Wire Data: What is it Good For?

SecOps professionals have long considered endpoints and log files an integral piece of the cybersecurity puzzle. While it is true that endpoint data can provide valuable insight across multiple connected devices, these tools are limited in scope and vulnerable to breaches.

Today’s security and IT teams are increasingly relying on wire data to better secure their networks. A recent report conducted by network performance and security monitoring vendor VIAVI revealed that more network teams than ever consider wire data the most important data source when confronting security incidents.  

Getting a good handle on the benefits and limitations of wire data in the world of cybersecurity will only become more crucial. 

What is wire data?

While machine data represents the log files stored on discrete servers, wire data is the communication passed between separate elements. For example, HTTP and FTP are both wire data.

Wire data is the decoded raw information collected from computer and telecommunication network communications. This data can fall into two main categories: verbose (for instance, packet capture) and metadata, which is more commonly used for network security analysis.

No matter where the metadata originates, the information is focused on network traffic. That traffic can include live network traffic via network taps, switches and routers, or even localhost network interfaces. Security analysts study metadata to gain context into security events, detect unusual events, and pivot across proprietary data sources.

Why is metadata used?

The evolution of networking has resulted in a world where virtually everything that can be added to a network is interconnected. “Cybersecurity” is no longer the job of specific IT professionals. Today, teams must work together to manage the network and production tasks. Wire data provides analytical insight across the network, including project development and production.

Network security has become more complex as networks have become more sprawling and complicated. Enterprises increasingly rely on an interconnected network landscape where new devices are continually being brought online. Today’s networks need to be able to communicate with IoT devices and third party temporary users safely. 

The rapid advancement in network technology has led to a world where users can access information and perform online tasks anywhere, at any time. No matter the field, a flawless “digital experience” for the end-user is required. Real-time analysis of wire data is the only way to ensure end-user and enterprise security at all times. 

How does metadata improve network security?

Metadata can capture more than 90 percent more of the usable data than a full packet system can capture. The ability to store and analyze metadata in real-time introduces predictability into network security protocol, allowing teams to discover threats that would have gone undedicated through packet capture.

Metadata can also be stored as flat text, which can be compressed for long term storage. Because it can be stored in standard formats like JSON and XML, metadata is searchable and able to be cataloged for use by standard libraries. 

In essence, the analysis of metadata allows teams to search across multiple sources of communications data vs. sifting through endless logs to track down specific information. Not only does metadata increase team efficiency, but it also provides a much richer, more accurate analysis

Instead of being limited to solving broad security issues, metadata allows analysts to dig deeper. For example, metadata can be searched to answer specific answers:

·   Where did a file originate?

·   Who has access to a file across the enterprise?

·   When have edits been made to a file, and by whom?

·   Is personal or proprietary data stored improperly somewhere on the network?

·   In the case of a known security breach, who handled the affected files and when?

Metadata essentially allows security teams to perform their roles with more confidence and greater effectiveness. 

Metadata Analysis Limitations

While metadata analysis holds a great deal of promise, manually searching and analyzing metadata is still not enough. SecOps teams can better analyze more data, but it would be impossible for even the most qualified security professionals to take stock of an entire network in real-time. 

SecOps teams require intelligent, automated analysis to fully secure complex networks. 

Looking Ahead

Wire data has become an integral component of network security. Enterprises that are not currently employing the use of wire data analysis are not sufficiently protecting their networks. Wire data provides much greater insight into network traffic patterns and behavior over legacy processes like data logging technology. 

Wire data is not without inherent limitations, however. Without automation, it can still be a burdensome undertaking to pore over reported metadata. 

The AI-enhanced MixMode platform takes full advantage of the possibilities afforded by metadata analysis. MixMode creates a baseline of your network and then continually monitors changes and anomalies in real-time, alerting your SecOps teams to only real threats. 

When your team needs to respond to a threat, MixMode unlocks full access to wire data, packet capture, deep packet inspection, and file extraction. Not sure where to start? Contact a friendly MixMode representative today to set up a demo and learn how the MixMode platform can elevate data security across your enterprise.