Cybersecurity is never a static, one-time initiative. It is an ongoing process that should always be top-of-mind for CSOs, CIOs, and other IT leaders. To that end, technology and security leaders should always have access to information regarding the security of their enterprise networks. In fact, not just the leaders but even employees need real-time network visibility to report any damage to or illicit use of the organization’s IT resources. And ensuring enterprise-wide network visibility should be a priority even if the organization uses the most cutting-edge cybersecurity tools and technologies. That’s because cybersecurity systems, while generally being effective at keeping bad actors out and sensitive data in, cannot keep your network protected all the time and from all threats. There can always emerge newer forms of threats that may require the immediate attention of an enterprise’s cybersecurity personnel and leaders. And the time it takes between a threat’s incipience and the cybersecurity team’s awareness of it can be the difference between security and enterprise-wide mayhem.
Seeing is securing
The most compelling reason as to why network visibility is a must for network security is simply that it is impossible to protect what you can’t see. If you want to protect your enterprise network, you must be able to monitor every nook and corner of it. That means having real-time knowledge of:
- every piece of information that is transmitted to, from, and within the organizational network,
- every byte of data that is stored on-site as well as in remote data centers (or cloud servers),
- all the devices used by the enterprise, which includes all the hand-held devices used by employees, their computers, and IoT sensors placed in factories and other remote locations,
- all the applications that run on and interact with these devices, and
- the source and destination (URLs, email IDs, etc.) of every inbound and outbound communication.
Monitoring all of these elements ensures that the leaders and employers know the state of their cybersecurity at all times. Network visibility ensures that cybersecurity personnel can identify abnormal behaviors that may indicate potential cyber threats, even if their firewall system fails to recognize them. This capability can be especially useful in mitigating the impact of zero-day attacks.
For instance, if a new type of malware is somehow planted in an enterprise network, the cybersecurity system may not yet be capable of categorizing it as harmful. Thus, the malware may start affecting the organization’s data and its applications, without anyone’s knowledge, possibly until it is too late to recover. A network visibility solution can point out malicious or abnormal behavior by applications to users in real time, enabling the cybersecurity team to take quick action. They can prevent the malware from wreaking further havoc. The network visibility application can also help cybersecurity personnel to trace the origins of such threats and develop countermeasures for the same.
With growing networks come growing vulnerabilities
As a business scales up, it naturally incorporates an increasing number of devices, people, and possibly even other smaller businesses into its core enterprise architecture. This means the addition of new points of entry for external threats in the form of unprotected devices, endpoints, and applications. For instance, a business based in Mumbai may expand and incorporate a manufacturing facility located in another city, say, Bangalore, which may not have full-time access to the enterprise’s cybersecurity personnel. Under such circumstances, if an external agent attacks the Bangalore-based manufacturing facility’s computers using some kind of malware, the head office in Mumbai won’t be able to realize this even if they have a firewall system in place. Additionally, the sheer number of devices and applications, and the volume of information that needs to be monitored makes it a daunting task for even a team of multiple cybersecurity experts.
However, a firewall solution that offers network visibility can ensure that the cybersecurity personnel located in the head office, no matter how far away, can monitor the network in real time and spot anomalies. It constantly monitors the enterprise network, regardless of how large and complex it might be. The network visibility tool provides the cybersecurity team with a dashboard that points out any abnormal activity and provides detailed reports regarding the same. This enables the cybersecurity team to take appropriate responsive actions and keep their IT assets safe from external cyber attacks. However, as enterprises are realizing now, it is not enough to secure your enterprise networks from external threats alone.
Not all threats come from the outside
While it is important to protect your data and your organizational network from external attacks, it is equally important to realize that large enterprises can face threats from the inside as well. Among the biggest threats to businesses is a data breach. Loss of critical business data can lead to many negative consequences for enterprises. For instance, losing financial data or data pertaining to plans and predictions can lead to an enterprise potentially losing its competitive edge in the market. Losing personal information, such as employee or customer data, can land enterprises in legal trouble. To add to it, data breaches also throw a business's trustworthiness and reliability into question, leading to reputational loss. And the most dangerous data leaks often happen due to internal employees rather than external attackers. This may be in the form of unintentional negligence or intentional plans. For instance, disgruntled employees may leak sensitive information in a bid to lead the organization into chaos. Or well-meaning employees can accidentally share critical information outside the organization. And most enterprises don't have the means to detect such cases, let alone stop them.
Using a firewall solution that also offers network visibility can enable cybersecurity teams to strictly control what data leaves their organization. It can help security leaders view the different forms of communications that leave the organization. These solutions can give the enterprises the information regarding the senders and recipients of all communications, enabling them to detect potential data breaches. They can also monitor specific pieces of critical information and see how it is used by different applications as well as employees. These solutions can notify the enterprises of any attempts to leak sensitive data while also preventing them. They can generate real-time reports outlining network activity and data use. This does not only help to secure data in the short term but also enables the enterprises to develop long-term data security strategies.
Network visibility completes enterprise cybersecurity
Thus, an advanced network visibility tool complements a good firewall solution. In fact, it is crucial to deploy a next-generation firewall solution having built-in network visibility tools to ensure comprehensive data and network security. These solutions, while preventing internally-initiated data leaks as well as external cyber attacks, also give businesses unprecedented levels of insight into and control over their networks and data. And as enterprises attempt to navigate the modern business landscape in the face of toughening competition as well as tightening regulations, such solutions are no longer an option but an absolute necessity.