What is a Network TAP, Anyway?

Despite being in the technology industry, there are some things system security pros (or their bosses) just aren’t familiar with.

One of the questions asked often at Garland Technology is, “What is a network TAP, anyway?”

The next question is typically, “And why do I need one?”

Here’s a good overview of network TAPs.

Network Test Access Point (TAP) Defined

A network TAP is a hardware tool that allows you to access and monitor your network. TAPs transmit both the send and receive data streams simultaneously on separate dedicated channels, ensuring all data arrives at the monitoring device in real time.

Deciding how to get data from your network and into your monitoring and security tools is just as important as the tools themselves. Network taps are the best practice – and only guaranteed method for 100% data capture.

How Do Network TAPs Work?

Network TAPs are inserted between network devices, where they copy data continuously, 24/7, without compromising network integrity. Different types of network TAPs are used with monitoring and security tools. 

Network TAPs come in variety of configurations:

  • Copper or Fiber Network Support
  • Media Conversion (copper to fiber)
  • Passive, listen-only TAPs for monitoring devices
  • Active, inline network TAPs that provide a failsafe for security tools

Each type of network TAP operates differently based on the requirements it needs to perform. Here’s a quick overview of the different TAP modes:

  • Breakout “Normal” TAPs: Ensure that no packet is lost to high-priority monitoring tools
  • Filtering TAPs: Allow you to set rules on what data is filtered and sent to monitoring or security tools. Filtering prevents ports from becoming oversubscribed
  • Aggregation TAPs: Merge traffic streams into one monitoring port to reduce appliance costs, often used in combination with filtering taps, ie: filter, aggregate data streams 
  • Replication/SPAN TAPs: Create multiple copies of network data to support multiple devices from a single connectivity point
  • Bypass TAPs: Prevents in-line devices from causing a network downtime if they fail or need to be updated.

The advantages of using a network TAP are:

  • TAPs receive all of the data – including jumbo frames and errors
  • TAPs do not cause network delays, latency or timing issues
  • TAPs do not alter the time relationships of frames, spacing and response times
  • TAPs are court approved for CALEA and lawful intercept cases
  • TAPS don’t have an IP or Mac address and cannot be hacked

The advantages of a Garland Network TAP:

  • All TAPs are tested and verified with live data before leaving the manufacturing facility
  • Made, tested and verified in Richardson, Texas
  • Fully committed to supporting the wire, network TAPs available in 10/100M, 10/100/1000M Copper and 1G, 10G, 40G, and 100G Fiber

To learn more, speak with a Lifeboat Sales Representative today!

Download this whitepaper to learn the value of network TAPS in your network: https://www.garlandtechnology.com/wp-tap-vs-span

Building on the foundation of network TAPs at the access layer, a well-designed #networkvisibilityfabric may require an #aggregationlayer if the enterprise needs to monitor either a large number of network segments, or a large, distributed network. https://www.garlandtechnology.com/blog/network-visibility-fabric-design-add-an-aggregation-layer

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