A vulnerability in your network will leave your entire business exposed to threats. You need to audit your network security.
You know you need network security but how do you know that it’s good enough? How do you know that secure working practices are being followed and all of your security settings are protected against tampering? You need to check your network security systems constantly. You also need to assess the efficacy of those systems periodically.
Network security auditing provides those periodic assessments and it has two aspects: potential vulnerability and historic performance. Data protection standards demand security auditing, not only to ensure that the strongest security is in place but also to identify whether successful attacks have taken place.
Here is our list of the nine best network security auditing tools:
- SolarWinds Access Rights Manager – FREE TRIAL An access control system that helps protect the user accounts and device access. This tool also includes extensive network and system auditing tools. It runs on Windows Server.
- ManageEngine ADAudit Plus Analyze user access accounts, log user activity, and audit the system for data security standards. It runs on Windows Server.
- PaperTrail A cloud-based log manager and audit archiving service that includes data searching and analysis features.
- LogicGate A cloud-based IT governance, risk assessment, and security standards auditing tool.
- Splunk Enterprise Security A network security system that includes incident response auditing and standards compliance auditing.
- Intruder.io A cloud-based monthly vulnerability scanner with an on-demand scanning function, software inventory analysis, and the services of a pen-testing team.
- Netwrix Auditor A network security auditing tool that includes configuration management and protection. It installs on Windows and Windows Server.
- Acunetix A suite of software testing tools that focus on the vulnerabilities in Web applications. It is available for Windows, macOS, and Linux.
- Nessus A vulnerability assessment tool in free and paid versions that includes auditing reports. It is available for Windows, macOS, and Linux.
Data security standards bodies don’t blacklist businesses that have been hit by an intruder and suffered data disclosure. This is because the unlucky business that is the first to be the victim of a new attack strategy can’t be blamed for the unpreparedness of all cybersecurity systems in the world. In these cases, the victimized business is expected to admit the security breach and inform all of those individuals and businesses whose data has been compromised.
The knowledge that auditing requirements are eventually going to reveal any security breach drives the demand for businesses to spot successful attacks as quickly as possible and implement mitigation procedures – even though the data leak has already occurred.
So, there is a close link between network security systems and network security auditing tools. While network security processes survey the network, they simultaneously record all conditions on the network second by second, laying down the necessary data stores that network security auditing needs. When you look into network security auditing tools, you also need to consider the audit-related features of network security systems.
The best network security auditing tools
You can read more about each of these options in the following sections.
The SolarWinds Access Rights Manager gives you an interface to Active Directory (AD), SharePoint, and Exchange Server. These three services can have many implementations within one company and the access rights systems operating on different sites or for different departments might need to be unified or kept separate, according to the business’s security policy. The complexities of different access rights strategies can be difficult to manage, so a specialist tool, such as this can help you track and control access rights more effectively.
While letting you coordinate issues such as replication and backup, the Access Rights Manager also lays down data sources for network security auditing. As well as logging all actions taken within the AD environment, it stores records of user account activity and device access events. These activity log messages are all timestamped. This enables you to quickly trace through and see which account was accessing which resource at the time that a security incident took place.
The log files that the Access Rights Manager creates are useful both for internal network security auditing and for external audits. These records need to be archived over a long period for access by compliance auditors. Implementing a log archiving strategy for these Access Rights Manager records will enable you to demonstrate compliance with GDPR, PCI-DSS, HIPAA, and other data security standards – passing any standards audit with ease.
The SolarWinds Access Rights Manager runs on Windows Server and it is available for a 30-day free trial.
2. ManageEngine ADAudit Plus
ManageEngine ADAudit Plus is a specialized auditing system for access rights management issues. This ManageEngine software package assists towards compliance reporting for a number of data security standards, such as GDPR, HIPAA, and PCI DSS.
The main purpose of this tool is to log all security-related events that occur on the network with respect to user accounts and resource access. It tracks logon failures, changes to user accounts and resource permissions, and alterations to the settings of Active Directory instances. It monitors AD implementations for SharePoint and Exchange Server as well as Windows user accounts systems.
