Firewall monitoring is an important part of maintaining strict network security. Every firewall device has an important role to play protecting the network, and unexpected flaws or downtime can put the entire network at risk.
Firewall monitoring solutions provide much-needed visibility into the status and behavior of your network firewall setup. They make the security of your IT infrastructure observable, enabling you to efficiently deploy resources towards managing and securing traffic flows. This is especially important in environments with multiple firewall hardware providers, where you may need to verify firewalls, routers, load balancers, and more from a central interface.
Every firewall in your network is a checkpoint that verifies traffic according to your security policy. Firewall monitoring software assesses the performance and reports the status of each firewall in the network.
This is important because a flawed or defective firewall can’t do its job properly. In a complex enterprise IT environment, dedicating valuable resources to manually verifying firewalls isn’t feasible. The organization may have hardware firewalls from Juniper or Cisco, software firewalls from Check Point, and additional built-in operating system firewalls included with Microsoft Windows.
Manually verifying each one would be a costly and time-consuming workflow that prevents limited security talent from taking on more critical tasks. Additionally, admins would have to wait for individual results from each firewall in the network. In the meantime, the network would be exposed to vulnerabilities that exploit faulty firewall configurations.
Firewall monitoring software solves this problem using automation. By compressing all the relevant data from every firewall in the network into a single interface, analysts and admins can immediately detect security threats that compromise firewall security.
AlgoSec enables security teams to visualize and manage complex hybrid networks. It uses a holistic approach to provide instant visibility to the entire network’s security configuration, including cloud and on-premises infrastructure. This provides a single pane of glass that lets security administrators preview policies before enacting them and troubleshoot issues in real-time.
Wireshark is a widely used network protocol analyzer. It can capture and display the data traveling back and forth on a network in real-time. While it’s not a firewall-specific tool, it’s invaluable for diagnosing network issues and understanding traffic patterns. As an open-source tool, anyone can download WireShark for free and immediately start using it to analyze data packets.
PRTG is known for its user-friendly interface and comprehensive monitoring capabilities. It supports SNMP and other monitoring methods, making it suitable for firewall monitoring. Although it is an extensible and customizable solution, it requires purchasing a dedicated on-premises server.
SolarWinds offers a suite of network management tools, and their Firewall Security Manager is specifically designed for firewall monitoring and management. It helps with firewall rule analysis, change management, and security policy optimization. It is a highly configurable enterprise technology that provides centralized incident management features. However, deploying SolarWinds can be complex, and the solution requires specific on-premises hardware to function.
FireMon is a firewall management and analysis platform. It provides real-time visibility into firewall rules and configurations, helping organizations ensure that their firewall policies are compliant and effective. FireMon minimizes security risks related to policy misconfigurations, extending policy management to include multiple security tools, including firewalls.
ManageEngine’s OpManager offers IT infrastructure management solutions, including firewall log analysis and reporting. It can help you track and analyze traffic patterns, detect anomalies, and generate compliance reports. It is intuitive and easy to use, but only supports monitoring devices across multiple networks with its higher-tier Enterprise Edition. It also requires the installation of on-premises hardware.
Tufin SecureTrack is a comprehensive firewall monitoring and management solution. It provides real-time monitoring, change tracking, and compliance reporting for firewalls and other network devices. It can automatically discover network assets and provide comprehensive information on network assets, but may require additional configuration to effectively monitor complex enterprise networks.
If you’re using Cisco firewalls, the Firepower Management Center offers centralized management and monitoring capabilities. It provides insights into network traffic, threats, and policy enforcement. Cisco simplifies network management and firewall monitoring by offering an intuitive centralized interface that lets admins control Cisco firewall devices directly.
Symantec (now part of Broadcom) offers firewall appliances with built-in monitoring and reporting features. These appliances are known for providing comprehensive coverage to endpoints like desktop workstations, laptops, and mobile devices. Symantec also provides some visibility into firewall configurations, but it is not a dedicated service built for this purpose.
Fortinet’s FortiAnalyzer is designed to work with Fortinet’s FortiGate firewalls. It provides centralized logging, reporting, and analysis of network traffic and security events. This provides customers with end-to-end visibility into emerging threats on their networks and even includes useful security automation tools. It’s relatively easy to deploy, but integrating it with a complex set of firewalls may take some time.
Your firewalls are your first line of defense against cyberattacks, preventing malicious entities from infiltrating your network. Threat actors know this, and many sophisticated attacks start with attempts to disable firewalls or overload them with distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.
Without a firewall monitoring solution in place, you may not be aware such an attack is happening until it’s too late. Even if your firewalls are successfully defending against the attack, your detection and response team should be ready to start mitigating risk the moment the attack is launched.
