All There Is to Know About Managed Firewall Services
Managed Firewall Services Topics
If a firewall is being used as a “set it and forget it” solution, how safe is the network? The truth is that even a thoughtfully configured firewall can fall short of catching many new and sophisticated threats on the landscape. While periodically reviewing and updating firewall settings definitely helps, many businesses choose to remove the uncertainty by opting for a managed firewall solution. Here’s a breakdown of what a managed firewall is, the kinds of managed firewall services available, their benefits, and the advantages a next-generation firewall has over a traditional one.
What Is a Managed Firewall?
A managed firewall is a third-party service that configures, manages, and monitors a firewall for your organization. They can also handle deployment from start to finish and manage any issues that pop up.
A firewall can be a powerful asset when trying to control the kinds of interactions a network has with the rest of the internet, as it prevents data packets from entering or exiting a network.
However, if a firewall’s settings aren’t optimized, it could allow malicious data to enter a network or enable users to access dangerous sites. A managed firewall service prevents this from happening by utilizing the experience and knowledge of seasoned professionals who understand:
- The access and data management needs of a business
- The roles of individual departments and people, as well as the kinds of sites or services they have to use via their network
- The kinds of sites that pose dangers
- The types of traffic that could compromise security
- The newest threat tactics a firewall can safeguard an organization from
What Does a Managed Firewall Do?
A managed firewall ensures that a firewall’s defenses are bolstered by true cybersecurity experts. In turn, an organization is protected from threats such as:
- Attempts by hackers to access business email accounts
- Hackers trying to access network data or servers
- Hacks of employees’ tablets, PCs, laptops, and other devices
- Attacks on business-critical applications and their backend systems, such as databases with sensitive information
- Hackers who try to undermine or destroy disaster recovery systems
- Attacks designed to weaken a firewall
In some ways, a firewall can be compared to a high-performance car. Even an avid car enthusiast may not know how to tune the turbo’s PSI or port the cylinder heads to maximize power. But a professional tuner can do it in their sleep. It’s the same with a firewall. When “tuned” correctly, they can block a wide variety of threats while also ensuring that employees have the network access they need. With a managed firewall, professional tuners maximize results.
Types of Firewall Management Services
Because firewall management services are catered to the needs of a business and its network, they’re all unique. But here are some common types of managed firewall services:
- A cloud-based firewall protection system. This is designed to protect cloud-based apps and processes.
- A managed firewall for an on-premise network. This involves the configuration and management of physical firewall devices used to protect an on-premise network from attacks. The configurations and updates are typically handled remotely by a managed services provider.
- Hybrid managed firewall management services. A company with both on-premise and cloud-based digital assets and networks may want a hybrid solution that involves the management of both cloud and on-prem firewalls.
Of course, there are many different variations of these services. A managed firewall, for example, could segment a network by separating different areas with firewalls. If a customer relationship management (CRM) system has sensitive client data that an attacker would love to filch, a managed firewall services provider could deploy a firewall that enables a needs-based access policy for that segment of the network. In other words, the firewall would only allow the CRM to communicate with on-premise and remote workers who absolutely needed it to perform their jobs. The firewall would reject all other transmissions of data going to or coming from the server that hosts the CRM.
What Does a Managed Firewall Services Provider Do?
A managed firewall services provider configures, deploys, manages, and updates the firewalls needed to boost an organization’s cybersecurity. However, the process is more involved than simply choosing a firewall and turning on a few settings. For example, a services provider would:
- Sit down with a network admin or security team to gain a better understanding of the assets that need to be protected
- Take the time to learn about the organization’s current security tools
- Identify the gaps in the current security system and determine how a managed firewall can address vulnerabilities
Once they’ve taken these steps, managed firewall engineers will figure out the most effective configurations for protecting the environment.
For example, suppose there is an application that sits in an area of a network that can accept data from anyone on the internet. This could be very dangerous, especially because some hackers flood networks with malware designed to identify open, vulnerable ports. During the discovery meeting, it becomes clear to the managed firewall provider that only a few people in the organization really need access to that app. Using this data, the provider can whitelist the IP addresses those people are most likely to use. In this way, the attack surface shrinks considerably.
Ensure the Firewall Protects the Organization From the Most Recent Threats
A managed firewall provider has a deep understanding of the latest developments in the threat landscape, knowing things that even internal security specialists haven’t caught wind of.
For example, hackers are constantly trying to find ways of taking advantage of Internet of Things (IoT) devices. Each one provides a potential foothold in a network — whether it’s an office fish tank or a handheld scanner on the factory floor. As each new attack technique and technology evolves on the threat landscape, a managed services provider can use this intel to ensure that the firewall protects IoT devices.
Also, because some cybercriminals may use an IoT device to penetrate a network it connects to, a managed firewall’s team may recommend ways of safeguarding other network assets to protect them from infiltration.
Benefits of Managed Firewall Services
As with many managed security services, one of the most significant benefits it confers is more time. For example, consider an IT team that handles a multitude of threats, technologies, and user issues on a daily basis. A job that was originally manageable can quickly become so intense and complicated that it leads to burnout. By securing a managed firewall service, an IT team can check off a huge box on their list of things to do.
As a result, IT professionals are free to engage in other business-critical projects, such as:
- Addressing employee computer and networking issues faster
- Improving ticket resolution for customers and clients
- Discovering ways to optimize their daily workflows, perhaps by researching automated solutions or new technologies
- Gaining more visibility into network activity using a comprehensive monitoring system.
- Discovering new ways to optimize bandwidth usage in the organization, which can improve application performance and reduce costs
Network Security Optimization
In addition to freeing up IT teams to tackle other endeavors, using managed firewall services also avails organizations of safer ways to run their networks.
For example, suppose there’s a third-party vendor that an organization wants to partner with, but it’s concerned about threats that could come from within the vendor’s system. The managed services provider could:
- Configure a firewall to allow that vendor access to the systems they need
- Ensure that the firewall filters out the kinds of threats the organization is most concerned about, such as data exfiltration malware
- Adjust firewall settings in the event that a third party gets hit with a cyber attack
What Is a Next-Generation Firewall?
In some ways, a next-generation firewall (NGFW) is simply a more advanced firewall, one that can detect more threats than a traditional firewall. But what makes an NGFW unique is the technologies it uses to stop threats.
For example, a NGFW can detect threats based on their behavior instead of the contents of each data packet. They often use machine learning (ML) to automate this process because ML can establish patterns of acceptable and unacceptable data packet behavior to determine which packets to discard.
Next-Generation Firewall vs. Traditional Firewall
The term “traditional firewall” often refers to a stateful firewall, which stops threats by first establishing what safe and unsafe states are. The “state” of a network refers to how it operates and the data flowing through it at a given point. If there’s network activity that could put the system out of a safe state, a traditional firewall will reject data packets that could pose a threat.
This also includes determining safe and unsafe files and data packets. If a traditional firewall detects malware that has been registered in its system, for example, it will automatically reject that data, not allowing it to pass through.
A NGFW, on the other hand, can go beyond relying only on states or threat signatures to protect a network. As previously mentioned, it can use ML to pinpoint and stop threats.
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