ThreatARMOR Reduces Your Network’s Attack Surface

ThreatARMOR Reduces Your Network’s Attack Surface

2014 saw the creation of more than 317 million new pieces of malware. That means an average of nearly one million new threats were released each day.

Here at Ixia we’ve been collecting and organizing threat intelligence data for years to help test the industry’s top network security products. Our Application and Threat Intelligence (ATI) research center maintains one of the most comprehensive lists of malware, botnets, and network incursions for exactly this purpose. We’ve had many requests to leverage that data in support of enterprise security, and this week you are seeing the first product that uses ATI to boost the performance of existing security systems. Ixia’s ThreatARMOR continuously taps into the ATI research center’s list of bad IP sources around the world and blocks them.

Ixia’s ThreatARMOR represents another innovation and an extension for the company’s Visibility Architecture, reducing the ever-increasing size of their global network attack surface.

A network attack surface is the sum of every access avenue an individual can use to gain access to an enterprise network. The expanding enterprise security perimeter must address new classes of attack, advancing breeds of hackers, and an evolving regulatory landscape.

“What’s killing security is not technology, it’s operations,” stated Jon Oltsik, ESG senior principal analyst and the founder of the firm’s cybersecurity service. “Companies are looking for ways to reduce their overall operations requirements and need easy to use, high performance solutions, like ThreatARMOR, to help them do that.”

Spending on IT security is poised to grow tenfold in ten years. Enterprise security tools inspect all traffic, including traffic that shouldn’t be on the network in the first place: traffic from known malicious IPs, hijacked IPs, and unassigned or unused IP space/addresses. These devices, while needed, create a more work than a security team could possible handle. False security attack positives consume an inordinate amount of time and resources: enterprises spend approximately 21,000 hours per year on average dealing with false positive cyber security alerts per a Ponemon Institute report published January 2015. You need to reduce the attack surface in order to only focus on the traffic that needs to be inspected.

“ThreatARMOR delivers a new level of visibility and security by blocking unwanted traffic before many of these unnecessary security events are ever generated. And its protection is always up to date thanks to our Application and Threat Intelligence (ATI) program.” said Dennis Cox, Chief Product Officer at Ixia.

“The ATI program develops the threat intelligence for ThreatARMOR and a detailed ‘Rap Sheet’ that provides proof of malicious activity for all blocked IP addresses, supported with on-screen evidence of the activity such as malware distribution or phishing, including date of the most recent confirmation and screen shots.”

ThreatARMOR: your new front line of defense!

Additional Resources:


Thanks to Ixia for the article.

The Importance of State

Ixia recently added passive SSL decryption to the ATI Processor (ATIP). ATIP is an optional module in several of our Net Tool Optimizer (NTO) packet brokers that delivers application-level insight into your network with details such as application ID, user location, and handset and browser type. ATIP gives you this information via an intuitive real-time dashboard, filtered application forwarding, and rich NetFlow/IPFIX.

Adding SSL decryption to ATIP was a logical enhancement, given the increasing use of SSL for both enterprise applications and malware transfer – both things that you need to see in order to monitor and understand what’s going on. For security, especially, it made a lot of sense for us to decrypt traffic so that a security tool can focus on what it does best (such as malware detection).

When we were starting our work on this feature, we looked around at existing solutions in the market to understand how we could deliver something better. After working with both customers and our security partners, we realized we could offer added value by making our decrypted output easier to use.

Many of our security partners can either deploy their systems inline (traffic must pass through the security device, which can selectively drop packets) or out-of-band (the security device monitors a copy of the traffic and sends alerts on suspicious traffic). Their flexible ability to deploy in either topology means they’re built to handle fully stateful TCP connections, with full TCP handshake, sequence numbers, and checksums. In fact, many will flag an error if they see something that looks wrong. It turns out that many passive SSL solutions out there produce output that isn’t fully stateful and can flag errors or require disabling of certain checks.

What exactly does this mean? Well, a secure web connection starts with a 3-way TCP handshake (see this Wikipedia article for more details), typically on port 443, and both sides choose a random starting sequence (SEQ) number. This is followed by an additional TLS handshake that kicks off encryption for the application, exchanging encryption parameters. After the encryption is nailed up, the actual application starts and the client and server exchange application data.