Firewalls can add strain and latency to network traffic. This is especially true of software firewalls, which have to draw computing resources from the servers they protect. Over time, network congestion can become an expensive obstacle to growth, creating bottlenecks that reduce the efficiency of every device on the network. Improperly implemented firewalls can play a major role in these bottlenecks because they have to verify every data packet transferred through them.
With firewall monitoring, system administrators can assess the impact of firewall performance on network traffic and use that data to more effectively balance network loads. Organizations can reduce overhead by rerouting data flows and finding low-cost storage options for data they don’t constantly need access to.
If attackers manage to break through your defenses and disable your firewall, you will want to know immediately. Part of having a strong security posture is building a multi-layered security strategy. Your detection and response team will need real-time updates on the progress of active cyberattacks. They will use this information to free the resources necessary to protect the organization and mitigate risk.
Organizations that don’t have real-time firewall monitoring in place won’t know if their firewalls fail against an ongoing attack. This can lead to a situation where the CSIRT team is forced to act without clear knowledge about what they’re facing.
Poor network performance can have a profound impact on the profitability of an enterprise-sized organization. Drops in network quality cost organizations more than half a million dollars per year, on average. Misconfigured firewalls can contribute to poor network performance if left unaddressed while the organization grows and expands its network.
Properly monitoring the performance of the network requires also monitoring the performance of the firewalls that protect it. System administrators should know if overly restrictive firewall policies prevent legitimate users from accessing the data they need.
Firewall monitoring helps ensure security policies are implemented and enforced in a standardized way throughout the organization. They can help discover the threat of shadow IT networks made by users communicating outside company-approved devices and applications. This helps prevent costly security breaches caused by negligence.
Advanced firewall monitoring solutions can also help security leaders create, save, and update policies using templates. The best of these solutions enable security teams to preview policy changes and research elaborate “what-if” scenarios, and update their core templates accordingly.
When considering a firewall monitoring service, enterprise security leaders should evaluate their choice based on the following features:
Ensure the software can grow with your network to accommodate future needs. Ideally, both your firewall setup and the monitoring service responsible for it can grow at the same pace as your organization.
Pay close attention to the way the organization itself is likely to grow over time. A large government agency may require a different approach to scalability than an acquisition-oriented enterprise with many separate businesses under its umbrella.
Look for software that allows you to tailor security rules to your specific requirements. Every organization is unique. The appropriate firewall configuration for your organization may be completely different than the one your closest competitor needs. Copying configurations and templates between organizations won’t always work.
Your network monitoring solution should be able to deliver performance insights fine-tuned to your organization’s real needs. If there are gaps in your monitoring capabilities, there are probably going to be gaps in your security posture as well.
Compatibility with your existing network infrastructure is essential for seamless operation. This is another area where every organization is unique. It’s very rare for two organizations to use the same hardware and software tools, and even then there may be process-related differences that can become obstacles to easy integration.
Your organization’s ideal firewall monitoring solution should provide built-in support for the majority of the security tools the organization uses. If there are additional tools or services that aren’t supported, you should feel comfortable with the process of creating a custom integration without too much difficulty.
Comprehensive reporting features provide insights into network activity and threats. It should generate reports that fit the formats your analysts are used to working with. If the learning curve for adopting a new technology is too high, achieving buy-in will be difficult.
The best network monitoring solutions provide a wide range of reports into every aspect of network and firewall performance. Observability is one of the main drivers of value in this kind of implementation, and security leaders have no reason to accept compromises here.
Real-time network traffic monitoring reduces security risks and enables faster, more significant performance improvements at enterprise scale. Security professionals and network engineers need access to clear, high-quality insight on data flows and network performance, and AlgoSec delivers.
One way AlgoSec deepens the value of network monitoring is through the ability to connect applications directly to security policy rules. When combined with real-time alerts, this provides deep visibility into the entire network while reducing the need to conduct time-consuming manual queries when suspicious behaviors or sub-optimal traffic flows are detected.
These software solutions manage firewalls so they can identify malicious traffic flows more effectively. They connect multiple hardware and software firewalls to one another through a centralized interface. Administrators can gather information on firewall performance, preview or change policies, and generate comprehensive reports directly. This enables firewalls to detect more sophisticated malware threats without requiring the deployment of additional hardware.
Regular updates are vital to stay protected against evolving threats. When your firewall vendor releases an update, it often includes critical security data on the latest emerging threats as well as patches for known vulnerabilities. Without these updates, your firewalls may become vulnerable to exploits that are otherwise entirely preventable. The same is true for all software, but it’s especially important for firewalls.
