Uncovering the Next Infrastructure Blind Spot: SSL

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(This article first appeared on Gigamon’s blog on Oct 28, 2015.)

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!

Read the full article on Gigamon’s blog.

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