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Los Alamos Labs Vets Launch Forensics Company

Startup Packet Analytics, founded by former DOE lab security analysts, to launch company, product on Tuesday

A new security startup founded by former Los Alamos National Laboratory security experts will come out of stealth mode on Tuesday, with a commercial version of an incident response tool they had built for the government lab.

Santa Fe, N.M.-based Packet Analytics will officially roll out Net/FSE Network Forensic Search Engine software, which collects and organizes Cisco NetFlow and syslog log data into a searchable format, helping analysts to investigate breaches as soon as they occur.

The real-time tool is based on technology licensed exclusively from Los Alamos, which has been using the tool for five years to handle incident response investigations.

Packet Analytics is offering a free download of the basic tool, which supports up to one million events per day. Anything higher incurs a licensing fee -- anywhere from $1,495 for up to 3 million events per day to $18,950 for 50 million events per day.

"This is a data collection system for security guys," says Andy Alsop, president and CEO of Packet Analytics. "It gives the security analyst a way to take all of that alert information and give it the context from which they can determine the severity of a particular alert, and what investigation is necessary... the who, what, how long, and is it still going on."

The highly sensitive Department of Energy Los Alamos Lab logs over one billion network events a week, with about 15 terabytes of this data online. "They were bombarded with alerts from IDSes, IPSes, firewalls, or users, so the security analysts needed [something to help them] determine what we like to call 'context' around" an event, Alsop says. Los Alamos National Bank, one of the largest banks in New Mexico, also runs the new tool -- it receives over 2 million events a day, Alsop says.

Ben Uphoff, vice president of research and a board member of Packet Analytics, developed the Linux-based, Web GUI-based tool while at Los Alamos Lab. Uphoff recalls one incident at the lab where a user's computer was found to be communicating with hosts in China in the middle of the night. "There was a great deal of angst," he says. "So I went back to my office, plugged in the user's IP address [into the tool] and instantly saw his weekend Web traffic," which turned out to be nothing more than the result of a Web Collage screen-saver feature that was activated by default in his Linux OS, he says.

"We were able to quickly say this is fine, it's nothing," he says. He had the Linux group disable the Web Collage feature, which randomly pulls down Web pages' images for screen-savers.

Packet Analytics's Alsop says its product is basically an extra layer for IDS and security information management (SIM) tools. Next for Net/FSE Network Forensic Search Engine: incident visualization, support for additional data types, compliance reporting, network behavior analysis, event correlation, and custom alerting features, according to the company.

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