In the not too distant past, security tools focused on anti-virus/anti-malware software and a good firewall in order to defend the network. Today, the focus of security has shifted a bit to protecting the data directly rather putting all the emphasis on defending the perimeter. I still hear “have good AV software” when experts provide tips on practicing good security, but it seems like firewalls don’t have the same level of importance as they once did.
Well, as football announcer Lee Corso would say, “Not so fast, my friend.” FireMon recently released its second annual State of the Firewall Report, and it found that not only are firewalls still a very important tool for any security system, the time has come to start thinking about the next generation of firewalls.
Even if firewalls aren’t making the top of the security list anymore, IT professionals certainly rely on them in their security systems, with 91 percent revealing that firewalls are as critical as ever or more critical than ever to their security architecture and expect that to be the case over the next few years at least. Firewalls are especially vital to cloud security efforts, two-thirds of respondents said.
Next Generation Firewalls (NGFWs) are slowly making their way into security systems. According to Tech Target, NGFW:
integrate three key assets: enterprise firewall capabilities, an intrusion prevention system (IPS) and application control. Like the introduction of stateful inspection in first-generation firewalls, NGFWs bring additional context to the firewall’s decision-making process by providing it with the ability to understand the details of the Web application traffic passing through it and taking action to block traffic that might exploit vulnerabilities.
The study also revealed that NGFWs represent at least 50 percent of current firewall infrastructure in nearly half of the organizations surveyed, compared to 34 percent last year. The percentage of organizations with no NGFWs in place decreased to just 6.7 percent.
In a formal statement, Jody Brazil, co-founder and chief product strategy officer at FireMon, made it clear that firewalls are as important today as they were five or 10 or 20 years ago. But like all technology, they have to evolve to keep up with today’s threats and computing environment. Brazil added:
Adoption of SDN and network virtualization in general won't decrease the need for firewalls, but it may open the door to advancements or a new category of network protection. It will be more of a continuous evolution rather than a complete upheaval as so many are quick to claim.
Protecting the data and protecting the perimeter need to happen in tandem, not as separate efforts. Firewalls, especially NGFWs, need to be part of any good security system as a first line of defense.
Sue Marquette Poremba has been writing about network security since 2008. In addition to her coverage of security issues for IT Business Edge, her security articles have been published at various sites such as Forbes, Midsize Insider and Tom's Guide. You can reach Sue via Twitter: @sueporemba.