Network User Authentication Using Heuristics


Most authentication systems are black and white, once you are in , you are in. It was brought our attention recently, that authentication should be an ongoing process,  not a one time gate with continuous unchecked free rein once in.

The reasons are well founded.

1) Students at universities and employees at businesses, have all kinds of devices which can get stolen/borrowed while open.

My high school kids can attest this many times over. Often the result is just an innocuous string of embarrassing texts emanating from their phones claiming absurd things. For example  ” I won’t be at the party, I was digging for a booger and got a nose bleed” ,  blasted out to their friends after they left their phone unlocked.

2) People will also deliberately give out their authentication to friends and family

This leaves a hole in standard authentication strategies .

Next year we plan to add an interesting twist to our Intrusion Detection Device ( NetGladiator). The idea was actually not mine, but was suggested by a customer recently at our user group meeting in Western Michigan.

Here is the plan.

The idea for our intrusion detection device would be to build a knowledge base of a user’s habits over time and then match those established patterns against a  tiered alert system when there is any kind of abrupt   change.

It should be noted that we would not be monitoring content, and thus we would be far less invasive than Google Gmail ,with their targeted advertisements,  we would primarily just following the trail or path of usage and not reading content.

The heuristics would consist of a three-pronged model.

Prong one, would look at general trending access across all users globally . If  an aggregate group of users on the network were downloading an IOS update, then this behavior would be classified as normal for individual users.

Prong two ,  would look at the pattern of usage for the authenticated user. For example most people tune their devices to start at a particular page. They also likely use a specific e-mail client, and then have their favorite social networking sites. String together enough these and you would develop unique foot print for that user. Yes the user could deviate from their pattern of established usage as long as there were still elements of their normal usage in their access patterns.

Prong three would be the alarming level. In general a user would receive a risk rating when they deviated into suspect behaviors outside their established baseline. Yes this is profiling similar to psychological profiling on employment tests, which are very accurate at predicting future behavior.

A simple example of a risk factor would be a user that all of sudden starts executing login scripts en masse outside of their normal pattern. Something this egregious would be flagged as high risk,  and the administrator could specify an automatic disconnection for the user at a high risk level. Lower risk behavior would be logged for after the fact forensics if any internal servers became compromised.

NetEqualizer Directory Integration FAQ


Editor’s Note: This month, we announced the availability of the NetEqualizer Directory Integration (NDI) feature. Over the past few weeks, interest and inquiries have been high, so we’ve created the following Q&A to address many of the common questions we’ve received.

What is NDI anyway?
NetEqualizer Directory Integration (NDI) is an API for NetEqualizer that allows you to pull in username information from a directory and display it in your active connections table. This way, instead of only seeing IP to IP connection information, you can see usernames associated with those IPs so that you can make better decisions about how to manage your bandwidth. We will gradually be expanding NDI functionality to allow for shaping by username.

How much does NDI cost?
NDI requires setup consultation and is an additional add-on feature for the NetEqualizer. Currently, version 7.0 is required to run NDI. Take a look at our price list for more information.

How does NDI work?
NDI is an API on NetEqualizer that sends your directory server a URL containing an IP address. The process on your directory server then looks up the username for that IP and returns it to the NetEqualizer which stores the information.

What am I responsible for implementing with NDI?
You are responsible for implementing the process which resides on the directory server. This process returns a username when given an IP by the NDI API call. We have examples of how to do this for some directory server setups, but directory server setups are too specific for us to create a generic process that will work for all customers.

When would knowing the username be helpful?
Knowing the username instead of simply IP-to-IP information can helpful for administrators in many ways. Here are just a few:
– Easily see which users are taking up a lot of bandwidth. This is doable with a manual look up but that can get tedious.
– Eventually, NDI will be enhanced to shape by username. Again, this helps take away a step that an administrator would have to perform manually.
– Often, users are not assigned static IP addresses. With NDI’s dynamic updating, you don’t have to worry about the IP anymore. The username information will automatically adjust.