As well as generating log files for auditing use, this service protects those files from tampering. It also monitors and protects the permissions of the folders that contain AD audit log files. These measures, together with the monitoring of accounts and settings within AD, block attempts by intruders to hide their presence.
The ADAudit Plus system includes logfile management services that create archives of older directories. These archives can be stored for up to three years and it is possible to bring them back to current availability in the event that they are needed for an external standards compliance audit. The system also includes report formats and query templates that are tailored to a range of network security auditing requirements, including those needed for standards compliance reporting.
ManageEngine ADAudit Plus installs on Windows and is available in four editions. The lowest of these options is Free – this has limited capabilities. The three full versions are the Trial edition, which is active for 30 days, the Standard Edition, and the Professional Edition.
PaperTrail is a log management service that is particularly useful for those who need to store and archive network security logs for auditing purposes. This system will store log messages from a range of applications and also gather Windows Event logs and Syslog messages. The management of these records is essential for your network security auditing strategy.
Log messages get collected by PaperTrail agents, which need to be installed on your servers. These messages are then uploaded to the PaperTrail server for processing. The first thing the log manager does with these messages is to convert them into a neutral format so that they can be stored in the same location. This unifying step also makes it possible to search through one source of data when analyzing log messages for signs of a security breach. The PaperTrail dashboard includes a viewer that enables you to load in log messages for analysis.
PaperTrail includes an archiving mechanism that can revive those files, and bring them back into a live status when required for external audits. This is an essential service for compliance auditing.
The data processing and storage capacity and file availability period are dictated by the plan each customer chooses. The service is charged by subscription with a monthly fee. There are six editions available and the first of these is Free – which has an initial throughput allowance of 16 GB, which is topped up by 50 MB per month. The five paid plans have successively larger data allowances. The top plan includes a throughput allowance of 25 GB per month with a two-week period when data is available for searching and a one-year archive period. All of these limits can be altered on consultation with the sales team to create a custom package.
LogicGate is a governance, risk management, and compliance (GRC) tool. These features are particularly useful for businesses that need to show compliance to a major data security standard. The service can be tailored to suit the requirements of a specific standard, such as GDPR, PCI-DSS, and SOX. A business that operates a network security auditing strategy would benefit from many of the utilities in this service.
You would use LogicGate at several points of your network security auditing workflow. For a start, you should set up a risk framework that charts the aspects of your IT system and business practices that could be vulnerable to attack. You should set up governance guidelines, using the recommendations of LogicGate to create policies. Your auditing strategy then has an ideal to check reality against.
The risk management parts of LogicGate help you search for system vulnerabilities that need to be tightened up. LogicGate will produce IT security audit guidelines for your big internal audit that will keep your network security in a state of readiness for any external standards compliance audit.
This service creates a risk framework tailored to your industry and the standards with which you need to comply. LogicGate can also produce IT security audit guidelines, which are useful for a pre-assessment check as well as a tool for those performing the audit itself. LogicGate is a cloud-based service.
5. Splunk Enterprise Security
Splunk Enterprise Security is an add-on package that is available for those who use Splunk Enterprise – the highest edition of the Splunk data analysis system. The security service of Splunk is based on log file collection. It is a SIEM system that checks on events on the network to look for signs of intrusion and data theft. This function also provides a recursive network security auditing service.
The log files that Splunk Enterprise Security collects and files are stored so that they can be available for analysis and system auditing at any time. The Splunk system has its own internal auditing function, which keeps the system secure from insider threats.
Both the log collection and management and the internal auditing service of Splunk Enterprise Security are necessary assistants for those businesses that need to prove compliance to a data security standard. This system is a good choice for those who need to prove compliance with PCI DSS, GDPR, HIPAA, FISMA, and ISO/IEC 27001.
