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FCW : September 15, 2015
A 22 THE IMPORTANCE OF NETWORK VISIBILITY Advanced monitoring tools can deliver a dynamic picture of network infrastructures and the devices connected to them. A recent study by Riverbed revealed that federal IT leaders have far less visibility into their networks than they would like. This lack of visibility makes it much more difficult to identify a variety of problems quickly and accurately. This, in turn, means that problems continue for much longer than they would otherwise, which increases the impact to the agency in terms of costs, lost productivity for employees and other problems. The good news is that technologies and security architectures can be utilized to increase network visibility, as well as to gain greater control over network reliability, performance and security. Why IT Departments Lack Network Visibility Monitoring a network, and the assets connected to that network, used to be a relatively simple matter for most agencies. The organization had one main network, and its key infrastructure components were in a small number of well-secured locations, such as enterprise data centers in federal buildings. Most users had assigned desktop computers, also located within the agency’s facilities. And for users with agency-issued notebook computers, remote access to a small number of IT resources was possible through a single virtual private network (VPN) entry point. Cell-phones did not provide robust data services, so they were irrelevant because they didn’t connect to agency networks. Today, the entire situation has become much more complicated. The networks themselves have become increasingly complex for three main reasons. The first is the shift to cloud-based services. A single agency may use several cloud service providers — for example, to have access to particular applications — but these networks cannot be monitored by the agency’s existing tools and techniques. A second reason is the incredible rise of mobility. Users are working from many locations, employing notebooks, smartphones and tablets, and they are demanding — and often getting — a ccess to a wide varietyof agency resources from these devices. VPNs are still used for many notebooks, but most mobile devices are accessing agency resources through public-facing servers, and not a VPN. Third, the popularity of bring-your-own-device arrangements, where devices that are not controlled by the agency are allowed to connect to its resources, has greatly increased the complexity of federal networks. Serious Concerns The lack of visibility into an agency’s networks can lead to significant problems regarding security, performance and reliability. For example: • Agency IT administrators may be unable to automatically detect many network infrastructure failures and performance problems. This may cause extended disruptions to network, application and data availability. • The agency may not be able to detect unauthorized devices attached to its networks. Such devices are usually not in compliance with security policies, and they may have already been compromised by attackers. • The agency may be unable to monitor the contents of traffic passing over its networks. IT administrators may not even know what types of traffic are being carried on the network, let alone the nature of this traffic, whether it is benign, unnecessary or malicious. An attacker could be stealing vast quantities of sensitive data over the agency’s own networks undetected. The benefits of having robust visibility into agency networks logically follow from these problems. The agency can detect failures, performance issues, some CYBERSECURITY
August 30, 2015
September 30, 2015