When decrypting and forwarding the connection, some of the information from the original encrypted connection either doesn’t make sense or must be modified. Some information, of course, must be retained. For example, if the security device is expecting a full TCP connection, then it expects a full TCP handshake at the beginning of the connection – otherwise packets are just appearing out of nowhere, which is typically seen as a bad thing by security devices.

Next, in the original encrypted connection, there’s a TLS handshake that won’t make any sense at all if you’re reading a cleartext connection (note that ATIP does forward metadata about the original encryption, such as key length and cipher, in its NetFlow/IPFIX reporting). So when you forward the cleartext stream, the TLS handshake should be omitted. However, if you simply drop the TLS handshake packets from the stream, then the SEQ numbers (which keep count of transmitted packets from each side) must be adjusted to compensate for their omission. And every TCP packet includes a checksum that must also be recalculated around the new decrypted packet contents.

If you open up the decrypted output from ATIP, you can see all of this adjustment has taken place. Here’s a PCAP of an encrypted Netflix connection that has been decrypted by ATIP:

The Importance of State

You’ll see there are no out-of-sequence packets, and no indication of any dropped packets (from the TLS handshake) or invalid checksums. Also note that even though the encrypted connection was on port 443, this flow analysis shows a connection on port 80. Why? Because many analysis tools will expect encrypted traffic on port 443 and cleartext traffic on port 80. To make interoperability with these tools easier, ATIP lets you remap the cleartext output to the port of your choice (and a different output port for every encrypted input port). You might also note that Wireshark shows SEQ=0. That’s not the actual sequence number; Wireshark just displays a 0 for the first packet of any connection so you can use the displayed SEQ number to count packets.

The following ladder diagram might also help to make this clear:

The Importance of State

To make Ixia’s SSL decryption even more useful, we’ve also added a few other new features. In the 1.2.1 release, we added support for Diffie Helman keys (previously, we only supported RSA keys), as well as Elliptic Curve ciphers. We’ve also added reporting of key encryption metadata in our NetFlow/IPFIX reporting:

The Importance of State

As you can see, we’ve been busy working on our SSL solution, making sure we make it as useful, fast, and easy-to-use as possible. And there’s more great stuff on the way. So if you want to see new features, or want more information about our current products or features, just let us know and we’ll get on it.

More Information

ATI Processor Web Portal

Wikipedia Article: Transmission Control Protocol (TCP)

Wikipedia Article: Transport Layer Security (TLS)

Thanks to Ixia for the article.

Ixia Taps into Visibility, Access and Security in 4G/LTE

The Growing Impact of Social Networking Trends on Lawful Interception

Ixia Taps into Visibility, Access and Security in 4G/LTELawful Interception (LI) is the legal process by which a communications network operator or Service Provider (SP) gives authorized officials access to the communications of individuals or organizations. With security threats mushrooming in new directions, LI is more than ever a priority and major focus of Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs). Regulations such as the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA), mandate that SPs place their resources at the service of these agencies to support surveillance and interdiction of individuals or groups.

CALEA makes Lawful Interception a priority mission for Service Providers as well as LEA; its requirements make unique demands and mandate specific equipment to carry out its high-stakes activities. This paper explores requirements and new solutions for Service Provider networks in performing Lawful Interception.

A Fast-Changing Environment Opens New Doors to Terrorism and Crime

In the past, Lawful Interception was simpler and more straightforward because it was confined to traditional voice traffic. Even in the earlier days of the Internet, it was still possible to intercept a target’s communication data fairly easily.

Now, as electronic communications take on new forms and broaden to a potential audience of billions, data volumes are soaring, and the array of service offerings is growing apace. Lawful Interception Agencies and Service Providers are racing to thwart terrorists and other criminals who have the technological expertise and determination to carry out their agendas and evade capture. This challenge will only intensify with the rising momentum of change in communication patterns.

Traffic patterns have changed: In the past it was easier to identify peer-to-peer applications or chat using well known port numbers. In order to evade LI systems, the bad guys had to work harder. Nowadays, most applications use Ixia Taps into Visibility, Access and Security in 4G/LTE standard HTTP and in most cases SSL to communicate. This puts an extra burden on LI systems that must identify overall more targets on larger volumes of data with fewer filtering options.

Social Networking in particular is pushing usage to exponential levels, and today’s lawbreakers have a growing range of sophisticated, encrypted communication channels to exploit. With the stakes so much higher, Service Providers need robust, innovative resources that can contend with a widening field of threats. This interception technology must be able to collect volume traffic and handle data at unprecedented high speeds and with pinpoint security and reliability.

