It's that time of year again when the security delegates from Tech Field Day descend on Silicon Valley (well, in this case, descend virtually on Silicon Valley) to hear about the cool new things vendors are doing in the security space. This year, I was fortunate to be one of the presenters at XFD10 along with my partner in crime, Matt Honea, Head of Security and Compliance at Forward Networks. Together, we walked the delegates through how bad actors are becoming more intelligent and how Forward Networks can assist in identifying issues, leading to faster resolution times.

The State of the Security World

Matt discussed how threat actors are more brazen than ever when targeting their victims. Which, for lack of a better word, is horrendous!

Why does it seem that every news headline is “ {{ Insert large company name here }} was breached!”? Our technology footprint (and attack surface) is drastically expanding and increasing in complexity. The proliferation of SaaS apps holding sensitive company data, the move to the cloud, and the explosion of mobile apps, wearables, and devices all create new vulnerabilities.

Matt pointed out that in the ten years between 2013 and 2023, the number of vulnerabilities increased 5x from ~5000 to ~25,000. As a small sample, I decided to take an inventory of my family and see how our technology footprint has expanded, specifically thinking about mobile apps, devices, and wearables. I threw my hands up and stopped counting once I hit 50 devices for a family of four. From cell phones to tablets to watches and IoT devices, it is easy to see how the attack surface has exploded. If you extrapolate this to a large enterprise, tracking the constantly changing footprint is almost impossible.

The Game Changer: Network Digital Twin for Network Security

Given the current level of complexity, NetOps teams need software support to understand the hybrid multi-cloud network, its devices, their connectivity, exposure, and vulnerabilities. I got to show the delegates how Forward Networks provides unprecedented visibility into the network and gives operators the data they need to assist in a security incident (or alert) and detect configuration deviations that could cause a security incident. Here, we will look at common attack types, the protection recommendations, and how Forward Networks can help identify and aid in the remediation.

Third-Party Vulnerability

Synopsis:

Recommendations:

How Forward Networks could assist:

Social Engineering

Recommendations:

How Forward Networks could assist:

Cryptomining Breach

Recommendations:

How Forward Networks could assist:

Forward Enterprise supports L2 - L4 searches and enables engineers to search L7 information, like URLs, UserIDs, and Application IDs.

Forward Networks demonstrated at XFD10 how its network visibility and configuration management platform can effectively address security challenges posed by advanced threat actors. Through specific attack scenarios and recommendations, Forward Networks showcased our capability to detect and remediate such incidents, providing invaluable assistance in safeguarding networks against sophisticated threats. If you would like to watch our #XFD10 presentation, you can click this link: https://techfieldday.com/appearance/forward-networks-presents-at-security-field-day-10/

Hot Company in Compliance by Cyber Defense Magazine’s Top InfoSec Innovator Awards and Cloud Computing Software of the Year in 2023 Mobile Breakthrough Awards

Forward Networks was recently honored as the Top InfoSec Innovator by Cyber Defense Magazine. Commenting on the win, Yan Ross, editor of Cyber Defense Magazine said, “We scoured the globe looking for cybersecurity innovators that could make a huge difference and potentially help turn the tide against the exponential growth in cyber-crime. Forward Networks is worthy of being named a winner in these coveted awards and consideration for deployment in your environment.”

The compliance features within Forward Enterprise that helped secure the win include: 

Additionally, Forward Enterprise was named 2023 Cloud Computing Software of the Year by the Mobile Breakthrough Awards. This is the third consecutive year that the Mobile Breakthrough Awards has recognized Forward Networks as a winner. Mobile Breakthrough is a leading independent market intelligence organization that recognizes the top companies, technologies, and products in the global wireless and mobile market today.

There are only two options for managing a global multi-cloud network: either by using a combination of inference, hope, and intuition or with mathematical certainty. When conducting 5 million financial transactions daily, it’s essential to operate with certainty, regardless of your network’s size or geographical distribution. Auditors don’t accept inferences; they demand certainty when determining compliance, and a poor audit can be disastrous for the business.

