The visibility and traffic filtering that a firewall provides enables an organization to identify and block a large percentage of malicious traffic before it enters the network perimeter and can provide defense in depth. Here we discuss why an intelligent, modern firewall is the first line of defense against cyber attacks.
While firewalls can be deployed at multiple points within the corporate network, the most common location to put a firewall is at the network perimeter. Deploying a firewall at the network perimeter defines and enforces the boundary between the protected internal network and the untrusted public Internet.
A network firewall located at the network perimeter also can take advantage of the fact that all network traffic entering and leaving the corporate network passes through a single point of connection between it and the public Internet. Putting a firewall at this location enables it to achieve complete visibility into data flows across the network boundary.
A perimeter-based firewall also enables proactive protection against cyber threats. A next-generation firewall with threat prevention capabilities can identify and block attempted attacks before they enter the corporate network. This dramatically decreases the damage that these attacks can cause to the organization and the amount of cyber risk experienced by the organization and its employees.
For threats that manage to cross the network boundary, firewalls can also provide defense in depth. By using network firewalls to segment the network, an organization can achieve greater visibility into internal traffic and make it more difficult for an attacker or malicious insider to move laterally within an organization’s network.
Beyond the core threat prevention capabilities, a next-generation firewall deployed inside the corporate network benefits from application control and identity-based inspection. Application control enables a firewall to identify the application that is the source of a stream of network traffic. This allows the firewall to enforce application-specific security policies that reduce the risk associated with insecure applications and enable the organization to block unauthorized applications on their network.
Identity-based inspection provides additional context to the analysis of a network flow. By identifying the user performing a particular action, it is possible for a firewall to enforce access controls based upon employee job roles and assigned permissions. Since 74% of data breaches involve abuse of a privileged account, visibility and management of the actions performed by these accounts is essential.
Next-generation firewalls are also invaluable to an organization’s network security since they can be deployed to protect the organization’s complete network infrastructure. As corporate networks grow and evolve, they often incorporate a diverse set of endpoints, such as traditional user workstations and servers, mobile devices, cloud-based infrastructure, and Internet of Things (IoT) devices. Securing a growing and heterogeneous network can become very complex very quickly.
A firewall – since it works at the network level instead of the endpoint – can protect any and all of an organization’s devices. Additionally, a next-generation firewall should include Unified Security Management (USM), which integrates all of an organization’s security data into a single console. This is essential as the current cybersecurity skills shortage means that many organizations are struggling to find sufficient talent to staff their security teams.
Beyond just providing cloud support (the ability to easily secure multi-cloud hybrid cloud environments), a next-generation firewall can be deployed as a cloud-based virtual appliance. This enables an organization to easily deploy security where it is needed and to take advantage of the scalability of cloud-based infrastructure. Unlike hardware-based security appliances, which require additional hardware purchases to scale, cloud firewalls can easily grow to meet the security needs of an organization’s growing network.
Companies of different sizes have different security requirements. Traditional firewalls may have been “one size fits all” in the past, but modern firewalls can be customized to meet an organization’s specific security needs.
For example, organizations operating industrial facilities and critical infrastructure face different threats and have different operating environments than traditional IT networks. Selecting an industrial firewall that is capable of operating in harsh environments ensures that physical conditions do not impact the company’s cybersecurity.
Choosing a firewall can be difficult because a number of different options exist and not all firewalls are created equal. Firewalls range from small gateways to hyperscale network security solutions. A number of differences exist between traditional firewalls and next-generation firewalls, and understanding what these differences are and why they are important is a vital step in the procurement process.
To adequately protect your network against modern cyber threats, a next-generation firewall must have a few core capabilities. To learn more about these vital features and how to select the firewall that is right for your organization and provides the necessary level of network security, check out this guide. You’re also welcome to request a demo or contact us to see how a Check Point firewall can improve your organization’s defenses against cyber threats.