Gartner’s Recommendations for Security Policy Configuration Assessment Part 3: Conducting Frequent & Regular SCAs with Comprehensive Automation & Data-Driven Analysis

In this series, we’re looking at the essential parts of a Security Configuration Assessment (SCA). Let’s continue the dialogue and look at the other recommendations from Gartner.

Previously, we examined how establishing a baseline, integrating business and function requirements, and methods for evaluating configurations can be automated and lead to greater configuration assurance. Let’s revisit Gartner’s recommendations for practices devoted to SCAs.

Security Policy Configuration Assessments – Recommendations

  • Establish secure configuration policy baselines and minimum standards for system configurations by making use of sources such as business and functional requirements based on regulatory and statutory compliance requirements; benchmarks such as NIST and CIS; internal security policies; risk management; and results of threat assessment and incident management.
  • Develop SCA capabilities by defining the objectives and scope, and selecting tools and an operating model to conduct regular SCA scans.
  • Conduct frequent and regular SCAs to verify compliance with security policies, detect policy breaches and improve enforcement of policies.
  • Engage IT operations to ensure that findings are being addressed by holding regular communication and cooperative meetings.

In Part 1 and Part 2, we took a hard look at the first two recommendations and discovered methods to establish baselines and how to use Real-Time Monitoring and Customizable Compliance Reporting. Additionally, we saw how integrating Risk Analysis and User-Specific Reporting can speed up the process of getting to execution – the ultimate goal. FireMon addresses each of these recommendations with automation, orchestration and detailed analysis to more effectively configure network security devices. 

This is an important step for many organization. Firewalls are swelling with rules that interfere with configuration assurance. Rules may be hidden (e.g. shadowed rules), necessity undocumented, redundant or outdated. However, the number of rules is accelerating exponentially.

Not only is the rulebase skyrocketing, the standards for audit and compliance continue to morph. Each time there is an audit, security and operations teams are scrambling to find the right data.

Let us dive into Gartner’s third recommendation. Once an organization has successfully conducted an SCA using the framework, it should be relatively simple to repeat the steps with regular frequency, right?

Unfortunately, to accomplish SCAs, organizations often develop labor-intensive tasks to figure out what the environment looks like, what adjustments should be made, which reports to generate, compliance standards to meet and security concerns for countless devices and applications. Let us call this The Complexity Gap. The gap is the distance between device rules and the labor force needed to manage it all.

Open Ended Up to 1024 Px Wide - SecurityGap.jpgWe saw how methods of integrating multiple business units and evidence-driven risk analysis can get organizations closer to configuration assurance. 

The difficulty with regular and frequent SCAs is that the elements we are measuring continue to shift. The world has this pesky tendency to move, leaving security teams in a tough position to answer the call each time we need another SCA.

What can you do? Well, you automate.

Let us take a moment and see how FireMon customers are conducting regular and frequent SCAs at the drop of a hat.

Comprehensive Automation

Automation and orchestration are the epitome of buzzwords. But before you dismiss this, see how each have functional roles for frequent and regular SCAs. To be sure, automation and orchestration must extend beyond simply pushing a rule to a firewall. There is no use in automating a bad rule, in fact, it erodes our configuration assurance.

Instead, FireMon customers take advantage of Intelligent Policy Automation (IPA) and reduce the labor hours involved with frequent SCAs. By automating several steps in the process, FireMon users can reduce human error and speed up validations – leading to stronger configuration assurance. Automation and orchestration bring together all the relevant data in a coherent frame, allowing you to cleanup unnecessary rules, simulate attack paths, and recertify rules that conform to your security intent.

IT security projects have definitive timelines. Our ears hurt a little when hearing, “Great work! Now do this every month.” However, if you’re going to conduct regular and frequent SCAs, automation becomes your new best friend. If the organization wants to have a steady diet of security configuration assessments (SCAs), we have you covered. We do this with comprehensive automation.

Data-Driven Rule Analysis

Secondly, when conducting routine SCAs, it is important to let data reign supreme. Too often, organizations rely on biases and rules-of-thumb to determine the best way to configure their security systems. However, FireMon customers take advantage of data-driven analysis to reduce all that time spent pulling and slicing data to determine a rules effectiveness and necessity.

One critical aspect of being data-driven is to see how real-life traffic flows throughout the network. This is a clear point of evidence to better inform which decisions we make during the SCA. Traffic Flow Analysis (TFA) allows you to see precisely how a rule is implemented across multiple vendors and device types. Seeing which rules are on a certain firewall doesn’t really tell us much. But having a global view of policy that traverses all devices and allows/denies traffic is much more informative.

FireMon is the only solution with this granularity for TFA. Now, you can eliminate overly permissive or fundamentally flawed rules to policy during your SCA. By automatically seeing where the traffic is flowing, regular and frequent SCAs become woven into the security team’s routine. It’s the only way to conduct rigorous SCAs with any regularity.

Often, audit and audit findings drive many projects to improve the rulebase. These findings can be an accelerator to conduct regular assessments, have continuous compliance for audit and have sub-second reporting for all documentation.


Let’s go back to The Complexity Gap. If you want to follow the recommendations from Gartner, you will be taking on a serious program – regular and frequent SCAs for verifying compliance and security policies. This can be a daunting task. But by consolidating data, automating analysis, orchestrating moving parts and regularly inspecting the traffic, you can follow this recommendation. You can regularly and frequently conduct SCAs, because you’ve automated the heavy lifting.