Why field analyzers are critical for cybersecurity assessments

This article discusses why field analyzers are crucial for conducting thorough and accurate assessments of an organization’s security readiness, identifying network vulnerabilities, and enabling security professionals to take corrective actions.This blog details how field analyzers can detect security vulnerabilities that network-based monitoring systems cannot.

The Increasing Need for Cyber Security Assessments

Cyber-attacks have become more sophisticated and frequent. Organizations must be vigilant and stay ahead of potential threats by regularly assessing their security readiness. Cyber security assessments are among the most effective ways to evaluate an organization’s preparedness against cyber-attacks.

Cyber security assessments provide an evaluation of how an organization is securing access to its network assets and protecting against cyber-attacks. A thorough examination of a site’s clients, endpoints, network connections, segmentation, and services, allows an organization to identify weaknesses that cybercriminals or other malicious actors could exploit.

Four Key Tasks in Every Cyber Security Assessment

The primary objective of a cyber security assessment is to identify vulnerabilities in an organization’s IT infrastructure. At the minimum, a cyber security assessment should include the following four tasks:

  1. Physically locating endpoints and network nodes connected to the network.
  2. Classifying the devices connected or attempting to connect to the network.
  3. Analyze the configuration and segmentation of wired and wireless access networks.
  4. Validate network access services, such as DHCP, DNS, and VPNs, follow industry best practices and are not being spoofed by rogue devices.

The Importance of Physically Locating Your Network Assets

Not knowing the physical location of your network nodes can lead to unauthorized access, monitoring difficulties, lack of physical security measures, increased vulnerability to physical threats, and compliance issues. Maintaining an up-to-date inventory of your network nodes and their physical locations is essential for mitigating these risks.

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Network-based mapping tools can create network topology maps and help visualize the network. The detail and reporting of these maps can vary significantly depending on the organization’s size, the complexity of its network, and the tools utilized to gain visibility of those remote networks. Maintaining these maps can be resource intensive and is particularly problematic in remote sites with limited or no IT staff. Even in organizations that invest in network mapping tools, the risk of mapping inaccuracies is exceptionally high.

Field analyzers can create a real-time, accurate logical map of your network. This is accomplished using a wide variety of techniques, including:

  • Network discovery to discover the MAC and IP addresses of all devices on the network.
  • Port scanning to determine the switch ports a device is connected to.
  • Querying infrastructure elements using SNMP and APIs.
  • Wireless scanning to locate wireless Access Points and connected wireless devices.

Using these techniques, a field analyzer helps create an accurate map of your endpoints. This allows security professionals to protect against unauthorized access, improves network monitoring, and meets compliance or regulatory requirements where an organization must know the location of network nodes.

Topology Map in Link-Live

The Criticality of Improving the Accuracy of Endpoint Profiling

Accurate classification of endpoint devices allows security professionals to assess the risk associated with different endpoints and apply distinct security policies, access controls, and remedial actions to mitigate these risks. For example, an IoT device may be less secure than a laptop or known malware may target specific device types.

  • Network-based control and enforcement systems use endpoint profiling to classify device types by analyzing the characteristics of devices, for example, MAC addresses, operating systems, and software versions. A certainty metric is generally used to indicate the level of confidence that the endpoint has been correctly identified.
  • Using a field analyzer can significantly improve the certainty of accurate endpoint classification by:
    Allowing the device to be physically located and visually seen.
  • Gathering information on device configurations, software versions, and security policies.
  • Comparing discovered devices to a preconfigured list of authorized network nodes.

By improving the certainty of endpoint profiling, a field analyzer can help security teams make more informed decisions about their network security policies and protocols. It can also improve incident response times and better overall network visibility.

Inspecting Network Configurations and Segmentation for Weaknesses

Analyzing network configurations and segmentation helps ensure access controls are correctly configured and enforced. Misconfigured network nodes can create security vulnerabilities that attackers can readily exploit. Regularly checking network configurations in any business environment is a first-line defense in intrusion protection and controlling access to sensitive resources.

Field devices are physically located closer to the network node and have direct access to the traffic flowing through them. This allows them to capture all the traffic passing through a specific wireline or wireless network node. This provides a more accurate and detailed view of the network compared to network or cloud-based tools.