Splunk Enterprise installs on Windows or Linux and there is a 60-day free trial available. The service is also available as a SaaS system, called Splunk Cloud and you can try that on a 15-day free trial. Add Splunk Enterprise Security to either of these systems. The add-on is available for a 7-day free trial.
The total package of Splunk Enterprise Security, whether taken as on-premises software or a cloud service, will provide you with immediate security cover plus an audit trail for every type of network security auditing requirement.
Intruder.io is a cloud-based security tool that performs vulnerability checks on a monitored system. On opening an account, each customer gets a total system check, which looks for a list of known vulnerabilities. Thereafter, Intruder.io will perform a vulnerability scan once a month.
Scans are launched from an external location and from within the network, through an agent program. In total, a typical scan looks for 9.000 vulnerabilities.
There are three plans for Intruder.io’s services and all are charged for by subscription. These plans are called Essential, Pro, and Verified. The Essential plan gets the automated monthly scan. The Pro version allows users to launch scans on-demand whenever they want as well as provide the scheduled monthly system sweep. The Verified also includes the services of a human team of penetration testers.
Intruder.io is available on a 30-day free trial.
7. Netwrix Auditor
Netwrix Auditor is a systemwide auditing utility that highlights vulnerabilities in network resources and other IT infrastructure. It is a particularly useful auditing system for businesses that need to provide compliance to data protection standards. network and servers from intrusion and accidental damage.
The Netwrix system has preset configurations for a range of security standards. Just nominate the standards that you need to follow in the settings of the system and all of the auditing functions, procedures, and reports will be reconfigured to comply with those requirements. There are specific adaptations available for GDPR, HIPAA, PCI DSS, SOX, NIST, FERPA, GLBA, FISMA, CJIS, NERC CIP, and ISO/IEC 27001data protection standards.
Among the activities of a Netwrix audit are checks on user account activity and resource access events. The system interfaces with Active Directory well and it is able to manage the backup process for all of your AD instances. This backup is then used as a default that can be restored to the live system if any unauthorized changes are detected in the access rights manager.
Netwrix Auditor is a downloadable software package that installs on Window Server. It can also be run as a virtual appliance over Hyper-V and VMWare You can check out Netwrix Auditor on a 20-day free trial.
Acunetix is a vulnerability scanner for Web applications. If you operate a website, you need to make sure that it is secure against attack. If you develop websites, then you also need to ensure that vulnerability testing is integrated into your DevOps workflows.
Acunetix monitors a list of 6,500 Web application vulnerabilities. It guards against system corruption and gateways in web applications that can allow hackers to break into your network. This is a form of system auditing for risk prevention.
The Acunetix system is available in three editions. The first of these is Acunetix Standard, which operates tests against live websites. This is a full security auditing service that is an ideal fit for eCommerce operations. The developers of websites would need to pay more attention to Acunetix Premium or the Acunetix 360 edition. These two plans integrate with DevOps project management systems to build vulnerability auditing into the testing and acceptance phases of website development.
The downloadable software package for Acunetix is available for Windows, macOS, and Linux. You can get a demo of the system to assess its suitability for your business.
9. Nessus Vulnerability Scanner
Nessus is a vulnerability scanner that offers network security auditing services by checking for more than 58,000 vulnerabilities on your entire infrastructure, including network settings, service functions, and user-facing applications and software packages. The activities of the system auditor extend to access rights management and user activities.
There are two versions of Nessus. These are Nessus Essentials and Nessus Professional. The Nessus Essential edition is free to use and community-supported. This system is limited to looking at only 16 devices with IP addresses on the network. The Nessus Professional edition performs all of the same services as Nessus Essentials but it has no limit on the size of the network that it will check. Nessus Professional also includes a full, professional support service.
Those who prefer to use Cloud services should check out Tenable.io. This is a SaaS version of Nessus Professional. Both versions of Nessus install on Windows, macOS, and Linux. Nessus Professional and Tenable.io are both charged by a fee for a 1, 2, or 3-year license. You can get a 7-day free trial of Nessus Professional or a 30-day free trial of Tenable.io.