Network Detection and Response

Real-time threat detection with network detection and response

In the dynamic, increasingly complex landscape of cybersecurity, organizations face an extensive range of advanced, targeted cyberthreats. Traditional security measures, such as firewalls, antivirus software, and intrusion detection systems, are essential but often fail to detect and respond to advanced threats as they occur. This is where network detection and response (NDR) steps in, offering a dynamic, proactive approach to detecting and mitigating security threats in real time.

Understanding NDR

NDR is a cybersecurity technology that evolved from network traffic analysis (NTA). It focuses on real-time threat detection and response within an organization's network infrastructure. Unlike traditional security tools that rely on predefined signatures or patterns, NDR solutions leverage a combination of non-signature-based, advanced analytical techniques, including ML, AI, SIEM, endpoint detection and response, and behavioral analysis, to identify anomalies in network traffic and potential security incidents.

Some of the key components of an NDR solution include:

1. Network behavioral analysis

NDR solutions use behavioral analysis to define the standard network behavior. Any anomalies from this standard, such as atypical data access patterns or device communications, trigger alerts for further analysis.

2. ML algorithms

ML algorithms enable NDR solutions to learn from and adapt to new threats. By analyzing historical data and making regular updates to their models, these algorithms enhance their capacity to identify and respond to emerging threats without relying on predefined signatures.

3. Network packet analysis

NDR solutions capture and monitor network packets in real time, providing granular visibility into network traffic. By analyzing the data being transmitted, these tools can detect unusual patterns, suspicious payloads, or malicious communications.

4. Threat intelligence integrations

NDR tools adopt threat intelligence feeds to ensure they remain up to date on known threats. This ensures that the systems can recognize and respond to known malicious indicators, IP addresses, and domain names.

5. Automated response capabilities

Automated response capabilities are often included in NDR solutions, enabling them to take immediate measures to control or eliminate threats. These measures may involve isolating compromised devices, blocking malicious communications, or notifying security teams for manual intervention.

Benefits of real-time threat detection with NDR

1. Enhanced visibility

Having comprehensive visibility into network traffic is essential for security teams to gain a thorough understanding of an incident's context. This visibility that an NDR solution provides plays a critical role in effectively investigating and responding to threats.

2. Adaptability to evolving threats

NDR solutions have the ability to adjust to emerging cyberthreats using ML algorithms and real-time updates from threat intelligence feeds. This enables them to provide a proactive defense against the most recent attack techniques.

3. Reduced detection and response times

An NDR solution's ability to detect and respond to threats in real time, unlike traditional security measures, greatly reduces the time it takes to identify and address security incidents, thereby minimizing the potential damage.

4. Insider threat detection

NDR solutions effectively detect insider threats by monitoring for unusual user behavior or unauthorized access patterns within the network. This aids organizations in mitigating data breaches caused by either deliberate or accidental employee actions.

5. Incident response automation

The automated response capabilities of NDR solutions make the incident response process more efficient. This not only speeds up the containment of threats but also lessens the workload on security teams.

Let's consider a familiar scenario of a medical institution that implements NDR as a critical component of its security strategy. Let's take a look at how an NDR solution can detect and mitigate an attack to safeguard sensitive patient healthcare records without halting operations. The initial indicators of attack are phishing emails with ransomware payloads that employees receive. When executed, the ransomware encrypts files on their computers and spreads across the network, which is used by a large number of people, including employees of all levels and visitors.

Through packet analysis, the NDR solution immediately detects anomalies in the traffic patterns. The sudden surge in encryption-related activities triggers alerts immediately after the email attachments are opened. The unusual surge in traffic also triggers the behavior analysis module as this deviates heavily from the baseline of normal behavior, and the module flags this as a potential threat. The NDR solution's ML algorithms, which are regularly trained on historical data, correlate the behavior with known ransomware signatures and recognize patterns that suggest ransomware. With the new pattern, the algorithms further evolve to identify similar potential attacks.

Once the ransomware activity is detected, the NDR solution immediately initiates the predefined automated responses, which include automatically blocking all malicious communications, hindering the ransomware from receiving further communications, and isolating all the affected devices from the network, preventing the ransomware from spreading further.

In addition to this, the NDR platform simultaneously alerts the medical institution's security center with detailed reports of the incident. Equipped with the packet-level data, behavioral analytics, and ML insights, the security team uses the NDR platform to investigate the attack further to gain the data required for incident response and to identify the source of the attack.

After mitigating the ransomware, the security team revisits the incident response process and the automated responses to audit and fine-tune them. With the NDR platform's ML and regular updates, the medical institution ensures that it's prepared to tackle any emerging security risks. The institution continues using the NDR platform's monitoring capabilities to adapt to potential evolving threats. In this case, an NDR platform was instrumental in detecting, responding to, and mitigating the unknown ransomware attack without affecting daily operations.

Challenges of implementing NDR in a network

As effective as NDR can be, adopting a whole new approach to IT security and infrastructure management comes with its own set of challenges.

1. A complex implementation process

The deployment of the solution involves integrating with the existing network infrastructure and trying not to hinder the functioning of the network. Ensuring seamless interoperability with existing tools and processes can be a challenge.

