Cybersecurity incidents continue to increase and are becoming more impactful, leaving no industry or region untouched. 

With the advancement of digital transformation, enterprises and organizations across the globe are increasingly relying on data, applications and devices that are connected in some way. This has introduced several security risks and threat vectors. 

There has never been a more pressing need for IT and SecOps teams to monitor and protect their organization’s infrastructure and systems. 

It is important to understand that network visibility is essential to protect networks and their services. How do network visibility solutions help? 

IT/OT monitoring and security tools (e.g., SIEM, NDR, NPM) are only as good as the data they are seeing. This means that NetOps and SecOps teams need to ensure that the infrastructure behind these tools delivers complete visibility of the network. 

Network visibility refers to the ability to see and identify all the data packets traversing through the network — data packets are the best source of truth about what is happening in the network. A strong network visibility architecture allows NetOps and SecOps teams in any organization to capture all network data packets, and intelligently optimize and funnel data from the network to each tool that needs it. 

Ultimately, a network visibility architecture makes monitoring and security tools more:  

  • Effective: network visibility provides the tools with all the relevant data needed. Blind spots are eliminated, giving tools the visibility needed to identify and tackle performance and security threats. 
  • Efficient: network visibility ensures the tools receive exactly the right data, in the right format and at a manageable throughput. This allows for the optimization of tool performance as well as of the number of tools (and budget) needed. 

Tell me about the network visibility solution elements and the role they play with regards to security. 

A network visibility architecture consists of two fundamental layers: a data access layer and a data control plane layer

Network TAPs are the main component in the data access layer. Physical network TAPs, for instance, have copper or fiber inputs and they are normally placed between any two network devices, including switches, routers, and firewalls. The TAP duplicates all traffic on the link, providing continuous, non-disruptive access to the network data needed by the monitoring and security tools.  

Further, TAPs offer significant advantages over the use of switch port analyzer (SPAN) ports to monitor the network, for instance, TAPs don’t drop packets, TAPs are less vulnerable to security attacks and TAPs are plug & play (no configuration needed). 

Keysight has the widest range of TAP types of any vendor. Our portfolio includes a wide range of passive/active TAPs, available in many port densities and speeds, and connector/fiber types. Further, Keysight has been, and remains, at the forefront of network TAP innovation — we offer virtual TAPs (for both private and public cloud), industrial-grade fiber and copper TAPs, fiber TAPs optimized for lower latency applications, purpose-built TAPs with enhanced security for the most sensitive of applications, etc. 

Network packet brokers (NPBs) are the main component of the control layer.

Basic NPBs aggregate all the tapped/mirrored traffic and then filter, replicate, and load balance traffic across monitoring and/or security tools. More advanced NPBs perform sophisticated functions that further manipulate and optimize the tapped/mirrored traffic before it is sent to the tools. Some of these advanced functions are packet deduplication, header stripping, packet trimming, data masking, decryption, application filtering, etc. 

Keysight offers the industry’s most advanced and extensive NPB portfolio that can meet any requirement and suit every application. Our NPB portfolio is unmatched, and it includes a wide range of physical aggregation, intelligent edge and core NPBs, virtual NPBs, industrial NPBs, sub-1G NPBs, etc. Further, NPBs from Keysight have several advantages over its competitors such as use of FPGA-based hardware acceleration, patented ZERO-errors fully automated filter compiler, ease of use and multiple features that can run concurrently on the same packet broker. 

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