The 6 Best Deep Packet Inspection Tools in 2023.
- What is deep packet inspection?
- How does DPI work?
- #1. Data Capture
- #2. data decoding
- #3. traffic classification
- #4. content analysis
- #5. threat detection
- #6.Policy application
- IPR techniques
- #1. Signature-Based Analysis
- #2. behavior analysis
- #3. protocol analysis
- #4. payload analysis
- #5. keyword analysis
- #6. content filtering
- IPR challenges
- use cases
- manage engine
- wire shark
- solar winds
- author’s note
Deep Packet Inspection is a network traffic analysis method that goes beyond simple header information and analyzes the actual data being sent and received.
Network monitoring is a challenging task. It is impossible to see network traffic that occurs inside copper cables or fiber optics.
This makes it difficult for network administrators to get a clear picture of the activity and status of their networks, which is why network monitoring tools are necessary to help them manage and monitor the network effectively.
Deep Packet Inspection is an aspect of network monitoring that provides detailed information about network traffic.
Let us begin!
What is deep packet inspection?
Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) is a technology used in network security to inspect and analyze individual data packets in real time as they travel through a network.
The goal of DPI is to provide network administrators with visibility into network traffic and to identify and prevent malicious or unauthorized activity.
DPI operates at the packet level and analyzes network traffic by examining each data packet and its content beyond the header information.
Provides information about the data type, content, and destination of data packets. Typically used for:
- Secure networks: Packet inspection can help identify and block malware, hacking attempts, and other security threats.
- Improve network performance – By inspecting network traffic, DPI can help administrators identify and resolve network congestion, bottlenecks, and other performance issues.
And it can also be used to ensure that network traffic complies with regulatory requirements, such as data privacy laws.
How does DPI work?
DPI is typically implemented as a device that sits in the network path and inspects each data packet in real time. The process normally consists of the following steps.
#1. Data Capture
The DPI device or software component captures each data packet on the network as it is transmitted from source to destination.
#2. data decoding
The data packet is decoded and its content is parsed, including the header and payload data.
#3. traffic classification
The DPI system classifies the data packet into one or more predefined traffic categories, such as email, web traffic, or peer-to-peer traffic.
#4. content analysis
The content of the data packet, including payload data, is analyzed to identify patterns, keywords, or other indicators that may suggest the presence of malicious activity.
#5. threat detection
The DPI system uses this information to identify and detect potential security threats, such as malware, hacking attempts, or unauthorized access.
Based on the rules and policies defined by the network administrator, the DPI system forwards or blocks the data packet. You can also take other actions, such as logging the event, generating an alert, or redirecting traffic to a quarantine network for further analysis.
The speed and accuracy of packet inspection depends on the capabilities of the DPI device and the volume of network traffic. In high-speed networks, specialized hardware-based DPI devices are typically used to ensure that data packets can be analyzed in real time.
Some of the commonly used DPI techniques include:
#1. Signature-Based Analysis
This method compares data packets against a database of known security threats, such as malware signatures or attack patterns. This type of analysis is useful for detecting known or previously identified threats.
#2. behavior analysis
Behavior-based analysis is a technique used in DPI that consists of analyzing network traffic to identify unusual or suspicious activity. This may include analysis of the source and destination of data packets, the frequency and volume of data transfers, and other parameters to identify anomalies and potential security threats.
#3. protocol analysis
This technique analyzes the structure and format of data packets to identify the type of network protocol being used and to determine if the data packet follows the rules of the protocol.
#4. payload analysis
This method examines the payload data in the data packets to find sensitive information such as credit card numbers, social security numbers, or other private details.
#5. keyword analysis
This method involves searching for specific words or phrases within data packets to find sensitive or harmful information.
#6. content filtering
This technique involves blocking or filtering network traffic based on the type or content of the data packets. For example, content filtering can block email attachments or access to websites that contain malicious or inappropriate content.
These techniques are often used in combination to provide a complete and accurate analysis of network traffic and to identify and prevent malicious or unauthorized activity.
