Firewall Configuration

The security of your users and your network, in large part, relies on how your firewall is configured. Firewall configurations vary widely from the set-it-and-forget-it variety with predefined and recommended policies found in the small business segment to the enterprise variety where all of the security rules must be either manually created one by one or are created using automation and DevOps. 

Regardless of which model you have, mistakes can happen that leave you vulnerable. Here we discuss firewall configuration challenges and provide a summary of firewall management best practices.

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What is Firewall Configuration?

Firewalls are a core component of an enterprise security strategy. Firewalls can protect against cyber attacks, data exfiltration, and other threats by monitoring network traffic and blocking suspected malicious traffic.

One of the main ways that firewalls determine whether to permit or block a connection is based on a set of predefined rules or policies. These rules may specify that traffic to a particular IP address or port should be permitted or blocked. Firewall configuration is the process of setting up these rules and configuring other security settings on a firewall.

The Importance of Firewall Configuration

Firewalls determine which traffic can pass through a network boundary based largely on a set of predefined rules. Whether or not these rules are properly configured determines whether a firewall effectively blocks malicious network connections or accidentally blocks legitimate business communications. Additionally, if a firewall is not properly configured and secured, cyber threat actors can exploit vulnerabilities and security issues to gain access to the firewall and the protected network.

Firewall Configuration Challenges

Proper firewall configurations are essential to corporate cybersecurity. Some common firewall configuration mistakes include:

  • Overly Broad Policies: Defining broad firewall policies can help to quickly set up a firewall, but it leaves the organization open to attack. Firewall policies should be tightly defined based on business needs and the principle of least privilege.
  • Inbound-Only Rules: Often, firewall policies are focused on inbound traffic and threats originating outside of the organization. However, allowing all outbound traffic can enable data exfiltration, malware command and control, and other threats.
  • Lax Authentication Methods: The use of lax and insecure authentication methods could undermine corporate password and authentication security policies. Firewalls should be configured to only permit strong methods of authentication such as Multi-factor Authentication.
  • Failing to Secure the Firewall: A firewall is designed to restrict access to corporate resources, but it can also be a target of attack. Leaving ports and risky management services accessible can grant cybercriminals access to the firewall and enterprise network.
  • Inadequate Monitoring: Firewall configurations can miss evolving threats or block new types of legitimate business traffic. Regular monitoring is essential to ensure that any attempted attacks are properly detected and blocked and that firewall configurations meet the needs of the business.

8 Firewall Best Practices for Securing the Network

A firewall is a crucial component of an enterprise network security strategy, and proper configurations and security settings are essential to its effectiveness. Some important best practices for firewall configuration and security include:

  1. Harden and Properly Configure the Firewall: If the vendor has not already done so, ensure that the firewall’s operating system is appropriately hardened and up-to-date on patches.
  2. Plan your Firewall Deployment: Firewalls define network boundaries, which is essential for network segmentation and zero-trust security. Network zones should be defined based on business needs, and, since a firewall is a potential single point of failure, firewalls should ideally be deployed in a high availability (HA) cluster or using a hyperscale network security solution.
  3. Secure the Firewall: Firewalls are the foundation of a network security architecture and are common targets of attack. Change default passwords and other similar default configuration settings to minimize security risk and close common attack vectors.
  4. Secure User Accounts: Cybercriminals commonly use account takeover attacks to gain access to corporate systems. Firewall administrators should have strong passwords, enable multi-factor authentication (MFA), and have access limited using role-based access controls (RBAC).
  5. Lock Down Zone Access to Approved Traffic: Firewalls can restrict traffic flows across the network boundaries that they define. Policies should be configured to only allow legitimate traffic flows based on business needs.
  6. Ensure Firewall Policy and Use Complies with Standards: Many regulations and standards include requirements for firewall configuration and policies. Applicable regulations and standards should be reviewed to ensure that firewall policies are compliant.
  7. Test to Verify the Policy and Identify Risks: Incorrect or improperly ordered firewall rules can block legitimate traffic or allow malicious traffic through. All firewall rules should be regularly tested to ensure that they fulfill their intended purpose.
  8. Audit Software or Firmware and Logs: Firewall monitoring and log analysis are essential to identifying configuration errors that could lead to missed detections. Regularly check for software or firmware updates and review logs for anomalous traffic and potentially missed detections.

Firewall Configuration with Check Point

Proper firewall configurations are essential to the effectiveness of a firewall. Managing security with a user-friendliness interface is an essential feature of any firewall and can help reduce configuration errors. To learn more about what to look for in a firewall, check out this buyer’s guide.

Check Point firewalls have long been a market leader, and Check Point next-generation firewalls (NGFWs) are some of the most intuitive and user-friendly on the market. To see the capabilities and usability of Check Point NGFWs for yourself, sign up for a free demo.

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