We recently sat down with the director of IT for a global payment processing company, and his opening remarks were, “They say a picture is worth a thousand words; an accurate network map is worth a million words because things are so complex in the cloud.” This IT leader turned to Forward Networks to help make sense of the company network to ensure it was secure and behaving as intended.

Forward Networks creates a digital twin of the network by safely collecting configuration and state data from all devices and using publicly available APIs to reconstruct cloud presence. The platform then uses header space analysis to determine every path a packet could take, which delivers the most accurate representation of network behavior. The same information is used to identify security vulnerabilities and compute the blast radius of a compromised host.

According to the executive we spoke with, “We now have an easy way to understand the day-to-day operations of the network and how routes are being propagated with accurate insight into connectivity. We know if the infrastructure is properly connected and if the infrastructure zones are connected as intended.”

This degree of certainty has enabled them to automate application provisioning. When done manually, the process took weeks and had a significant backlog. It’s now possible to instantly verify the security of a new app and deploy it. This is helping them recognize revenue faster.

Read the case study to learn more about this company and the benefits they realized from implementing Forward Networks.

From Gestalt IT

Mergers and acquisitions (M&A) are common occurrences in business. After the ink dries on a deal, IT network and security teams embark on the challenging task of welding two different parts into a single whole.

Understanding how both parties’ networks are built and run is the first order of business to joining them and gaining value from the merger. Forward Networks’ core ability to build a digital twin of an environment and layer additional features on top of it provides a way to smooth the path to unity...[KEEP READING on Gestalt IT]

Network complexity is at an all-time high. Between legacy technology, hybrid-multi-cloud environments, and networks cobbled together by mergers and acquisitions, it’s impossible for people to keep track of the network, its topology, and behavior. The idea of trying to trace a path through a multi-cloud network seems akin to being asked to pull a rabbit out of your hat.

Chris Gundermann of Gestalt IT recently wrote about “Multi-Cloud Security Requires Multi-Cloud Observability with Forward Networks.” Chris is an expert on networking and multi-cloud technology. In the article he covers the importance of observability and its benefits.

According to Gundermann, “Network observability serves as a linchpin for maintaining a secure and resilient network infrastructure. In the realm of multi-cloud, achieving that observability is even more challenging due to the absence of unified visibility across cloud platforms. Forward Networks has risen to that challenge by extending their digital twin technology to major cloud providers.”

Read the full article to understand how Forward Enterprise helps SecOps teams control their network and prevent incidents.

When it comes to merger and acquisition activity – 2023 is poised to be an active year despite uncertain macroeconomic conditions. As always, financial due diligence will be the cornerstone of successful M&A endeavors. Unfortunately for IT teams, there’s no similar process for scrutinizing the network. Often the work of ingesting or connecting networks doesn’t start until after the contracts are “signed, sealed, and delivered.”

While it’s understandable that the financial analysis is extremely detailed, it’s important to realize the impact IT integration has on the success of the deal. As the backbone of the business, IT integration is the lynchpin of ensuring productivity, creating unified processes, and maximizing the value of the deal.

As one CIO recently said to me, “On paper, we are one company, but we have about a dozen individual networks.” This creates security risks, hampers employees’ efforts to access data, and creates friction for customers. The soft costs of a poorly integrated network can weigh on a company for years, extending the amount of time it takes to recognize revenue gains and can even cause losses.

Fortunately, digital twin technology provides a simplified path to network integration. Without detailed knowledge of the acquired company’s network, it’s impossible to ensure safe and effective connectivity. Considering that we typically find 30% more devices in a network than our customers expected, this is a tall order. Most IT shops are using outdated inventories, high-level (and also outdated) Visio diagrams, and a healthy dash of hope in their efforts to ensure the network is secure, reliable, and behaving as expected.

A digital twin takes the guesswork out of network integration by tracing every possible path, collecting and analyzing L2-L4 device configuration and state data, and making it possible to verify security policies are being enforced as intended.

If you’d like to learn more about how this works, please read our white paper, Resolving Key Post Merger IT Integration Challenges with a Digital Twin, or view our recent BrightTALK webinar, A Case Study: Merging Two Clouds Post Acquisition.

When you think of Cisco Live Las Vegas, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Is it s'mores, camping, and kayaking? It is for us, which is why we invite you to take some time from the hustle and bustle of the show to relax with us. 

