights you get with it.
Of course, one should not limit just to NTA, but it is one critical piece of cybersecurity strategy.
You may also explore some top Cloud-based DDoS Protection for Small to Enterprise Websites