Network observability is the first step in preventing any network-based cyberattack.
Without the ability to observe the entire network, there is simply no way to detect and prevent malicious activity, such as DDoS attacks, before they cause damage and disruption.
Put more simply: You can’t stop what you can’t see.
What is Network Observability?
Network observability involves monitoring the performance and behaviour of IT networks to help understand normal activity and identify and prevent issues before they become major disruptions.
Strong network observability enables network administrators to proactively address issues such as malicious traffic before they cause outages or service degradation. It also provides insight into network performance so steps can be taken to improve its efficiency and reliability.
By leveraging these insights, network administrators and security teams can set up automated alerts and preventative measures to protect the network from DDoS attacks and other malicious activity.
How Does Network Observability Help with Anti-DDoS Strategies?
Network observability helps network administrators detect anomalies in their networks that could indicate the early stages of a DDoS attack. When detected early, most DDoS attacks can be mitigated before they cause major damage or disruption to business-critical systems.
Network monitoring tools like FastNetMon provide real-time network monitoring, enabling network administrators to react quickly when an attack occurs. Typically, this is done by implementing a DDoS mitigation strategy such as BGP Blackhole or BGP FlowSpec. The faster an organisation can move from detection to mitigation, the less disruption it will experience.
The more granular the data provided by a network monitoring tool, the more proactive network and security professionals can be when responding to suspicious or malicious network activity.
In addition to mitigating DDoS attacks, network observability can help organisations learn past attacks. By conducting forensic analysis of network activity before and during confirmed attacks, an analyst can identify indicators that can be used to identify similar attacks in the future more quickly. Ideally, these indicators should be used to automate alerts and defensive strategies.
Three Steps to Effective Network Observability
Organisations need a network monitoring tool that supports three key functions:
1) Network activity capture. The ability to capture and store network data from a range of sources is a fundamental requirement for network observability. This is typically done using input methods such as NetFlow, IPFIX, and sFlow traffic monitoring to transmit activity data from network devices like switches and routers to a network monitoring tool. Modern IT networks produce vast quantities of network activity data, so it is important to have a sufficient storage solution.
2) Reporting and insights. An effective network monitoring solution provides powerful reporting capabilities and dashboards to make it easy for network administrators to understand and query activity data once ingested. For example, it should be easy for an administrator to see the following:
- Top network talkers
- Autonomous system dropdowns
- Bandwidth to specific local or remote hosts
- Bandwidth to or from specific autonomous system numbers
3) Action: The ultimate purpose of network observability is to inform action. While this typically requires input from network administrators and security teams, it’s important to choose a network monitoring tool that makes it easy to implement improvements and threat mitigation strategies. For example, it should be straightforward to automate DDoS mitigation strategies to activate when specific types of activity are detected.
5 Anti-DDoS Use Cases for Network Observability
While there are many use cases, preventing DDoS attacks is undoubtedly among the most important. Here are five ways you can use it to more effectively identify, understand, and mitigate today’s sophisticated DDoS attacks.
1) Prompt attack detection. Early detection and mitigation of a DDoS attack can make all the difference when safeguarding your infrastructure. Network monitoring tools can detect suspicious traffic patterns in real-time by comparing them to historical data. This enables network and security teams to act quickly to protect their networks from harm while avoiding costly disruptions.
2) Detecting low-volume attacks. While huge volumetric flooding attacks make the best headlines, many DDoS attacks are short-term assaults with limited volumes. These attacks can be harder to detect as they are too small to trigger common volume-based mitigations. However, smaller DDoS attacks can still cause damage. For example, they can:
- Overload a network device’s CPU
- Disrupt load balancers
- Fill up firewall state tables
Often, these attacks aim to create weaknesses in a target network that can be exploited to conduct more targeted and profitable cyber attacks—for example, data theft or ransomware installation.
A powerful network monitoring tool helps security and network teams understand different types of malicious activity and set alerts and thresholds to monitor for even the stealthiest DDoS attacks.
3) Traffic analysis. Knowing where your network traffic comes from is essential to maintaining a robust security defence. With the help of a network monitoring tool, organisations can collect and study context-specific information such as geolocation data. This enables the development of policies to alert against any suspicious activity in embargoed countries or unusual sources, improving the accuracy of early detections and mitigating threats promptly.
4) Monitoring network flow. To mitigate attacks, network and security teams need the full context of network activity. This requires going beyond basic SNMP data. Flow monitoring provides a deeper level of insight by providing details such as where an attack originated and what IP addresses, ports, and protocols were used. Network and security teams can use this additional information to implement more effective, granular filters to prevent future attacks.
5) Setting and refining mitigation policies. Over time, network administrators can identify patterns in malicious traffic that can be used to set and improve mitigation policies. This requires two capabilities:
- Thorough network observability.
- A DDoS detection solution that supports custom rulesets.
As malicious actors become more sophisticated, the patterns of DDoS attacks are becoming harder to recognise. Network observability provides a way to look back at past incidents to review any trends or similarities that could signal an incoming attack. These insights can inform automated detection and mitigation strategies, ensuring the fastest possible resolution of future DDoS attacks.
Protect Your Organisation with FastNetMon
FastNetMon combines DDoS detection and mitigation features with powerful network flow monitoring capabilities. Utilising input methods such as NetFlow, IPFIX, and sFlow traffic monitoring, FastNetMon can help your organisation detect even the most sophisticated DDoS attacks.
FastNetMon captures network activity in real-time and allows network and security teams to set granular, dynamic policies for detection and mitigation. To protect against the most advanced attacks, FastNetMon can be configured to automatically switch between mitigations throughout an attack to match changes in attack volume and vectors.
Integrating seamlessly with all your network hardware, mitigation controls, and analytics, FastNetMon adapts to your network—you can even write custom detections and deploy them instantly across your network.
Want to keep your network safe? Try FastNetMon FREE for one month.