Deep packet inspection is a powerful tool for network security and traffic management, but it also presents some challenges and limitations. Some of them are:
DPI can consume a significant amount of processing power and bandwidth, which can affect network performance and slow down data transfers.
It can also raise privacy concerns, as it potentially involves analyzing and storing the content of data packets, including sensitive or personal information.
DPI systems can generate false positives when normal network activity is incorrectly identified as a security threat.
They can also miss real security threats because the DPI system is not configured correctly or because the threat is not included in the database of known security threats.
DPI systems can be complex and difficult to set up, requiring specialist knowledge and skills to set up and manage effectively.
Advanced threats, such as malware and hackers, may attempt to evade these systems by using fragmented or encrypted data packets, or by using other methods to hide their activities from detection.
DPI systems can be expensive to purchase and maintain, particularly for large or high-speed networks.
DPI has a variety of use cases, some of which are:
- network security
- traffic management
- Quality of Service (QOS) to prioritize network traffic
- application control
- Network optimization to route traffic to more efficient routes.
These use cases demonstrate the versatility and importance of DPI in modern networks and its role in ensuring network security, traffic management, and compliance with industry standards.
There are a number of DPI tools available on the market, each with their own unique features and capabilities. Here, we have compiled a list of top deep packet inspection tools to help you analyze the network effectively.
ManageEngine NetFlow Analyzer is a network traffic analysis tool that provides organizations with packet inspection capabilities. The tool uses the NetFlow, sFlow, J-Flow, and IPFIX protocols to collect and analyze network traffic data.
This tool gives organizations real-time visibility into network traffic and allows them to monitor, analyze, and manage network activity.
ManageEngine’s products are designed to help organizations simplify and streamline their IT management processes. They provide a unified view of the IT infrastructure that enables organizations to quickly identify and resolve problems, optimize performance, and ensure the security of their IT systems.
Paessler PRTG is a comprehensive network monitoring tool that provides real-time visibility into the health and performance of IT infrastructures.
It includes various features such as monitoring of various network devices, bandwidth usage, cloud services, virtual environments, applications, and more.
PRTG uses packet sniffing for deep packet analysis and reporting. It also supports various notification options, reports, and alert features to keep administrators informed of network status and potential problems.
Wireshark is an open source network protocol analyzer software tool used to monitor, troubleshoot, and analyze network traffic. It provides a detailed view of network packets, including their headers and payloads, allowing users to see what’s happening on their network.
Wireshark uses a graphical user interface that allows easy browsing and filtering of captured packets, making it accessible to users with various levels of technical skill. And it also supports a wide range of protocols and has the ability to decode and inspect numerous types of data.
SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor (NPM) provides deep packet inspection and analysis capabilities to monitor and troubleshoot network performance.
NPM uses advanced algorithms and protocols to capture, decode, and analyze network packets in real time, providing insight into network traffic patterns, bandwidth utilization, and application performance.
NPM is a comprehensive solution for network administrators and IT professionals who want to gain a deeper understanding of their network behavior and performance.
NTop provides network administrators with tools to monitor network traffic and performance, including packet capture, traffic logging, network probes, traffic analysis, and packet inspection. NTop’s DPI capabilities are powered by nDPI, an open source and extensible library.
nDPI supports detection of more than 500 different protocols and services, and its architecture is designed to be easily extensible, allowing users to add support for new protocols and services.
However, nDPI is just a library and should be used in conjunction with other applications like nTopng and nProbe Cento to create rules and take action on network traffic.
Netify DPI is a packet inspection technology designed for network security and optimization. The tool is open source and can be deployed on various devices, from small embedded systems to a large back-end network infrastructure.
Inspects network packets at the application layer to provide visibility into network traffic and usage patterns. This helps organizations identify security threats, monitor network performance, and enforce network policies.
When selecting a DPI tool, organizations should consider factors such as their specific needs, the size and complexity of their network, and their budget to ensure they choose the right tool for their needs.
You may also be interested in learning about the best NetFlow analysis tools for your network.