What are the upcoming enhancements to NDI?
We are planning to make NDI more robust in the months ahead. Our first feature will be Quotas by Username. This feature is currently in Beta. Once this feature is implemented, you will be able to assign usage quotas by username as opposed to IP or subnet. Additional possible changes to NDI include shaping by username and limiting by username. Stay tuned to NetEqualizer News for announcements.

If you have additional questions about NDI, feel free to contact us at: sales@apconnections.net!

NetEqualizer News: March 2013


March 2013

Greetings!

Enjoy another issue of NetEqualizer News! This month, we discuss AD integration into NetEqualizer, the results of our recent Educause conference, and new NetEqualizer features coming in 2013. As always, feel free to pass this along to others who might be interested in NetEqualizer News.

A message from Art…
Art Reisman, CTO – APconnections

art_smallSpring is almost upon us, and yet in Colorado it is just starting to feel like winter. We get our snowiest weeks typically in late February and early March. So far for this year, that is proving to be true. However, with spring coming soon we look forward to beginning again!

We love it when we hear back from you – so if you have a story you would like to share with us of how we have helped you, let us know. Email me directly at art@apconnections.net. I would love to hear from you!

2013 Software Update Features

We are already in the process of implementing exciting new features for our first Software Update of 2013!

Here is a quick preview of what you can expect this year:

64 Bit Processing: This change will allow current customers to operate on existing hardware and attain 20 to 50 percent improvements in performance.

Sortable Active Connections Table: You will now be able to sort the Active Connections table by any of the columns you choose.

Caching Service Updates: We will be updating and expanding our available caching services.

Port-Based Equalizing: Check out our blog article on bandwidth management on the public side of a NAT router.

Active Directory Integration: Now, administrators will be able to see AD user names in their Active Connections table.

Other Minor Enhancements

Check back with NetEqualizer News for updates on each of these new features and their scheduled releases!
Remember, new software updates (including all the features described above – except AD Integration) are available for free to customers with valid NetEqualizer Software & Support (NSS).

If you are not current with NSS, contact us today!

sales@apconnections.net

-or-

toll-free U.S. (888-287-2492),

worldwide (303) 997-1300 x. 103


Educause Conference Poster Session Update
educause logo

Sandy had a great time at the West/Southwest Regional Educause Conference in Austin  February 12-14th, 2013!

Here she is in front of her Poster Session materials:

wsw educause photo 1

Sandy talked about the “Future of Bandwidth Shaping” with the attendees. One professor, who also runs a ISP for colleges, even came from South Africa!

Most of you know that NetEqualizer is the future of bandwidth shaping, but if you need to convince anyone else (your boss, the powers that be, etc.), we recommend printing out our updated 1-2 page Executive White Paper and sharing that. If you are in Higher Education, you can also check out our newly revised College & University Guide.

Stay tuned to NetEqualizer News for updates on upcoming conferences!


AD Integration Beta and Support Update

We are close to releasing our new Active Directory integration feature and are nearing the end of our beta tests!

Thanks to all of those organizations that have helped us out thus far.

As an additional note, because Active Directory is a complicated environment which varies from customer to customer, the AD Integration feature will be an additional charge beyond NSS. This fee will include support in getting you up and running with the new feature.


Best Of The Blog

How Much Bandwidth Do You Really Need?

By Art Reisman – CTO – APconnections

When it comes to how much money to spend on the Internet, there seems to be this underlying feeling of guilt with everybody I talk to. From ISPs, to libraries or multinational corporations, they all have a feeling of bandwidth inadequacy. It is very similar to the guilt I used to feel back in College when I would skip my studies for some social activity (drinking). Only now it applies to bandwidth contention ratios. Everybody wants to know how they compare with the industry average in their sector. Are they spending on bandwidth appropriately, and if not, are they hurting their institution, will they become second-rate?

To ease the pain, I was hoping to put a together a nice chart on industry standard recommendations, validating that your bandwidth consumption was normal, and I just can’t bring myself to do it quite yet. There is this elephant in the room that we must contend with. So before I make up a nice chart on recommendations, a more relevant question is… how bad do you want your video service to be?

