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Unless you’re under a rock, you know that the WannaCry Ransomware cyberattack swept worldwide headlines last week.
Organizations scrambled to apply the latest Microsoft security patch to their computers to prevent the spread of the attack. It’s estimated that the ransomware attack hit more than 300,000 victims in 150 countries.
A few days ago, I was on the phone with a potential customer who was calling to see what FireMon could do to help them better manage their firewalls. Their particular concern was the performance impact their policy was having on their firewalls. Shortly into the call, they shared the information that their PIX firewall policy contained over 84,000 access control entries (rules). Are you kidding me? Of course performance was a problem, but what about security. This is not a wall, at best it is a screen door. I tried to refocus the conversation to security, but performance was their primary concern. So, I started thinking how I could better communicate the particular security concern with a policy permitting so much access.
Firewalls are designed and implemented to control access between networks. Modern-era firewalls are designed with a positive security model, simply meaning that they are designed to deny all access that is not administratively permitted. This makes adding rules in a firewall a decision to permit more access. It must also mean accepting some additional risk.
Taking a slightly deeper look into access and risk, it is clear that there is some relationship. At the most basic level, it is understood that the most secure host or network is one where there is no access (think CIA computer in a room with tightly controlled physical access and no network access). Of course there are significant usability issues in such a scenario. So, it also seems clear that permitting more access also increases the risk. Exactly how much will clearly be a factor of the threat posed by the the connecting network, but needless to say, it will increase to some degree. This relationship can be visualized in the below graph. No access presents no risk. A sharp increase in risk once any access is granted and a continual rise in risk as more and more access is permitted.
So, as it relates to the firewall, every rule that permits access also increases risk to some degree. It then seems obvious that excessive access (access that is not needed for any intended purpose) is unnecessary risk. (Clearly removing this excessive access represents low-hanging fruit of risk reduction opportunities.)
However, obviously the customer I was talking to, and in fact many organizations, have focused their firewall management activities on permitting access, not controlling risk. Focus needs to get back to evaluating risk versus access to make the firewall a more effective security device in the network.
So you’ve purchased a new firewall. Now what?
You’ve got to decide which access is allowed, which isn’t allowed and whether or not rules are compliant with internal and regulatory standards.
Things are running along smoothly and then the dreaded “change.” A user submits a new access request and the fun begins. Is this access necessary? Safe? Compliant? And what happens when it’s time to retire unused rules?
How Effective Security Management Can Help Teams Cover the Exponentially Increasing Gap between Technology & the Resources Available to Manage It
Security teams today are under tremendous pressure due to the rising frequency and impact of breaches and a business that wants to move faster and faster. The answer to both of these challenges has always been to add more technology and staff resources.
However, each new technology added creates complexity. More rules are created and more data is generated. As networks continue to evolve, this complexity will only grow. And while staff resources may increase, they will never match the exponential growth of technology.
FireMon calls this phenomenon The Complexity Gap and has set out to help security teams close it.
Join us for this webinar with Frost & Sullivan where we’ll explore the causes of “The Gap” and how workforce multipliers such as intelligence and automation help staff manage their security more efficiently and more effectively.
Helping Enterprise Security Teams Improve Resource Efficiency & Reduce Overall Risk Exposure
Firewall technology has come a long way since its initial, most rudimentary forms. Next-Generation Firewalls (NGFW) are the latest development, and organizations are accelerating adoption to the new technology. But NGFWs aren’t a fix-all solution.