LI Strategies and Goals May Vary, but Requirements Remain Consistent

Today, some countries are using nationwide interception systems while others only dictate policies that providers need to follow. While regulations and requirements vary from country to country, organizations such as the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) have developed technical parameters for LI to facilitate the work of LEAs. The main functions of any LI solution are to access Interception-Related Information (IRI) and Content of Communication (CC) from the telecommunications network and to deliver that information in a standardized format via the handover interface to one or more monitoring centers of law enforcement agencies.

High-performance switching capabilities, such as those offered by the Ixia Director™ family of solutions, should map to following LI standards in order to be effective: They must be able to isolate suspicious voice, video, or data streams for an interception, based on IP address, MAC address or other parameters. The device must also be able to carry out filtering at wire speed. Requirements for supporting Lawful Interception activities include:

  • The ability to intercept all applicable communications of a certain target without gaps in coverage, including dropped packets, where missing encrypted characters may render a message unreadable or incomplete
  • Total visibility into network traffic at any point in the communication stream
  • Adequate processing speed to match network bandwidth
  • Undetectability, unobtrusiveness, and lack of performance degradation (a red flag to criminals and terrorists on alert for signs that they have been intercepted)
  • Real-time monitoring capabilities, because time is of the essence in preventing a crime or attack and in gathering evidence
  • The ability to provide intercepted information to the authorities in the agreed-upon handoff format
  • Load sharing and balancing of traffic that is handed to the LI system .

From the perspective of the network operator or Service Provider, the primary obligations and requirements for developing and deploying a lawful interception solution include:

  • Cost-effectiveness
  • Minimal impact on network infrastructure
  • Compatibility and compliance
  • Support for future technologies
  • Reliability and security

Ixia’s Comprehensive Range of Solutions for Lawful Interception

This Ixia customer, (the “Service Provider”), is a 4G/LTE pioneer that relies on Ixia solutions. Ixia serves the LI architecture by providing the access part of an LI solution in the form of Taps and switches. These contribute functional flexibility and can be configured as needed in many settings. Both the Ixia Director solution family and the iLink Agg™ solution can aggregate a group of links in traffic and pick out conversations with the same IP address pair from any of the links.

Following are further examples of Ixia products that can form a vital element of a successful LI initiative:

Test access ports, or Taps, are devices used by carriers and others to meet the capability requirements of CALEA legislation. Ixia is a global leader in the range and capabilities of its Taps, which provide permanent, passive access points to the physical stream.

Ixia Taps reside in both carrier and enterprise infrastructures to perform network monitoring and to improve both network security and efficiency. These inline devices provide permanent, passive access points to the physical stream. The passive characteristic of Taps means that network data is not affected whether the Tap is powered or not. As part of an LI solution, Taps have proven more useful than Span ports. If Law Enforcement Agencies must reconfigure a switch to send the right conversations to the Span port every time intercept is required, a risk arises of misconfiguring the switch and connections. Also, Span ports drop packets—another significant monitoring risk, particularly in encryption.

Director xStream™ and iLink Agg xStream™ enable deployment of an intelligent, flexible and efficient monitoring access platform for 10G networks. Director xStream’s unique TapFlow™ filtering technology enables LI to focus on select traffic of interest for each tool based on protocols, IP addresses, ports, and VLANs. The robust engineering of Director xStream and iLink Agg xStream enables a pool of 10G and 1G tools to be deployed across a large number of 10G network links, with remote, centralized control of exactly which traffic streams are directed to each tool. Ixia xStream solutions enable law enforcement entities to view more traffic with fewer monitoring tools as well as relieving oversubscribed 10G monitoring tools. In addition, law enforcement entities can share tools and data access among groups without contention and centralize data monitoring in a network operations center.

Director Pro™ and Director xStream Pro data monitoring switches offers law enforcement the ability to perform better pre-filtering via Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) and to hone in on a specific phone number or credit card number. Those products differs from other platforms that might have the ability to seek data within portions of the packet thanks to a unique ability to filter content or perform pattern matching with hardware and in wire speed potentially to Layer 7. Such DPI provides the ability to apply filters to a packet or multiple packets at any location, regardless of packet length or how “deep” the packet is; or to the location of the data to be matched within this packet. A DPI system is totally independent of the packet.

Thanks to Ixia for the article.