Your choices are:

  1. bad
  2. crappy
  3. downright awful

Although my answer may seem a bit sarcastic, there is a truth behind these choices. I sense that much of the guilt of our customers trying to provision bandwidth is based on the belief that somebody out there has enough bandwidth to reach some form of video Shangri-La; like playground children bragging about their father’s professions, claims of video ecstasy are somewhat exaggerated…

Photo Of The Month

photo-3

Snow Geese in Kansas

If you look closely at the lake you can see a gaggle of white Snow Geese in the water. Though they typically live in colder climates, they’ll come to warmer states in the winter to breed. This photo was taken in Kansas on a recent trip by one of our staff members.

P2P Protocol Blocking Now Offered with NetGladiator Intrusion Prevention


A few months ago we introduced our NetGladiator Intrusion Prevention (IPS) Device. To date, it has thwarted tens of thousands of robotic cyber attacks and counting. Success breeds success and our users wanted more.

When our savvy customers realized the power, speed, and low price point of our underlying layer 7 engine, we started getting requests seeking additional features such as: “Can you also block Peer To Peer and other protocols that cannot be stopped by our standard Web Filters and Firewalls?”  It was natural that we extended our IPS device to address this space; hence, today we are announcing the next-generation NetGladiator. We now offer a module that will allow you to block and monitor the world’s top 10 p2p protocols (which account for 99 percent of all P2P traffic). We also back our technology with our unique promise to implement a custom protocol blocking rule with the purchase of any system at no extra charge. For example, if you have a specific protocol you need to monitor and just can’t uncover it with your WebSense or Firewall filter, we will custom deliver a NetGladiator system that can track and/or block your unique protocol, in addition to our standard p2p blocking options.

Below is a sample Excel live report integrated with the NetGladiator in monitor mode. On the screen snapshot below, you will notice that we have uncovered a batch of Utorrent and Frost Wire p2p traffic.

Please feel free to call 303-997-1300 or email our NetGladiator sales engineering team with any additional questions at ips@@apconnections.net.

Related Articles

NetGladiator A layer 7 shaper in sheep’s clothing

Apconnections Backs up Security Device Support with an unusual offer, “We’ll hack your network”


What gets people excited about purchasing an intrusion detection system? Not much. Certainly, fear can be used to sell security devices. But most, mid sized companies are spread thin with their IT staff, they are focused on running their business operations. To spend money to prevent something that has never happened to them would be seen as somewhat foolish. There are a large number of potential threats to a business, security being just one of them.

One expert pointed out recently:

“Sophisticated fraudsters are becoming the norm with data breaches, carder forums, and do it yourself (DIY) crime kits being marketed via the Internet.” Excerpt from fraudwar blog spot.

Thus, getting data stolen happens so often that it can be considered a survivable event, it is the new normal. Your customers are not going to run for the hills, as they have been conditioned to roll with this threat. But there still is a steep cost for such an event. So our staff put our heads together and asked the question… there must be an easy, quantifiable, minimum investment way to objectively evaluate data risk without a giant cluster of data security devices in place, spewing gobs of meaningless drivel.

One of our internal, white knight, hackers pointed out, that in his storied past, he had been able to break into almost any business at will (good thing he is a white knight and does not steal or damage anything). While talking to some of our channel resellers we have also learned that most companies, although aware of outside intrusion, are reluctant to throw money and resources at a potential problem that they can’t easily quantify.

Thus arose an idea for our new offer. For a small refundable retainer fee, we will attempt to break into a customers data systems from the outside. If we can’t get in, then we’ll return the retainer fee. Obviously, if we get in, we can then propose a solution with indisputable evidence of the vulnerability, and if we don’t get in, then the customer can have some level of assurance that their existing infrastructure thwarted a determined break in.