Forward Networks is the only platform that prevents network fires by giving you all the data you need to ensure your network stays in policy and behaves exactly as expected. It takes a lot of stress off of Network Architects and has helped global companies retake control of their hybrid, multi-cloud environments.   

Stop by our tent and talk with one of our technical experts about your worst network challenges, and we’ll work through exactly how to solve it. While you’re in the booth, register to win a YETI cooler and Fuse mountain bike. 

We have lots going on at the show and look forward to seeing you there! 

Daily 

1:1 Technical Sessions  

Share your networking goals and challenges with one of our field engineers, and we'll provide custom recommendations that address your security, cloud, and network operations challenges. By attending a session, you'll also be entered into an exclusive drawing for an Oru Kayak. If you aren't able to attend Cisco Live but use the link below to schedule an online session, you'll still be entered in the drawing. 

Request a Meeting and Enter to Win a Kayak 

Monday, June 5 

Speaking Session 12:00 - 12:30 p.m. 

Join cofounder and CTO, Brandon Heller, to learn how to “Tame your Beast” – Top 5 Network Issues That a Digital Twin Can Solve in Under a Week.  

If your network beast includes hardware and software from dozens of vendors, spread across multiple data centers and clouds, and runs mission-critical applications with challenging security requirements… then join this 30-minute session featuring real-life examples from large, “beastly” enterprise networks that found a path to reliability, agility, and security. 

Tuesday, June 6 

Speaking Session 12:10 - 12:20 p.m. 

Join cofounder, Nikhil Handigol to learn how to Supercharge your SecOps with Data Insight.  

Join this 10-minute session for lightning demos of two of the best security features of Forward Enterprise that have transformed Vulnerability Management and Incident Management for our customers. Nikhil will explain how a mathematical model, or “digital twin,” of your network enables SecOps teams to prioritize vulnerabilities and respond to security incidents faster and with greater accuracy.  

It's that time of year again when all security professionals converge in San Francisco for the RSA Conference (RSAC). This marks the second year that the conference has been back in full swing since the pandemic, and it was great to be there to discuss our solution with the attendees!

This year, RSAC attendees were transported to the Forward Networks Roadhouse. This is a place of solitude to share your network security concerns with one of our “bartenders.” As the attendees walked past the booth, there were two general impressions. First and foremost, “This is the best booth I have ever seen,” which was quickly followed by, “That is one sweet bike! Is there a raffle for it?” At this point, after we broke the news that, unfortunately, the bike was not for sale, the woeful attendee walked up to the bar and sat down. Our bartenders offered a refreshing cold brew (coffee) and a helpful ear as they explained their network security woes.

Fear not; those woes did not go on deaf ears, as our knowledgeable bartenders acknowledged all their security and network woes and showed how Forward Networks' mathematically correct digital twin was precisely the tool they needed to end their concerns! The attendees saw that by using Forward Enterprise, they would be able to sleep at night, knowing that the next time their cloud security posture was audited, it would be following the corporate security standards. They also learned that they no longer needed to fear undetected critical vulnerabilities, as Forward Enterprise uses their network data alongside the NIST database to to deliver a prioritized remediation plan, including what devices are affected by them and the lines of configuration that cause that vulnerability.

The biggest takeaway from presentations at RSAC is the industry's rapid adoption of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML). Now, the ease of access to Large Language Models (LLMs), such as ChatGPT, enables the infrastructure to become more adaptable, self-healing, and open to more automated ways to make configuration changes. Operations teams are turning to AI-based diagnostics for troubleshooting and issue remediation. Seeing these technologies being more broadly spoken about and adopted in several ways further solidifies their place in the industry.

If automated changes happen in the environment, the question arises: How can you ensure that the change will not negatively affect the network? LLMs are constantly learning, and how can you ensure that the change you ask the system to perform will not cause any undesired changes in the network? Forward Networks' Verify function can ensure that the intent of how the network behaves is exactly as it should be behaving. Forward Networks Verify will look at any checks defined to ensure the intent of the network is correct and that nothing has changed that could cause an adverse condition in the environment. This is not only compared and validated with the organization's on-prem network but with the cloud and virtual overlay networks as well.