Ixia Taps into Hybrid Cloud Visibility

Ixia Taps into Hybrid Cloud VisibilityOne of the major issues that IT organizations have with any form of external cloud computing is that they don’t have much visibility into what is occurring within any of those environments.

To help address that specific issue, Ixia created its Net Tool Optimizer, which makes use of virtual and physical taps to provide visibility into cloud computing environments. Now via the latest upgrade to that software, Ixia is providing support for both virtual and physical networks while doubling the number of interconnects the hardware upon which Net Tool Optimizer runs can support.

Deepesh Arora, vice president of product management for Ixia, says providing real-time visibility into both virtual and physical networks is critical, because in the age of the cloud, the number of virtual networks being employed has expanded considerably. For many IT organizations, this means they have no visibility into either the external cloud or the virtual networks that are being used to connect them.

The end goal, says Arora, should be to use Net Tool Optimizer to predict what will occur across those hybrid cloud computing environments, but also to enable IT organizations to use that data to programmatically automate responses to changes in those environments.

Most IT organizations find managing the network inside the data center to be challenging enough. With the additional of virtual networks that span multiple cloud computing environments running inside and outside of the data center, that job is more difficult than ever. Of course, no one can manage what they can’t measure, so the first step toward gaining visibility into hybrid cloud computing environments starts with something as comparatively simple as a virtual network tap.

Thanks to IT Business Edge for the article.

Inline Security Solutions from Ixia

Flexible, Fail-Safe Inline Security Boosts Agility, Availability, and Resilience While Reducing Network Costs

As networks deliver more services and carry ever-higher volumes of multiprotocol traffic, data rates continue to soar. Voice, data, and streaming video now travel on one wire, raising security and compliance issues. Today’s intense threat landscape demands multiple proactive security systems throughout the network for a strong, layered security posture. These proactive devices include firewalls, next-gen firewalls, web-application firewalls, and Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS)—and all require inline network deployment.

Multiple inline security resources can themselves actually become points of failure and vulnerability. They bring concerns about network uptime, performance, operational ownership, security flexibility and overall costs. Despite redundancy and other protections, they must be taken offline for upgrades and scheduled or unscheduled maintenance. Further, if a tool loses power or becomes overprovisioned, the network link can break and traffic cease to flow.

Now, Ixia’s Inline Security Framework offers a proven solution for deploying multiple inline security tools. This smart approach improves your network’s availability, agility, performance, and functionality, while providing greater security, flexibility, and resilience, and lowering overall costs and personnel workloads.

Ixia’s Inline Security Framework protects your network uptime with multiple resources: Bypass switch bi-directional heartbeat monitoring for system, link and power failures ensures uninterrupted network uptime while increasing network availability. Security tool load balancing ensures efficiency while enabling you to leverage existing tool investments and add capacity as needed, rather than investing in a forklift upgrade.

Replacing multiple inline security devices with a single passive bypass switch eliminates network maintenance downtime while providing a pay-as-you-go capacity upgrade path for your changing security needs—dramatically reducing costs of migrating your 1G tools to the 10G environment, for example.

Ixia Net Optics Bypass Switches offer proven, fail-safe Inline protection for your security and monitoring tools. A heartbeat packet protects the network link from application, link, and power failure: if a packet doesn’t return, the switch instantly goes into bypass mode and takes that appliance out of the traffic path. With support for 10Mbps to 40Gbps connectivity, you receive automated failover protection on full duplex traffic streams connected to the monitoring tools. Because the Bypass Switch is passive, link traffic continues to flow even if the Bypass itself loses power.

Packet Brokers reside behind the bypass switch to provide additional flexibility and control over traffic flow for inline security tools. These packet brokers provide advanced control of traffic as it traverses the security tools, including load balancing, traffic aggregation from multiple links, application filtering, and out-of-band access.

Ixia’s robust Inline Security Solutions give you the confidence of assured inline availability for improved business continuity and network health. Find out more about how our cost-effective inline approach extends the availability and security of your network.

Inline Security Solutions from Ixia

Related Products


Net Optics Bypass Switches

Net Optics Bypass Switches

Fail-safe deployments for inline security tools

Security Packet Brokers

Security Packet Brokers

Inline traffic aggregation, filtering, failover, and load balancing for security tools

Thanks to ixia for the article.