  • Field analyzers evaluate network configurations and network segmentation by performing the following tasks:
  • Identify all devices connected to the network, including switches, routers, servers, workstations, and other network devices.
  • Analyze the traffic flowing through the network and identify the various devices sending or receiving packets.
  • Determine how the network is segmented into separate subnets or VLANs, and identify any devices connected to the wrong VLAN or subnet.
  • Analyze the configuration of each device on the network and identify any misconfigurations that could lead to security vulnerabilities or performance issues.

Field analyzers enable security professionals to conduct regular and systematic network reviews efficiently. Identifying network vulnerabilities allows the appropriate remediation or mitigation actions can be taken to protect the network. This may also be important for HIPAA and PCI-DSS compliance when organizations segment the network to protect sensitive data.

Validate Network Access Services Meet Best Practices

Conformance to industry and organizational best practices can ensure network stability, performance, and security. Configuring DHCP and DNS servers with recommended configuration and security settings helps prevent unauthorized access and spoofing attacks. Implementing VPNs that use strong cipher suites and robust authentication protocols helps protect against security threats, such as eavesdropping and man-in-the-middle attacks.

A comprehensive and accurate assessment of the adoption of best practices is best done with a combination of both network-based monitoring systems and field analyzers. While there is some functional overlap, field analyzers can use sensors and analytical tools to collect real-time data and assess the physical attributes of the network. Although extreme caution should be taken, field analyzers can also be used to execute specific stress tests and confirm that the network is protected against known vulnerabilities.

Some of the individual tasks that a field analyzer can do include:

  • Identify and check the configuration of network services and associated protocols such as DHCP, DNS, and VPN.
  • Check the performance of network services from a client perspective.
  • Confirm that the network is protected against known attacks.

Field analyzers collect real-time data and give invaluable insights into whether best practices have been implemented for network access services such as DHCP, DNS, and VPNs. This is important for ensuring the network is secure and less vulnerable to attack.

CyberScope®, NetAlly’s Latest Handheld Vulnerability Scanner

This year, NetAlly, a leader in handheld network analyzers, introduced the CyberScope. CyberScope is the world’s first field analyzer designed for conducting on-site cyber security assessments.

Today, cyber security site assessments are done by security experts using various tools that run on different hardware and software platforms. CyberScope integrates the tools necessary to conduct a comprehensive cyber security site assessment on a single platform.

CyberScope is designed around a workflow that ensures the security assessment tasks are completed with consistency and predictability. This allows organizations to perform assessments efficiently and accurately, reducing the cost and complexity of cyber security assessments.

The workflow starts with discovering all the devices on the wired and wireless networks. It then classifies these devices based on their threat profile. Next, it identifies how devices are connected and creates accurate network topology maps. Following data collection, it leverages a combination of NetAlly’s purpose-built analyzers integrated with Nmap to assess the collected data. The results, including detected network vulnerabilities, are subsequently displayed through a simplified user interface.

Site Assessment Workflow

Perhaps, the most exciting feature of CyberScope is that it does not require an expert to be onsite to conduct the cyber security assessment. With just a few simple clicks, a non-technical person can power on the handheld CyberScope and walk the site collecting data. The data is uploaded to NetAlly’s Live-Link analytics and reporting platform in real-time. This enables a security specialist to oversee the data collection process from their home location, ensuring that the remote cyber security assessment follows the organization’s guidelines and best practices.

Cyberscope Cyber Security Handheld Tester

In summary, the CyberScope field analyzer is both an instrument and a process that provides a comprehensive view of an organization’s security readiness, including hardware, software, and network configurations. This information helps organizations identify potential security threats and vulnerabilities, allowing them to take informed and proactive measures to protect their assets from cyber-attacks and mitigate potential losses in the event of a security breach. Regular cyber security assessments help organizations comply with regulatory requirements and industry standards. It also demonstrates an organization’s commitment to protecting sensitive information and assets.

For additional CyberScope resources visit cyberscope.netally.com

CyberScope On-Demand Talks:
Conducting Effective Cyber Security Assessments: The Role of Field Analyzers
Hands-On with Nmap. A Guide to Network Scanning & Vulnerability Assessment

Author Bio –
Author and public speaker

Dr. Avril Salter is an author and acclaimed public speaker with over 20 years of in-depth technical and executive experience working in wireless and network security. She holds senior business and technical architect positions with a history of success in setting direction in major corporations and start-ups. She has an exceptional breadth of technical expertise in wireless standards and network security protocols and is a strategic thinker with a solid understanding of the IT and telecommunications industries.

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