Are network firewalls adequately managed in today's complex environment?
For more than two decades, we have been utilizing network firewalls, yet we’re still struggling to properly manage them. In today’s world of information-driven businesses there’s a lot more that can go wrong— and a lot more to lose—when it comes to firewalls, firewall policy management and overall network security. Network environments have become so complex that a single firewall configuration change can take the entire network offline and expose your business to cyber-attacks.
Why you need firewall change management processes
Improperly managed firewalls create some of the greatest business risks in any organization, however often you don’t find out about these risks until it is too late. Outdated firewall rules can allow unauthorized network access which result in cyber-attacks and gaps in compliance with industry and government regulations, while improper firewall rule changes can break business applications.
Often, it is simple errors and oversights in the firewall change management process that cause problems, such as opening the network perimeter to security exploits and creating business continuity issues. Therefore, firewall configuration changes present a business challenge that you need to address properly once and for all.
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Firewall change management FAQs
Frequently asked questions about the firewall change management process
How can I manage firewall changes?
In IT, things are constantly in a state of flux. The firewall change management process is one of the biggest problems that businesses face, however, if you can manage the firewall configuration changes consistently over time, then you’ve already won half the battle. You’ll not only have a more secure network environment, but you will allow IT to serve its purpose by facilitating business rather than getting in the way. To manage firewall changes properly, it’s critical to have well-documented and reasonable firewall policies and procedures, combined with automation controls, such as AlgoSec’s security policy management solution, to help with enforcement and oversight. With AlgoSec you can automate the entire firewall change management process:
- Process firewall changes with zero-touch automation in minutes, instead of days – from planning and design through to deployment on the device – while maintaining full control and ensuring accuracy
- Leverage topology awareness to identify all the firewalls that are affected by a proposed change
- Proactively assess the impact of every firewall change before it is implemented to ensure security and continuous compliance with regulatory and corporate standards
- Automate rule recertification processes while also identifying firewall rules which are out of date, unused or unnecessary
- Reconcile change requests with the actual changes performed, to identify any changes that were performed “out of band”
- Automatically document the entire firewall change management workflow
It is also important to analyze the impact firewall changes will have on the business. The ideal way is to utilize AlgoSec’s firewall policy management solution to test different scenarios before pushing them out to production. Once AlgoSec and your processes are integrated with your overall change management workflow, you can set your business up for success instead of creating a “wait and see” situation, and “hoping” everything works out. Simply put, if you don’t have the proper insight and predictability, then you’ll set up your business and yourself for failure.
How can I assess the risk of my firewall policies?
As networks become more complex and firewall rulesets continue to grow, it becomes increasingly difficult to identify and quantify the risk caused by misconfigured or overly permissive firewall rules. A major contributor to firewall policy risks is lack of understanding of exactly what the firewall is doing at any given time. Even if traffic is flowing and applications are working, it doesn’t mean you don’t have unnecessary exposure. All firewall configuration changes either move your network towards better security or increased risks. Even the most experienced firewall administrator can make mistakes.
Therefore, the best approach for minimizing firewall policy risks is to use automated firewall policy management tools to help find and fix the security risks before they get out of control. Automated firewall policy management tools, such as AlgoSec, employ widely-accepted firewall best practices and can analyze your current environment to highlight gaps and weaknesses. AlgoSec can also help tighten overly permissive rules (e.g., “ANY” service) by pinpointing the traffic that is flowing through any given rule. Combining policy analysis with the right tools allows you to be proactive with firewall security rather than finding out about the risks once it’s too late.
How can I maintain optimized firewall rulesets?
Maintaining a clean set of firewall rules is one of the most important functions in network security. Unwieldy rulesets are not just a technical nuisance—they also create business risks, such as open ports and unnecessary VPN tunnels, conflicting rules that create backdoor entry points, and an enormous amount of unnecessary complexity. In addition, bloated rulesets significantly complicate the auditing process, which often involves a review of each rule and its related business justification.
This creates unnecessary costs for the business and wastes precious IT time. Examples of problematic firewall rules include unused rules, shadowed rules, expired rules, unattached objects and rules that are not ordered optimally (e.g. the most hit rule is at the bottom of the policy, creating unnecessary firewall overhead). Proactive and periodic checks can help eliminate rule base oversights and allow you to maintain a firewall environment that facilitates security rather than exposes weaknesses. To effectively manage your firewall rulesets, you need the right firewall administrator tools, such as AlgoSec, that will provide you with the visibility needed to see which rules can be eliminated or optimized, and what the implications are of removing or changing a rule.
AlgoSec can also automate the change process, eliminating the need for time-consuming and inaccurate manual checks. You also need to ensure that you manage the rulesets on all firewalls. Picking and choosing certain firewalls is like limiting the scope of a security assessment to only part of your network. Your results will be limited, creating a serious false sense of security. It’s fine to focus on your most critical firewalls initially, but you need to address the rulesets across all firewalls eventually.
Additional use cases
AlgoSec’s Firewall Policy Management Solution supports the following use-cases:
Auditing and Compliance
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Integrate security with your DevOps tools, practice, and methodology enabling faster deployment of your business applications into production.