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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 blog series on the “Future of the Firewall”; that’s optimistic, as it implies that the firewall has a future.
For the record, I think that it does, I just hope we use firewalls more wisely in the future. I see both challenges and opportunities for the present and the future of the firewall; and, as is often the case in life, the challenges and opportunities are two sides of a single coin.
Modern firewalls have become much more than packet filters, and are much more powerful – if used correctly. The great advantages in versatility of NGFW, UTM, or whatever you use, do carry a burden of complexity.
A common challenge remains proper configuration; this is a challenge we have faced for years, and I do not see it disappearing any time soon. Not that early firewalls were exactly “user-friendly”, but with limited feature sets came a smaller range of things to get wrong.
I think that, in general, modern firewalls are easier to deploy and configure properly, but added features do add complexity. The race to add features and functionality to firewalls (or any technology) is also a race with usability and user experience, a race we don’t always win.
IPv6 presents a related threat to the effectiveness of firewalls. I know I’m not alone in having seen firewalls misconfigured down to being very expensive NAT devices. As worrying as that is with IPv4, at least most organizations rely on RFC 1918 addresses internally and thus have some protection with NAT.
The growing numbers of IPv6 deployments threaten to expose millions of devices directly to the Internet as enormous blocks of publicly routable IPv6 addresses are assigned to internal devices.
If we make the same “Any-Any-Any-Allow” type errors in our IPv6 rule sets as we have in NAT IPv4 environments it will not be pretty, as the only remaining “defense” will be hiding in the enormous IPv6 address space, and as soon as we’re on the Internet that is lost to anyone tracking Internet activity.
One of the often-overlooked features of the firewall, whether hardware, software, or virtual, is its value as an inspection point. When trying to see what is really happening on our networks there are few better places to capture and analyze traffic than on firewall interfaces.
Properly sized and configured firewalls should no longer be network “choke points”, but they should be analysis windows. Well-designed traffic analysis should help validate that our rules are working as intended (software has an ugly tendency to do what we tell it to do, not necessarily what we want it to do), and much more.
The firewall’s value as a source of data is not limited to the external traffic capture and analysis; all of the added features of modern firewalls can provide a great deal of insight into your environment when logs are fed to a well-tuned log analysis or SIEM platform. Add traffic analysis, packet filter logs, and other firewall-related data sources and you have a great deal of data with context to add to your analysis capabilities.
This use of firewalls as enhanced data sources is not as common as I think it should be, probably because of the different teams involved, but I believe it is one of the most overlooked values offered by modern firewalls – and one of the easiest to leverage.
We encourage you to share your thoughts, and we look forward to reading your comments. We invite you to subscribe to our blog to keep up with the latest posts of our new series.
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.