If you were not able to visit the Forward Networks Roadhouse at RSAC this year and would like to learn more about how a digital twin can help with your organization's security posture, request a demo with our technical team!

Defining and implementing a network microsegmentation strategy is paramount to securing the network and protecting assets. However, it’s also a time-consuming and resource-intensive endeavor. This means it’s vital that enterprises are confident that their zone-to-zone security policy is functioning as intended. In enterprises that rely on microsegmentation (a network security technique that involves dividing a network into smaller segments or zones, allowing organizations to apply security controls and policies at a more granular level to limit the attack surface), ensuring intended connectivity or isolation is being enforced can be extremely challenging. 

If the microsegmentation and security policies are poorly designed or degraded, the network risks could be higher than before the policy was implemented. Ensuring the intended policies are being enforced requires a deep understanding of the network architecture, topology, and security protocols. This data can be challenging to access in a network with tens of thousands of devices running billions of lines of configuration while spanning the globe. Most Fortune 500 companies don’t have this level of detailed information, and if they do, it’s likely out of date, as the network is continually being updated.  

Zone-to-zone security policies must be continuously maintained to ensure efficacy; for most enterprise IT teams, this takes significant time and human resources. Although necessary, it’s a challenging investment, given the current economic climate and labor shortage. In addition, a single configuration change could have a broad-reaching impact on security policy, creating a new level of risk in the network. Non-network assets like workstations, printers, and other devices could make the entire network vulnerable to attacks and significant financial consequences.

Knowing the status of your microsegmentation with mathematical certainty can prevent many headaches by freeing your team to work on other strategic projects and helping with incident response and remediation. For example: 

Forward Enterprise makes proving and documenting zone-to-zone connectivity easy. The platform collects network device configuration and state data (including firewall policies), providing an always current at-a-glance representation of your policy enforcement. Zones are shown with full, partial, or no connectivity making it easy to identify any unwanted connectivity or blocks. To learn more about our zone-to-zone connectivity matrix, read the use case

For a full demonstration of the technology, meet us at the RSA Conference in San Francisco, April 24 – 27 in booth 4225. Enjoy an energizing cold brew while you talk security with our experts. 

Hack weeks and hack-a-thons are like foosball tables; if you don’t have them, are you even a tech company? These events, once revered for innovation, are now relegated to being blasé and often perceived as little more than playtime for engineers. As someone who’s worked in tech for longer than I care to admit, I had started to ignore them - until I came to Forward Networks.

I’ve just experienced my third Forward Networks Hack week - and what I find remarkable is that while teams are free to choose any idea they want to pursue, they always focus on delivering customer value and making life easier for the people who use the platform on a daily basis.

A cynic might say they do this because customer value is the most heavily weighted judging criterion. Or that they want to win a coveted HackWeek letterman's jacket and commensurate bragging rights. Those who listened to the presentations know better. Our engineers talk about our customers as close personal friends, with a level of caring I have not encountered before joining the Forward Networks Family.

Over half of the concepts presented in our Hack Week sessions quickly become new platform features. (We’re still a small start-up with a lean engineering team. Otherwise, I genuinely believe all the ideas would become part of the platform.) This is a testament to the passion we have for supporting our customers.

Other companies bill their Hack Weeks as time for employees to “experiment, create, test, and learn” or to “explore novel and even heretical ideas.” Engineers at established companies have described Hack Weeks as: "We’ll all be building things that are separate from our normal work and not part of our day-to-day jobs.” While this sounds fun and creates the opportunity to deliver valuable innovation, it’s unlikely to benefit customers in the short term.

Our Hack Weeks combine creativity and competition with real-world problem-solving. The collective goal is to deliver features that enhance our customer experience within a quarter.

I can’t go into detail about the specific projects that our engineers presented without teasing new product features, but I can say this: the underlying theme was delivering otherwise inaccessible data in an intuitive manner. The data uses include improving efficiency, preventing human errors, improving decision-making, securing the network, and reducing manual efforts.

Hack Weeks should be about solving your problems - not chasing rainbows.

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