Right on Q

GCN Lab Review: Qradar monitoring appliance gives a clear picture of network problems


Reviewer's comments: A good event-reporting solution at a very good price.

Performance: A

Functionality: B-

Features: B+

Value: A

Price: $36,900


Q1 Labs

877-471-5227, www.q1labs.com

AT YOUR FINGERTIPS: This dashboard is the first thing you see when you log in to the console. It gives a good encapsulated view of your network activity.

RAP SHEET: For each offense, all pertinent data about transactions and events is listed. This allows an administrator to quickly get to the bottom of things.

No matter what else a computer or appliance does for a network, the one thing it does do with certainty is generate logs. These little snippets of what the device was doing when and with what can be vital to understanding the nature of a problem.

Unfortunately, log files are rarely legible to human beings and the differences in formatting these files makes it difficult to find a single program that can bring the logs for an entire network together in one place.
Even if all of the log files for all of the network servers, clients, gateways, intrusion-detection systems and so forth were brought together to be compiled into one report, the logs usually tell about half the story when they identify a problem.

Network traffic must also be considered, particularly suspicious communication between devices, or between a device on your network and an outside computer. For instance, if a server application log notes that a certain service was started, there is no way to tell if it was authorized.

However, if it is also known that there was communication to that server from an outside source a second or two before that service started, it becomes more likely that the service is the result of some sort of attack.

The Qradar 2100 All-in-One Appliance performs both these vital functions, correlates the data and breaks it down into visually intuitive displays via a Web interface. It supports hundreds of different types of servers and network security devices and can start importing their information after minimal setup.

The Qradar comes as a 2U rack-mountable server with two dual-core Intel Xeon 2.66 GHz processors, with a total of 8G of memory. Its six 146G SAS hot-swappable hard drives are in a RAID5 configuration that produces 730G of usable drive space.

This powerhouse of an appliance should be able to handle up to 50,000 flows and 1,000 events per second, which makes it ideal for a small company or department. We were pleased that the 2100 has two redundant, hot-swappable 750W power supplies. This level of power protection is completely essential in a security appliance.
We were quite pleased to find that the 2100 supports more than 700 devices, which means it is able to easily pull logs from a wide variety of client computers, Web servers, e-mail servers, firewalls and intrusion-detection systems, among others. It can do this in one of two ways.

First, it can make requests of the device and grab the information remotely. However, this method has two major difficulties. It requires rights to be opened up to the appliance, and opening up the rights on most servers and security appliances is not recommended. In addition, the log files will have to be translated into the format the Qradar uses; this uses resources that the 2100 could be using to correlate log data and monitor network traffic.

Fortunately, the people at Q1 Labs considered this and came up with client-based log exporter software. The software is installed on each computer in the network, and it gathers the logs together, converts them to the Qradar format and sends them along to the appliance.

After the 2100 has gotten a certain quantity of logs from a single source, it will automatically create the data source. It will then show up in alerts and reports. If the client computer doesn't generate enough log data to do this quickly, you have the option of manually creating the data source.

Once it has the log files together, the Qradar will begin to make correlations between log events and network traffic it monitors. It can assemble this data in all manner of charts and tables, and either display them in the Web interface or generate reports. We found the Web-based administration interface to be very easy to use and understand as well as being visually appealing. Timeline graphs show log events color-coded by type.

The offense manager lists recent offenses and shows their magnitude, which is a combination of relevance, severity and credibility.

Relevance is defined as how important the threatened asset is to the network, severity is how much damage the threat could do, and credibility is how well-tuned the device is to reporting false positives and negatives. An offense reported by a less credible source would have less magnitude, just as a more dangerous threat would boost the magnitude. Through the false-positive window, one can make a device be more discriminating in what events it reports. Once you have it at the right settings, the number of false positives reported should drop.

The Qradar 2100 comes with several dozen premade reports, which should cover the most common queries.

If a specialized report is needed, we found that one could be generated in a matter of minutes through the Web-based interface. These reports can be set to periodically appear in the reports tab of the administration interface or e-mailed to persons who need to be kept in the loop.

The Network Surveillance tab shows network activity over time, color-coded by type of activity ' a particular subnet or a type of application. Certain colors can be deleted to eliminate that category of activity from consideration, or clicking on a color opens a graph of just that type of activity, broken down by subtype ' for example, a particular IP address or specific application. This drilling down into the network activity can be vital in determining the cause of problems.
Generally, the Qradar 2100 will automatically look for updates to its software, relieving the administrator of a task.

However, if a question arises, or you need to find out more about how a feature works, there is the Online Qmmunity.

This had patches and updates, information about training seminars and newsletters to help keep you apprised of developments. There is even a self-service help section in which you can post your problem and quickly receive the answers you need.

For all the appliance does, the retail price of $36,900 is a good one. This single-piece solution can save a great deal of effort and money in the long run.
We would recommend the Qradar 2100 All-in-One Appliance in any network that has a large number of servers and varying security appliances but has no means of correlating them into one place.

About the Author

Greg Crowe is a former GCN staff writer who covered mobile technology.


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