While highly effective, no single security solution is infallible. Organizations should focus on combining firewall monitoring software with other security measures to create a multi-layered security posture. If threat actors successfully disable or bypass your firewalls, your detection and response team should receive a real-time notification and immediately begin mitigating cyberattack risk.
Open-source options can be cost-effective, but they may require more technical expertise to configure and maintain. This is especially true for firewall deployments that rely on highly customized configurations. Open-source architecture can make sense in some cases, but may present challenges to scalability and the affordability of hiring specialist talent later on.
Regularly review and adjust your firewall rules to avoid false positives. Sophisticated firewall solutions include features for reducing false positives, while simpler firewalls are often unable to distinguish genuine traffic from malicious traffic. Advanced firewall monitoring services can help you optimize your firewall deployment to reduce false positives without compromising security.
Firewalls can address many security threats, from distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks to highly technical cross-site scripting attacks. The most sophisticated firewalls can even block credential-based attacks by examining outgoing content for signs of data exfiltration. Firewall monitoring allows security leaders to see these processes in action and collect data on them, paving the way towards continuous security improvement and compliance.
Advanced firewalls are capable of identifying VPN connections and enforcing rules specific to VPN traffic. However, firewalls are not generally capable of decrypting VPN traffic, which means they must look for evidence of malicious behavior outside the data packet itself. Firewall monitoring tools can audit VPN connections to determine if they are harmless or malicious in nature, and enforce rules for protecting enterprise assets against cybercriminals equipped with secure VPNs.
Centralizing the management of network devices is the best way to ensure optimal network performance in a rapid, precise way. Organizations that neglect to centralize firewall and network device management have to manually interact with increasingly complex fleets of network hardware, software applications, and endpoint devices. This makes it incredibly difficult to make changes when needed, and increases the risks associated with poor change management when they happen.
Some of the important parameters to pay attention to include the volume of connections from new or unknown IP addresses, the amount of bandwidth used by the organization’s firewalls, and the number of active sessions on at any given time. Port information is especially relevant because so many firewall rules specify actions based on the destination port of incoming traffic. Additionally, network administrators will want to know how quickly they receive notifications about firewall issues and how long it takes to resolve those issues.
Bandwidth monitoring allows system administrators to find out which users and hosts consume the most bandwidth, and how network bandwidth is shared among various protocols. This helps track network performance and provides visibility into security threats that exploit bandwidth issues. Denial of service (DoS) attacks are a common cyberattack that weaponizes network bandwidth.
Cloud-based firewall monitoring uses software applications deployed as cloud-enabled services while on-premises solutions are physical hardware solutions. Physical solutions must be manually connected to every device on the network, while cloud-based firewall monitoring solutions can automatically discover assets and IT infrastructure immediately after being deployed.
Updating firewall configurations is an important part of maintaining a resilient security posture. Organizations that fail to systematically execute configuration changes on all assets on the network run the risk of forgetting updates or losing track of complex policies and rules. Automated firewall monitoring solutions allow admins to manage configurations more effectively while optimizing change management.
Monitoring tools offer much-needed visibility to IT professionals who need to address network problems. These tools help IT teams narrow down the potential issues and focus their time and effort on the most likely issues first. Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) monitoring uses a client-server application model to collect information running on network devices. This provides comprehensive data about network devices and allows for automatic discovery of assets on the network.
Microsoft Windows includes simple firewall functionality in its operating system platform, but it is best-suited to personal use cases on individual endpoints. Organizations need a more robust solution for configuring and enforcing strict security rules, and a more comprehensive way to monitor Windows-based networks as a whole. Platforms like AlgoSec help provide in-depth visibility into the security posture of Windows environments.
Firewall monitoring tools provide observability to cloud-based storage and computing services like AWS and Azure. Cloud-native monitoring solutions can ingest network traffic coming to and from public cloud providers and make that data available for security analysts. Enterprise security teams achieve this by leveraging APIs to automate the transfer of network performance data from the cloud provider’s infrastructure to their own monitoring platform.
Since firewalls inspect every packet of data traveling through the network perimeter, they play a critical role detecting and mitigating many different threats and attacks. Simple firewalls can block unsophisticated denial-of-service (DoS) attacks and detect known malware variants. Next-generation firewalls can prevent data breaches by conducting deep packet analysis, identifying compromised applications and user accounts, and even blocking sensitive data from leaving the network altogether.
Network segmentation protects organizations from catastrophic data breaches by ensuring that even successful cyberattacks are limited in scope. If attackers compromise one part of the network, they will not necessarily have access to every other part. Security teams achieve segmentation in part by effectively managing network IP addresses according to a robust security policy and verifying the effects of policy changes using monitoring software.
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