Uncovering the Next Infrastructure Blind Spot: SSL

By: Ananda Rajagopal, Vice President of Product Management AnandaRajagopal

Visibility: the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as the “capability of affording an unobstructed view”. In the world of business, visibility delivers relevant insight, which can be the difference between just-in-time action and a missed opportunity. This is why traffic-based visibility powers the business of NOW! Yet, the nature of traffic visibility is such that underlying shifts in payload types and patterns requires solutions that can readily adapt to these shifts and provide an unobstructed view of traffic to the administrator.

Many security and network administrators are facing up to an underlying shift in enterprise traffic: a growing portion of it is encrypted within SSL. According to an independent study done by NSS Labs, anywhere from 25%-35% of enterprise traffic is encrypted in SSL and is growing further every month. In some verticals, that number is already higher. By itself, this statistic would not cause a flutter but this is exacerbated by other findings on the state of today’s security and performance monitoring infrastructure:

  • Although inline devices such as ADCs, firewalls etc. have integrated SSL support, out-of-band monitoring and security tools often do not have the ability to access decrypted traffic to perform security and performance analysis. This allows SSL traffic to fly under the radar, creating a potential security loophole.
  • Consequently, performance management tools and many out-of-band security tools are either completely blind to SSL traffic or get overloaded if they decrypt SSL. In discussions with many of our customers, they have pointed out a drop in performance by almost 80% if the tool decrypts SSL.
  • Many security administrators are using larger ciphers for increased security today. A study by NSS Labs noted a performance degradation of 81% in existing SSL architectures.
  • Hackers and cybercriminals are increasingly using SSL sessions to dodge network security defenses. Indeed, a Dec. 9, 2013 Gartner report titled “Security Leaders Must Address Threats From Rising SSL Traffic” by Jeremy D’Hoinne and Adam Hils, “Gartner believes that, in 2017, more than half of the network attacks targeting enterprises will use encrypted traffic to bypass controls, up from less than 5% today”.

In short, the very technology that was supposed to ensure confidentiality is now being exploited by nefarious actors. These are precisely the reasons that have driven us at Gigamon to come with the next innovation in visibility—the industry’s first and only visibility solution with integrated SSL support. With built-in hardware to decrypt SSL sessions at high performance, this new capability provides visibility into a critical blind spot facing administrators today. It is not without reason that analysts, customers and our technology ecosystem partners who have been privy to this development are all agog with excitement!

This new capability is yet another proof point of what GigaSMART can offer to IT and security administrators. GigaSMART is a platform that allows advanced traffic intelligence to be extracted via various applications that can be dynamically enabled and run in combination on a common underlying platform. Contrast this with other visibility products that offer point features to address point problems with point hardware—over time, both capital and operational costs of managing point products rapidly add up until they can no longer offer visibility to the next blind spot the administrator seeks to uncover. Gigamon’s GigaSMART technology solves visibility challenges holistically with a platform-based architectural approach. If you are a Gigamon customer who has already invested in GigaSMART on any of the GigaVUE-H Series platforms, you do not need any new hardware to run this new SSL application! The benefits of this platform-based approach are considerable. Here are three examples related to SSL decryption:

  • You can service chain multiple GigaSMART applications together. Interested in sending encrypted traffic at a remote site to a centrally located data loss prevention appliance? Not a problem. You can run both the tunneling and SSL decryption applications on GigaSMART in combination. Want to monitor secure VM-VM traffic between specific enterprise applications and generate NetFlow records on that traffic? Amen! You can combine tunneling, SSL decryption and the NetFlow generation applications on GigaSMART to generate NetFlow records on encrypted traffic. Have a concern about data misuse after decryption? You can combine SSL decryption with the packet masking/slicing applications on GigaSMART to support compliance with regulatory and/or organizational policies.
  • By combining SSL decryption with clustering in a Visibility Fabric, traffic from low-cost edge ports in the visibility infrastructure is automatically routed to the node in the cluster that has SSL decryption capability. This eliminates the need for SSL decryption solutions to be distributed at multiple locations, saving cost and ensuring better security in key management.
  • By delivering ‘Decryption as a Service’ via the Gigamon Visibility Fabric implemented with GigaSMART, administrators can increase the overall performance of their tooling infrastructure. The SSL traffic is decrypted once and then delivered to every tool that needs it, such as IDS, DLP, anti-malware, and even APM and other non-security tools.

For those who think that visibility can be obtained through mere “tap aggregation”, think again. Visibility must provide insight into infrastructure blind spots. Visibility is about extracting traffic intelligence to increase the performance of security and operational tools connected to the visibility infrastructure so that administrators can get the right insight. The nature of visibility is such that new challenges will arise tomorrow that today’s visibility solution should be able to adapt to—something that a repurposed Ethernet switch is simply not designed for. After all, isn’t visibility about offering an “unobstructed view”?

For more information including example use cases, visit our webpage on SSL Visibility.

Visibility in Motion at Cisco Live Orlando

by: Huy Nguyen, Senior Director of Product
Management at Gigamon

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Now that Cisco Live Orlando has come and gone and we’re gearing up for VMworld, we’re seeing even more attention being paid to virtualization given the interest in software defined networks (SDN) and data centers (SDDC). So, virtualization remains hot and with around 60 percent of all applications running in virtualized environments according to some studies, we shouldn’t be surprised that there are even summer camps being offered around the subject (I’m not kidding). I feel like 2013 is the Summer of Virtualization!
That being said, it makes sense to let you know how Gigamon is continuing to address the visibility challenges being experienced by organizations utilizing virtualized environments.  On the first day of the Cisco Live World of Solutions expo we announced GigaVUE-VM 2.0. If you’re not familiar with our GigaVUE-VM, it is basically a virtual instance of one of our Visibility Fabric nodes. Because traffic between virtual machines may be switched locally, it will never traverse the physical network, rendering existing monitoring and analysis tools blind to this virtual traffic.  The GigaVUE-VM fabric node provides that packet-level visibility into the virtualized server world.
One of the dynamic things about the 2.0 update in addition to exposing inter-VM traffic flowing within a physical host and across physical hosts is that GigaVUE-VM now supports Cisco’s Nexus 1000V virtual switch as well as VMware’s vSphere Distributed Switch (VDS). GigaVUE-VM works with these virtual switches to abstract copies of the packets before intelligently filtering and forwarding the packets to the management, security, and monitoring tools that require packet-level visibility, such as application and network performance monitoring tools and intrusion detection systems.
Perhaps even more exciting is that GigaVUE-VM 2.0 has the ability to automatically reconfigure Gigamon’s Visibility FabricTM architecture and migrate monitoring policies to maintain continuous visibility when a virtual machine vMotion event occurs. Essentially, GigaVUE-VM preserves visibility into the traffic flowing between VMs even after that VM moves from one physical host to another for what we call “visibility in motion.”
What’s so significant about this function is that without the ability to automatically migrate the monitoring policies, visibility that had been configured would be lost once the vMotion occurs and would require manual reconciliation which very well could be arduous given the agile virtual infrastructures of today.
For even more information, check out our white paper,
Visibility into the Cloud and Virtualized Data Center”.
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