2. Resource intensiveness

The NDR implementation process can cause a strain on network resources, and organizations need to assess their network capacity to avoid performance issues.

3. Guaranteeing data accuracy

Fine-tuning the NDR solution's parameters to reduce false positives requires continuous refinement to avoid wasting time on normal behavior flagged as a threat. Organizations need to conduct regular assessments of their NDR implementations to identify areas for improvement. This includes periodic reviews to align NDR strategies with evolving security requirements and organizational changes.

4. Integrating with existing security solutions

It's important to integrate an NDR platform seamlessly with the existing security solutions, such as SIEM systems, to create a cohesive security architecture.

5. Ensuring scalability

Organizations need to consider the scalability of NDR solutions to accommodate the growth of their network infrastructures. Selecting the right NDR tool plays a huge role in ensuring its effectiveness in the network.

6. Training and costs

Incorporating a complex tool in the network calls for skilled personnel who are trained to work with it effectively. This necessitates investments in training programs for security teams to maximize the capabilities of the NDR solution and interpret its findings accurately. Organizations should also carefully consider the total cost of ownership, including initial implementation costs, ongoing maintenance expenditures, and potential scalability expenses.

The future of NDR

NDR first emerged in the 2000s as network behavior anomaly detection, later transformed into NTA in the late 2010s, and became NDR in 2020. According to Business Research Insights, NDR is one of the fastest-growing cybersecurity categories, and its market size, which was USD 2.485 billion in 2022, is expected to reach USD 7.893 billion by 2031, with a CAGR of 13.7%.

1. Extended detection and response

Extended detection and response (XDR) is an evolution of NDR that incorporates additional data sources, such as endpoints, cloud environments, and emails. It provides a more holistic approach to threat detection by correlating information across various security domains.

2. Blockchain for enhanced security

Integrating blockchain technology into NDR tools could help create immutable logs and enhance the integrity of security event data, contributing to the trustworthiness of the information gathered by NDR solutions.

3. Quantum computing challenges and solutions

NDR solutions may need to adapt to quantum-safe cryptographic techniques to ensure the continued confidentiality and integrity of network data and to prevent the potential threats and challenges that quantum computing poses to traditional encryption methods.

4. AI and automation

Within NDR solutions, the evolution of ML algorithms with more advanced models that can better understand complex patterns and behaviors will lead to advancements that will contribute to more accurate threat detection and reduced false positives. Furthermore, AI in NDR solutions will enable security analysts to understand how ML models arrive at specific conclusions. Integrating automation into the threat hunting process within NDR solutions will help with continuously searching for signs of malicious activity, allowing security teams to focus on strategic analysis and response.

5. Anticipated developments in threat detection and response

Integrating behavioral biometrics, such as keystroke dynamics and mouse movement patterns, into NDR solutions for enhanced user authentication will add an extra layer of security. Improved threat intelligence sharing among organizations and across industries will further strengthen their collective defenses. NDR will also play a crucial role in implementing and enforcing Zero Trust policies, ensuring continuous verification and strict access controls.

6. 5G and edge computing integrations

Integrating 5G and edge computing technologies will heavily impact network architectures. NDR solutions will need to adapt to the increased speed and distributed nature of data processing at the edge.

Solutions to watch

When picking an NDR tool, it is crucial to compare choices, evaluate each feature, and get familiar with the different functions before buying. Finding a tool that fulfills all of the organization's security requirements can simplify and enhance network security and traffic management. Here are some of the leading vendors' solutions in the field.

1. Cisco Secure Network Analytics (formerly Stealthwatch)

Cisco is an established name in the network management and security industry. Cisco Secure Network Analytics monitors and analyzes network traffic behavior to provide threat detection and response.

2. Darktrace DETECT

Darktrace DETECT utilizes its Self-Learning AI and deep packet inspection to analyze data across enterprise networks. It works with Darktrace RESPOND to neutralize threats.

3. ExtraHop RevealX

ExtraHop RevealX is an on-premises NDR solution that provides in-depth visibility into every asset in enterprise networks. It uses ML to set baselines and rules to detect rogue devices and potential attacks.

4. Vectra AI Platform

The Vectra AI Platform is an AI-driven threat detection, analysis, and response solution that keeps cyberattacks at bay across public clouds, SaaS, and data center networks.

5. Palo Alto Networks Cortex XDR

Palo Alto Networks is a leading vendor in the security industry, and its new solution Cortex XDR leverages ML and other advanced analytics to simplify threat detection, incident response, automated root cause analysis, and fast responses.

6. ManageEngine NetFlow Analyzer

NetFlow Analyzer is the new kid on the block. This NTA giant has evolved significantly over the last few years to incorporate ML and AI into its traffic anomaly detection features. It has a few NDR features on the roadmap for 2024.

The digital transformation over the last decade has greatly widened the scope of network security threats in enterprises. By staying ahead of the emerging technologies and trends, organizations can ensure that their network security strategies remain adaptive in the ever-evolving landscape of cyberthreats, preparing them for the future of real-time threat detection and response.

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Customer reviews

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