NTO Now Provides Twice the Network Visibility

Ixia is proud to announce that we are expanding one of the key capabilities in Ixia xStream platforms, “Double Your Ports,” to our Net Tool Optimizers (NTO) family of products. As of our 4.3 release, this capability to double the number of network and monitor inputs is now available on the NTO platform. If you are not familiar with Double Your Ports, it is a feature that allows you to add additional network or tool ports to your existing NTO by allowing different devices to share a single port. For example, if you have used all of the ports on your NTO but want to add a new tap, you can enable Double Your Ports so that a Net Optics Tap and a monitoring tool can share the same port, utilizing both the RX and TX sides of the port. This is how it works:

Standard Mode

In the standard mode, the ports will behave in a normal manner: when there is a link connection on the RX, the TX will operate. When the RX is not connected, the system assumes the TX link is also not connected (down).

Loopback Mode

When you designate a port to be loopback, the data egressing on the TX side will forward directly to the RX side of the same port. This functionality does not require a loopback cable to be plugged into the port. The packets will not transmit outside of the device even if a cable is connected.

Simplex Mode

When you designate a port to be in simplex mode, the port’s TX state is not dependent on the RX state. In the standard mode, when the RX side of the port goes down, the TX side is disabled. If you assign a port mode to simplex, the TX state is up when there is a link on the TX even when there is no link on the RX. You could use a simplex cable to connect a TX of port A to an RX of port B. If port A is in simplex mode, the TX will transmit even when the port A RX is not connected.

To “double your ports” you switch the port into simplex mode, then use simplex fiber cables and connect the TX fiber to a security or monitoring tool and the RX fiber to a tap or switch SPAN port. On NTO, the AFM ports such as the AFM 16 support simplex mode allowing you to have 32 connections per module: 16 network inputs and 16 monitor outputs simultaneously (with advanced functions on up to 16 of those connections). The Ixia xStream’s 24 ports can be used as 48 connections: 24 network inputs and 24 monitor outputs simultaneously.

The illustration below shows the RX and TX links of two AFM ports on the NTO running in simplex mode. The first port’s RX is receiving traffic from the Network Tap and the TX is transmitting to a monitoring tool.

The other port (right hand side on NTO) is interconnected to the Network Tap with its RX using a simplex cable whereas its TX is unused (dust-cap installed).

With any non-Ixia solution, this would have taken up three physical ports on the packet broker. With Ixia’s NTO and xStream packet brokers we are able to double up the traffic and save a port for this simple configuration, with room to add another monitoring tool where the dust plug is shown. If you expand this across many ports you can double your ports in the same space!

NTO Now Provides Twice the Network Visibility

Click here to learn more about Ixia’s Net Tool Optimizer family of products.

Additional Resources:

Ixia xStream

Ixia NTO solution

Ixia AFM

Solution Focus Category

Network Visibility

Thanks to Ixia for the article.


Cost-Effective Monitoring for Multi-Device Copper Networks is Here!

Cost-Effective Monitoring for Multi-Device Copper Networks is Here!

Proper access is the core component of any visibility architecture—you need to be able to capture the data before you can properly analyze it. To further help our customers, Ixia has released a new regenerator tap for copper networks. Regeneration means you get the same clean copy of incoming data distributed to multiple output ports in real time.

The Ixia Net Optics Regeneration Taps solve the key physical layer challenges of multi-device monitoring for 10, 100, and 1000MB (1 GbE) copper networks. Up to 16 devices can be connected to a single regenerator tap. This helps IT maximize resources and save on access points because multiple devices can monitor link traffic simultaneously through one cost-effective tap. Secure, passive access for many devices will deliver a superior return on your monitoring investments.

The regeneration tap is perfect for simple out-of-band access or when you need in-line monitoring. Once you have the proper data, it can then be forwarded to a packet broker for filtering or sent on directly to monitoring tools.

To get more details on the on this new product offering, visit the Ixia Copper Regenerator Tap product page.

Additional Resources:

Ixia Copper Regenerator Taps

Solution Focus Category

Network Visibility

Thanks to Ixia for the article.

Improving Network Visibility – Part 4: Intelligent, Integrated, and Intuitive Management

In the three previous blogs in this series, I answered an often asked customer question – “What can really be done to improve network visibility?” – with discussions on data and packet conditioning, advanced filtering, and automated data center capability. In the fourth part of this blog series, I’ll reveal another set of features that can further improve network visibility and deliver even more verifiable benefits.