Dynamic Reporting With The NetEqualizer


Update  Feb 2014

The spread sheet reporting features  described below as an excel Integration have now been integrated into the NetEqualizer GUI as of 2013. We have also added protocol reporting for common applications.  We generally do not break links to old articles hence we did not take this article down.

 

 

Have you ever wanted an inexpensive real-time bandwidth reporting tool?

The following excel integration, totally opens up the power of the NetEqualizer bandwidth data. Even I love watching my NetEqualizer data on my spreadsheet. Last night, I had it up and watched as the bandwidth spiked all of a sudden, so I looked around to see why it was – turns out my son started watching NetFlix on his Nintendo DS! Too funny, but very persuasive in terms of enhancing your ability to do monitoring.

This blog shows just one example, but suffice it to say that the reporting options are endless. You could easily write a VBA routine in Excel to bring this data down every second. You could automatically log the days top 10 highest streams, or top 10 highest connections. You could graph the last 60 seconds (or other timeframe) of per second peak usage. You could update this graph, watching it scroll by in real time. It’s endless what you could do, with relatively little effort (because Excel does all the computationally hard work as pre-programmed routines for reporting and display).

Here’s a picture of what’s happening on my NetEqualizer right now as I write this:

Fig-1

Pretty slick eh? After I put this spreadsheet together the first time, I won’t have to do anything to have it report current data every minute or sooner. Let me explain how you can do it too.

Did you know that there’s a little known feature in Microsoft Excel called an Excel Web Query?  This facility allows you to specify an http: address on the web and use the data off the resulting web page for automatic insertion into Excel.  Further, you can tell Excel that you want your spreadsheet to be automatically updated regularly – as frequently as every minute or whenever you hit the “Refresh All” key. If you combine this capability with the ability to run a NetEqualizer report from your browser using the embedded command, you can automatically download just about any NetEqualizer data into a spreadsheet for reporting, graphing and analysis.

Fig-1 above shows some interesting information all of it gathered from my NetEqualizer as well as some information that has been programmed into my spreadsheet. Here’s what’s going on: Cells B4 & B5 contain information pulled from my NetEqualizer, it is the total bandwidth Up & Down respectively going through the unit right now. It compares this with cells C4 & C5, which are the TrunkUp & TrunkDown settings (also pulled from the NetEqualizer’s configuration file and downloaded automatically) and calculates cells D4 & D5 showing the % of trunk used. The Cells B8:K show all the data from the NetEqualizer’s Active Connections Report. The column titled “8 Second Rolling Average Bandwidth” shows Wavg and this data is also automatically plotted in a pie chart showing the bandwidth composition of my individual flows. Also, I put a conditional rule on my bandwidth flow that says because I’m greater than 85% of my TrunkDown speed, all Flows greater than HOGMIN should be highlighted in Red. All of this updated every minute, or sooner if I hit the refresh key.

I’ll take you through a step by step on how I created the page above so you unlock the power of Excel on your critical bandwidth data.

The steps I outline are for Excel 2007, this can be done in earlier versions of Excel but the steps will be slightly different. All I ask is if you create a spreadsheet like this and do something you really like, let us know about it (email: sales@apconnections.net).

I’m going to assume that you know how to construct a basic spreadsheet. This document would be far too long if I took you through each little step to create the report above. Instead, I’ll show you the important part – how to get the data from the NetEqualizer into the spreadsheet and have it automatically and regularly refresh itself.

In this page there are two links: One at B4:B5, and another at B8:K (K has no ending row because it depends on how many connections it pulls – thus K could range from K8 to K99999999 – you get the idea).

Let’s start by linking my total up and down bandwidth to cells B4:B5 from the NetEqualizer.  To do this, follow these steps:

Select cell B4 with your cursor.

Select the “Data” tab and click “From Web”.


Click “No” and Erase the address in the address bar:

Put the following in the Address Bar instead – make sure to put the IP Address of your NetEqualizer instead of “YourNetEqualizersIPAddress” – and hit return:

—Please contact us (support@apconnections.net) if you are a current NetEqualizer user and want the full doc—

You may get asked for your User ID and Password – just use your normal NetEqualizer User ID and Password.

