Is your firewall a worthy first line of defense for your network?
Firewalls provide visibility into the who, what, where, and when of an attempted cyberattack.

 In |

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Any customer-facing website or application completely open to the public will be attacked.

When looking at network security, firewalls act as the critical first line of defense in identifying who is doing what, where, and when. Firewalls have progressed from their early days of simply blocking IP addresses and restricting access to specific websites. If you are looking to maximize your organization’s cybersecurity capabilities, look to modern firewalls as a way to offer more security features that give greater visibility and protection to your network.

Creating the right network security program with firewalls in mind

A well-architected network security program needs more layers of protection than what a series of firewalls can provide. However, firewalls create a preliminary perimeter of trust that deems anything inside to be more trusted than what gets filtered out.

While firewalls can’t identify 100% of malicious content, they provide necessary clues into what happened, so those managing your organization’s network security program can look back and have visibility into how to make improvements. A firewall may not handle your security program’s record-keeping itself, but it can work with other solutions to do so. For example, a firewall and endpoint protection solution will send telemetry of malicious activities into centralized logging or SIEM. From there, threat intelligent mechanisms can correlate and enrich the events leading up to that point.

Who, what, where, and when?

If a malicious activity takes place in your organization, you need to know who triggered it, what the malicious payload was, where it came from, and when it happened. Are your users getting tricked into clicking on a link? Are employees downloading malicious content? Perhaps someone responded to a phishing email because the message looked like a business email.

With more employees working remotely, companies need to rely on a virtual private network (VPN) to give their users access to internal applications and resources. In these cases, firewalls not only filter content and provide an encrypted communication channel but also provide insight into employees’ productivity. Organizations should implement a Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) solution in addition to firewalls to accommodate all remote users while providing consistent security controls.

Security and visibility

Organizations should look at firewalls for on-premises activities and public cloud and SASE solutions for remote work engagement. SASE solutions are based on next-generation firewall concepts delivered as a service. While they can work independently, you should use them together with traditional on-premises products to provide optimal protection and visibility.

A next-generation firewall can become prone to misconfigurations, which may lead to cyber intrusion. However, when properly configured, and maintained, next-gen firewalls in public clouds should be the preferred option for highly sensitive data that might be less secure with cloud-native firewalls in a public cloud environment.

Public cloud providers have their own firewalls that limit attacks to a data center versus an individual network. Modern next-gen firewalls also have the added benefit of incorporating AI and machine learning. As more organizations adopt machine learning, techniques get updated and the next-gen firewall will be able to detect more malware and malicious activity.

Cloud providers do not share information that will alert you about what kind of malicious payloads cross your network, and this creates a visibility gap. Multi-cloud environments also don’t talk to each other at all. A combination of next-gen firewalls – both on-prem and in public clouds – and SASE, layered with other cybersecurity tools, will give the right combination of security and visibility.

Skills gap

Cybersecurity skill shortage is an unfortunate reality. Companies can’t find the necessary people, or they didn’t hire enough of the right people. The skills gap increases the possibility of misconfiguration – and misconfiguration of the firewall can create an attack surface that cybercriminals can exploit. There are cloud IDs, cloud malware protection, and malware visibility that you can configure. Still, if you miss a configuration somewhere, that could create a security hole, so be careful.

Mistakes will likely happen without a knowledgeable staff, leading to more attack opportunities. In a time of increased ransomware attacks, this can lead to a considerable loss in productivity and revenue.

SHI looks at the entire network security environment so we can educate our customers on the latest attack and network defense trends. What goes into the security stack is as important as which firewall is best suited for the use case.

Network security solutions

Our security specialists help you better understand what’s already in your environment and what kinds of threats exist. We can determine what triggered an attack and ensure that all security features are enabled to best practice standards for your specific industry or across verticals. SHI can also advise your organization on network security solutions, such as upgrading or reconfiguring a firewall to optimize an existing investment, or building a new defense strategy.

Let SHI’s network security experts assist you in finding the best, most secure path going forward.