Too quickly summarize, this multi-part blog covers an in-depth view of various features that deliver true network visibility benefits. There are five fundamental feature sets that will be covered:

When combined, these capabilities can “supercharge” your network. This is because the five categories of monitoring functionality work together to create a coherent group of features that can, and will, lift the veil of complexity. These feature sets need to be integrated, yet modular, so you can deploy them to attack the complexity. This will allow you to deliver the right data to your monitoring and security tools and ultimately solve your business problems.

This fourth blog focuses on intelligent, integrated, and intuitive management of your network monitoring switches – also known as network packet brokers (NPB). Management of your equipment is a key concern. If you spend too much time on managing equipment, you lose productivity. If you don’t have the capability to properly manage all the equipment facets, then you probably won’t derive the full value from your equipment.

When it comes to network packet brokers, the management of these devices should align to your specific needs. If you purchase the right NPBs, the management for these devices will be intelligent, integrated, and intuitive.

So, what do we mean by intelligent, integrated, and intuitive? The following are the definitions I use to describe these terms and how they can control/minimize complexity within an element management system (EMS):

Intuitive – This is involves a visual display of information. Particularly, an easy to read GUI that shows you your system, ports, and tool connections at a glance so you don’t waste time or miss things located on a myriad of other views.

Integrated – Everyone wants the option of “One Stop Shopping.” For NPBs, this means no separate executables required for basic configuration. Best-of-breed approaches often sound good, but the reality of integrating lots of disparate equipment can become a nightmare. You’ll want a monitoring switch that has already been integrated by the manufacturer with lots of different technologies. This gives you the flexibility you want without the headaches.

Intelligent – A system that is intelligent can handle most of the nitpicky details, which are usually the ones that take the most effort and reduce productivity the most. Some examples include: the need for a powerful filtering engine behind the scenes to prevent overlap filtering and eliminate the need to create filtering tables, auto-discovery, ability to respond to commands from external systems, and the ability to initiate actions based upon user defined threshold limits.

At the same time, scalability is the top technology concern of IT for network management products, according to the EMA report Network Management 2012: Megatrends in Technology, Organization and Process published in February 2012. A key component of being able to scale is the management capability. Your equipment management capability will throttle how well your system scales or doesn’t.

The management solution for a monitoring switch should be flexible but powerful enough to allow for growth as your business grows – it should be consistently part of the solution and not the problem and must, therefore, support current and potential future needs. The element management system needs to allow for your system growth either natively or through configuration change. There are some basic tiered levels of functionality that are needed. I’ve attempted to summarize these below but more details are available in a whitepaper.

Basic management needs (these features are needed for almost all deployments)

  • Centralized console – Single pane of glass interface so you can see your network at a glance
  • The ability to quickly and easily create new filters
  • An intuitive interface to easily visualize existing filters and their attributes
  • Remote access capability
  • Secure access mechanisms

Small deployments – Point solutions of individual network elements (NEs) (1 to 3) within a system

  • Simple but powerful GUI with a drag and drop interface
  • The ability to create and apply individual filters
  • Full FCAPS (fault, configuration, accounting, performance, security) capability from a single interface

Clustered solutions – Larger solutions for campuses or distributed environments with 4 to 6 NEs within a system

  • These systems need an EMS that can look at multiple monitoring switches from a single GUI
  • More points to control also requires minimal management and transmission overhead to reduce clutter on the network
  • Ability to create filter templates and libraries
  • Ability to apply filter templates to multiple NE’s

Large systems – Require an EMS for large scale NE control

  • Need an ability for bulk management of NE’s
  • Require a web-based (API) interface to existing NMS
  • Need the ability to apply a single template to multiple NE’s
  • Need role-based permissions (that offer the ability to set and forget filter attributes, lock down ports and configuration settings, “internal” multi-tenancy, security for “sensitive” applications like CALEA, and user directory integration – RADIUS, TACACS+, LDAP, Active Directory)
  • Usually need integration capabilities for reporting and trend analysis

Integrated solutions – Very large systems will require integration to an external NMS either directly or through EMS

  • Need Web-based interface (API) for integration to existing NMS and orchestration systems
  • Need standardized protocols that allow external access to monitoring switch information (SYSLOG, SNMP)
  • Require role-based permissions (as mentioned above)
  • Requires support for automation capabilities to allow integration to data center and central office automation initiatives
  • Must support integration capabilities for business Intelligence collection, trend analysis, and reporting

Statistics should be available within the NPB, as well as through the element management system, to provide business intelligence information. This information can be used for instantaneous information or captured for trend analysis. Most enterprises typically perform some trending analysis of the data network. This analysis would eventually lead to a filter deployment plan and then also a filter library that could be exported as a filter-only configuration file loadable through an EMS on other NPBs for routine diagnostic assessments.

