What is Network Traffic Analysis (NTA)?

Most cyberattacks occur over the network, making it an ideal source of information about threats to an organization and its systems. Network traffic analysis (NTA) is the practice of monitoring network traffic to extract information about potential security threats and other IT issues.

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What is Network Traffic Analysis (NTA)?

The Need for an NTA Solution

Corporate IT infrastructure is made up of a wide variety of different environments and endpoints, which increases the difficulty of monitoring and securing an organization’s IT architecture. However, all of these systems are connected over the network, which is also how threats enter an organization’s environment and move between systems. NTA solutions monitor network traffic for anomalies, which can tip an organization off to a cyberattack or other issues with its network infrastructure.

How NTA Works

NTA monitors traffic flowing over the network. Some of the main types of network data that an NTA solution may collect and process include the following:

  • Flow Data: Flow records provide a high-level summary of network connections, making it a more scalable option. Flow data can help identify unauthorized communications, such as an approved device connected to the corporate WAN or network traffic crossing network segments without inspection — or anomalous traffic volumes — such as large-scale exfiltration of corporate data.
  • Packet Data: Packet captures contain all of the contents of network traffic, providing more data at the cost of greater storage requirements. NTA solutions and security analysts can use packet data to investigate a cyberattack or diagnose an issue.

After collecting network traffic data, an NTA solution analyzes it to extract useful intelligence. Often, NTA solutions use machine learning and behavioral analytics to identify anomalies within network traffic. These anomalies could point to a cyberattack or some other issue that needs addressing.

How Does NTA Enhance Your Security?

NTA provides organizations with the ability to more effectively analyze network traffic and identify anomalies that could point to cyberattacks or other potential issues. These capabilities provide numerous benefits to an organization, including the following:

  • Network Visibility: Corporate networks are growing larger and more complex, making it difficult to maintain visibility. NTA solutions can help to enhance security by giving companies better visibility into their networks and the anomalous network activity that could indicate a potential attack.
  • Threat Detection: Many stages of a cyberattack, including initial access, lateral movement, and command and control communications, occur over the network. NTA can help an organization to detect these activities, aiding in the detection and remediation of cyberattacks.
  • Troubleshooting: Corporate IT systems may go down or suffer degraded performance due to cyberattacks or natural events. NTA solutions can help to identify if a system is down and provide context that can be valuable for diagnosing and correcting the issue.
  • Investigation Support: NTA solutions collect network traffic data for analysis and can store this data for future use. If a security operations center (SOC) has identified a potential incident, then an NTA solution can be used to identify associated network traffic and analyze it, providing additional visibility into the malicious actions performed on the system.
  • Threat Intelligence: After a threat has been identified, an NTA solution can extract unique features — such as IP addresses — that can be used to build indicators of compromise (IoCs). This information can be used to identify additional threats and prevent future attempted attacks.
  • Policy Enforcement: Firewall rules, zero trust security policies, and similar security controls are designed to restrict the use of corporate IT systems to authorized activities. NTA can be used to identify policy violations and security gaps.
  • Regulatory Compliance: Data protection regulations commonly mandate that an organization demonstrate that it protects regulated data against unauthorized access. NTA traffic logs can help to demonstrate that only authorized users have accessed restricted data and systems.

Network Security with Check Point Horizon NDR

Network traffic data can be an invaluable tool for identifying inbound and ongoing threats to an organization’s cybersecurity. NTA solutions can provide comprehensive visibility across an organization’s entire IT architecture and offer the potential to identify threats before they reach an organization’s endpoints.

Network detection and response (NDR) complements NTA, providing more comprehensive threat prevention, detection, and response capabilities. NDR solutions support security analysts to more rapidly identify threats to an organization and respond rapidly at scale via automation.

Check Point Horizon NDR provides a wide range of network security capabilities, including support for public and private cloud environments and built-in cloud intelligence and threat hunting functionality.

Horizon NDR was named a Leader in KuppingerCole Analysts Leadership Compass for Network Detection and Response (NDR). To learn more about Horizon NDR’s capabilities, check out this demo video.

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