Now you should see this:


Click on the 2nd arrow in the form which turns it into a check mark after it’s been clicked (as shown in the picture above). This highlights the data returned which is the “Peak” bandwidth (Up & Down) on the NetEqualizer .  Click the Import button.  In a few seconds this will populate the spreadsheet with this data in cells B4 & B5.

Now, let’s tell the connection that we want the data updated every 1 minute. Right Click on B4 (or B5), and you will see this:


Click on Data Range Properties.

Change “Refresh every” to 1 minute. Also, you should copy the other click marks as well.  Hit “OK”.

Done! Total Bandwidth flow data from the NetEqualizer bridge will now automatically update into the spreadsheet every 60 seconds.

For the Active Connections portion of this report, follow the same instructions starting by selecting cell B8. Only for this report, use the following web address (remember to use your NetEqualizer’s IP):

—Please contact us (support@apconnections.net) if you are a current NetEqualizer user and want the full doc—

(note: we’ve had some reports that this command doesn’t cut and paste well probably because of the “wrap”, you may need to type it in)

Also, please copy and paste this exactly (unless you’re a Linux expert – and if you are send me a better command!) since there are many special formatting characters that have been used to make this import work in a well behaved manner.  Trust me on this, there was plenty of trial an error spent on getting this to come in reliably.

Also, remember to set the connection properties to update every 1 minute.

At this point you may be noticing one of the cool things about this procedure is that I can run my own “custom” reports via a web http address that also issues Linux commands like “cat” & “awk” – being able to do this allows me to take just about any data off the NetEqualizer for automatic import into Excel.

So that’s how it’s done. Here’s a list of a few other handy web connection reports:

For your NetEqualizer’s configuration file use:

—Please contact us (support@apconnections.net) if you are a current NetEqualizer user and want the full doc—

For your NetEqualizer’s log file use:

—Please contact us (support@apconnections.net) if you are a current NetEqualizer user and want the full doc—

(note: we’ve had some reports that this command doesn’t cut and paste well probably because of the “wrap”, you may need to type it in)

Once you get all the data you need into your Excel, you can operate on the data using any Excel commands including macros, or Excel Visual Basic.

Lastly, do you want to see what’s happening right now, and you don’t want to wait up to 60 seconds? Hit the “Refresh All” button on the “Data” tab – that will refresh everything as of this second:

Good luck, and let us know how it goes…

Caveat – this feature is unsupported by APConnections.

We Want Your Feedback!


In this month’s newsletter, we gave an overview of a few potential new NetEqualizer features. While we have several options under consideration, we want to know what features might serve you best. So, take a look at the options below, visit our survey, and let us know what you think!

  1. The option to send an SNMP trap to your SNMP monitor during a network event.
  2. The option to receive email notification during certain specified network events.This could include when:
    1. Bandwidth utilization is high – This would happen when your bandwidth utilization is extremely high and might indicate the need for an upgrade in bandwidth
    2. Errors occur on an interface card – This would be used to detect if there was a problem with one of your Ethernet or fiber connections
    3. A new P2P user is detected on your network – This would make even better and more efficient use of our new P2P Locator Technology
    4. YouTube has been viewed from cache – An email would be dispatched every time a YouTube video is served up from our NetEqualizer Caching Option
  3. A form of active directory integration to specify a rate limit on a user by name rather than IP address. For example, you could say John Smith is limited to one-megabit downloads. As of now, you would need to know John Smith’s IP address. With an integration of active directory, you can specify him by name.
  4. A standard pre-written quota utility (source code) with each system. Right now, the NetEqualizer just comes with an API (see the NetEqualizer User Quota API). However, this new utility would be something you could plug IPs into from the GUI and have a monthly quota enforced right away. Initially, it would be a very simple tool, but it could be expanded. In other words, this would be a good working program using our API to get you a head start on expanding and writing a full-bodied quota tool.

Click here or on the survey to respond.

New Features Survey

Click here or on the survey to respond.

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