More information on the Ixia Net Tool Optimizer (NTO) monitoring switch and advanced packet filtering is available on the Ixia website. In addition, we have the following resources available:

Additional Resources:

Ixia Net Tool Optimizer (NTO)

White Paper: Building Scalability into Visibility Management

Ixia Visibility Solutions

Thanks to Ixia for the article.

“Who Makes the Rules?” The Hidden Risks of Defining Visibility Policies

Imagine what would happen if the governor of one state got to change all the laws for the whole country for a day, without the other states or territories ever knowing about it. And then the next day, another governor gets to do the same. And then another.

Such foreseeable chaos is precisely what happens when multiple IT or security administrators define traffic filtering policies without some overarching intelligence keeping tabs on who’s doing what. Each user acts from their own unique perspective with the best of intentions –but with no way to know how the changes they make might impact other efforts.

In most large enterprises, multiple users need to be able to view and alter policies to maximize performance and security as the network evolves. In such scenarios, however, “last in, first out” policy definition creates dangerous blind spots, and the risk may be magnified in virtualized or hybrid environments where visibility architectures aren’t fully integrated.

Dynamic Filtering Accommodates Multiple Rule-makers, Reduces Risk of Visibility Gap

Among the advances added to latest release of Ixia’s Net Tool Optimizer™ (NTO) network packet brokers are enhancements to the solution’s unique Dynamic Filtering capabilities. This patented technique imposes that overarching intelligence over the visibility infrastructure as multiple users act to improve efficiency or divert threats. This technology becomes an absolute requirement when automation is used in the data center as dynamic changes to network filters require advanced calculations to other filters to ensure overlaps are updated to prevent loss of data.

Traditional rule-based systems may give a false sense of security and leave an organization vulnerable as security tools don’t see everything they need to see in order to do their job effectively. Say you have 3 tools each requiring slightly different but overlapping data.

  • Tool 1 wants a copy of all packets on VLAN 1-3
  • Tool 2 wants a copy of all packets containing TCP
  • Tool 3 wants a copy of all packets on VLAN 3-6

Overlap occurs in that both Tools 1 and 3 need to see TCP on VLAN 3. In rule-based systems, once a packet matches a rule, it is forwarded on and no longer available. Tool 1 will receive TCP packets on VLAN 3 but not tool 3. This creates a false sense of security because tool 3 still receives data and is not generating an alarm, which would indicate all is well. But what if the data stream going to tool 1 contains the smoking gun? Tool 3 would have detected this. And as we know from recent front-page breaches, a single incident can ruin a company’s brand image and have a severe financial impact.

Extending Peace of Mind across Virtual Networks

NVOS 4.3 also integrates physical and virtual visibility, allowing traffic from Ixia’s Phantom™ Virtualization Taps (vTaps) or standard VMware-based visibility solutions to be terminated on NTO along with physical traffic. Together, these enhancements eliminate serious blind spots inherent in other solutions avoiding potential risk and, worst case, liability caused by putting data at risk.

Integrating physical and virtual visibility minimizes equipment costs and streamlines control by eliminating extra devices that add complexity to your network. Other new additions –like the “double your ports” feature extend the NTO advantage delivering greater density, flexibility and ROI.

Download the latest NTO NVOS release from

Additional Resources:

Ixia Visibility Solutions

Thanks to Ixia for the article.

Advanced Packet Filtering with Ixia’s Advanced Filtering Modules (AFM)

An important factor in improving network visibility is the ability to pass the correct data to monitoring tools. Otherwise, it becomes very expensive and aggravating for most enterprises to sift through the enormous amounts of data packets being transmitted (now and in the near future). Bandwidth requirements are projected to continue increasing for the foreseeable future – so you may want to prepare now. As your bandwidth needs increase, complexity increases due to more equipment being added to the network, new monitoring applications, and data filtering rule changes due to additional monitoring ports.

