We all agree that the tools and techniques of malicious online hackers have evolved and advanced alongside the technologies that enable them, making it essential that network administrators ensure their networks are prepared for any eventuality. This is where Network Behavior Anomaly Detection (NBAD) systems come into the picture.
So, what is an anomalous network behavior and how do you detect it?
Let’s first understand how it works:
The process of behavior anomaly detection in proprietary networks is based around the continuous monitoring and analysis of network traffic. Network behavior anomaly detection systems look out for and detect suspicious activity or events and can also offer insights into trends in network activity that could be deemed suspicious or provide evidence of network intrusion.
NBAD systems are capable of analyzing network data in real-time and, if an event or behavior anomaly is detected, can generate alarms to notify network administrators of a potential threat. Some of the network characteristics that behavior anomaly detection systems analyze include network traffic volumes, the use of bandwidth, and the use of network protocols. As well as this, NBAD systems are also capable of monitoring the activities of individual network users by building up a profile of “normal” user behavior over time and comparing any suspicious behavior to this baseline.
Whereas traditional cyber security solutions rely on building secure network perimeters and device and end-point protection, many of the threats faced by proprietary networks are focused elsewhere and basic signature-based programs are no longer enough to ensure network security. Many businesses and organizations are integrating various different cyber security solutions in order to build a secure network while also helping to streamline network processes.
Some of the security architectures now being built include systems and software such as network behavior analysis, that include NBAD systems, and combining them with traditional firewalls and anti-virus and spyware detection software. By doing so, institutions with essential online operations and processes are hoping to further safeguard their proprietary networks from the various threats they face. The increasing number of device attack vectors the expansion of the Internet of Things (IoT) has brought about has also increased the number of different attacks networks and devices could be vulnerable to. Let’s now take a look at some of the threats NBAD systems help protect against.
What Can NBAD Systems Protect Against?
With the Internet of Things (IoT) increasing the connectivity of a huge number of everyday gadgets and devices, the number of potential threat vectors has skyrocketed over the past few years and also means that devices and networks each face different types of threats. From distributed denial of service attacks using swathes of compromised computers organized into a botnet, to data exfiltration and even hidden malware, the inclusion of network behavior anomaly detection systems can assist in combating these various threats and, in this section, we’ll detail how network behavior anomaly detection systems can help protect against.
Distributed denial of services attacks occur when a network or website is targeted by a botnet with the goal of overloading, slowing down, or even crashing its target. These attacks utilize a potentially limitless number of compromised machines, often also creating virtual machines with them in order to increase their number, and organize them into a botnet that then floods the target with traffic, communication requests, and packet data. In order to combat and prevent these kinds of attacks from getting through, network behavior anomaly detection systems analyze user activity on a network and, if suspicious or anomalous behavior is detected, disables the user account associated with the potentially threatening activity.
Data exfiltration is when a potential hacker targets the information or traffic on a network with the aim to intercept or steal data and information for personal, political, financial, or corporate gain. There are various ways in which hackers might choose to steal data and information from proprietary networks, from phishing to brute force to man-in-the-middle attacks. NBAD systems, however, are able to provide insights into network traffic and can spot unauthorized applications or the use of unusual or unauthorized ports. In these cases, network breaches can be detected and dealt with much quicker in order to mitigate the potential damage caused.
One of the biggest challenges in fighting malware cyber-attacks is their ability to lay dormant for potentially years before the right conditions are met for their activation. This can make detecting malware already present very difficult. However, network behavior anomaly detection systems enable network admins to establish a baseline for normal user behavior and track deviations from this. Malware will usually attempt to make computers and networks act anomalously in order to perpetuate its own lifecycle, this enables NBAD systems to detect it by analyzing application requests and behavioral indicators that could signal the presence of malware.
Network behavioral anomaly detection systems and network behavioral analysis are becoming more and more common in cyber security architectures and more and more network administrators are looking to these systems to boost the security and levels of protection in place for their proprietary network. With artificial intelligence technologies such as machine learning, neural networking, and predicative algorithms seeing much more research, development, and funding in recent years, the power and intelligence of NBAD systems could be set to skyrocket over the next few years if these technologies are combined and applied to network security. As previously mentioned, nearly every aspect of our lives, from business to pleasure, is shifting online. Protecting the network environments that enable this transformation is an essential part of building the foundations of future network set ups.