Security Needs Management – Firewalls Are Desperate for It

Two weeks ago I was writing about what we were hearing from customers while I was at the Infosec Europe event.  At the conclusion of that post I wrote about the consistent theme we hear at FireMon over and over again is that “security needs management.”  I wanted to return to this theme and explain more of what I mean and why I think it is so important.

In security there are currently something like 1,200 different companies offering security products and technologies. The array and scope of these security solutions is dizzying. But the consistent thing across them is that security is seldom–I would argue never–a set it and forget it” endeavor.

The environment that we operate in is constantly changing. The threats are constantly evolving. If you think that your security posture and settings of last year, last month or even yesterday is enough to protect you, you are sadly mistaken.

Specific to firewall management, it amazes me how firewall rules stack up month after month, year after year, without being managed and cleaned up. Often times when I speak to a new customer I will speculate how many firewall rules they have and how many are still relevant. The ratios are usually pretty bizarre, approaching 40% of  rules not being actively used. There rules are no longer relevant, no one knows why they are there or what they are needed for.  Unfortunately, the risk of affecting business is usually enough to prevent them from taking corrective action. In a very real way, they are accepting extra cost, effort and risk out of fear of disrupting the business.

This trade off is understandable, considering that a firewall administrator is much more likely to lose their job over disrupting critical business than they will by neglecting these old rules. But this is not sufficient justification to accept this status quo. There is a solution to address this problem.

FireMon will analyze and identify these rules relatively quickly. Understand which rules are unused, which rules are too broadly defined and which rules are in need of optimization. With this information, a firewall administrator can confidently cleanup a firewall policy without the fear of losing their job.

Of course, firewalls are not the only security technology in need of management. The demands of a successful information security strategy demand that your security policies, processes and most important your security technologies be constantly managed. I will continue this discussion in future blog articles.