Network monitoring switches are used to counteract complexity with data segmentation. There are several features that are necessary to perform the data segmentation needed and refine the flow of data. The most important features needed for this activity are: packet deduplication, load balancing, and packet filtering. Packet filtering, and advanced packet filtering in particular, is the primary workhorse feature for this segmentation.

While many monitoring switch vendors have filtering, very few can perform the advanced filtering that adds real value for businesses. In addition, filtering rules can become very complex and require a lot of staff time to write initially and then to maintain as the network constantly changes. This is time and money wasted on tool maintenance instead of time spent on quickly resolving network problems and adding new capabilities to the network requested by the business.

Basic Filtering

Basic packet filtering consists of filtering the packets as they either enter or leave the monitoring switch. Filtering at the ingress will restrict the flow of data (and information) from that point on. This is most often the worst place to filter as tools and functionality downstream from this point will never have access to that deleted data, and it eliminates the ability to share filtered data to multiple tools. However, ingress filtering is commonly used to limit the amount of data on the network that is passed on to your tool farm, and/or for very security sensitive applications that wish to filter non-trusted information as early as possible.

The following list provides common filter criteria that can be employed:

  • Layer 2
    • MAC address from packet source
    • VLAN
    • Ethernet Type (e.g. IPv4, IPv6, Apple Talk, Novell, etc.)
  • Layer 3
    • DSCP/ECN
    • IP address
    • IP protocol ( ICMP, IGMP, GGP, IP, TCP, etc.)
    • Traffic Class
    • Next Header
  • Layer 4
    • L4 port
    • TCP Control flags

Filters can be set to either pass or deny traffic based upon the filter criteria.

Egress filters are primarily meant for fine tuning of data packets sent to the tool farm. If an administrator tries to use these for the primary filtering functionality, they can easily run into an overload situation where the egress port is overloaded and packets are dropped. In this scenario, aggregated data from multiple network ports may be significantly greater than the egress capacity of the tool port.

Advanced Filtering

Network visibility comes from reducing the clutter and focusing on what’s important when you need it. One of the best ways to reduce this clutter is to add a monitoring switch that can remove duplicated packets and perform advanced filtering to direct data packets to the appropriate monitoring tools and application monitoring products that you have deployed on your network. The fundamental factor to achieve visibility is to get the right data to the right tool to make the right conclusions. Basic filtering isn’t enough to deliver the correct insight into what is happening on the network.

But what do we mean by “advanced filtering”? Advanced filtering includes the ability to filter packets anywhere across the network by using very granular criteria. Most monitoring switches just filter on the ingress and egress data streams.

Besides ingress and egress filtering, operators need to perform packet processing functions as well, like VLAN stripping, VNtag stripping, GTP stripping, MPLS stripping, deduplication and packet trimming.

Ixia’s Advanced Feature Modules

The Ixia Advanced Feature Modules (AFM) help network engineers to improve monitoring tool performance by optimizing the monitored network traffic to include only the essential information needed for analysis. In conjunction with the Ixia Net Tool Optimizer (NTO) product line, the AFM module has sophisticated capability that allows it to perform advanced processing of packet data.

Advanced Packet Processing Features

  • Packet De-Duplication – A normally configured SPAN port can generate multiple copies of the same packet dramatically reducing the effectiveness of monitoring tools. The AFM16 eliminates redundant packets, at full line rate, before they reach your monitoring tools. Doing so will increase overall tool performance and accuracy.
  • Packet Trimming – Some monitoring tools only need to analyze packet headers. In other monitoring applications, meeting regulatory compliance requires tools remove sensitive data from captured network traffic. The AFM16 can remove payload data from the monitored network traffic, which boosts tool performance and keeps sensitive user data secure.
  • Protocol Stripping – Many network monitoring tools have limitations when handling some types of Ethernet protocols. The AFM16 enables monitoring tools to monitor required data by removing GTP, MPLS, VNTag header labels from the packet stream.
  • GTP Stripping – Removes the GTP headers from a GTP packet leaving the tunneled L3 and L4 headers exposed. Enables tools that cannot process GTP header information to analyze the tunneled packets.
  • NTP/GPS Time Stamping – Some latency-sensitive monitoring tools need to know when a packet traverses a particular point in the network. The AFM16 provides time stamping with nanosecond resolution and accuracy.

Additional Resources:

Ixia Advance Features Modules

Ixia Visibility Architecture

Thanks to Ixia for the article.