Security architects search for more efficient ways to supply threat protection and combine it with threat detection and cleanup as the defenders of their organisations’ constantly growing attack surfaces. The foundations of these capabilities are often next-generation firewalls ( NGFW ), which serve as the security architecture’s anchor.
Comprehensive threat defence includes firewall, intrusion prevention, antivirus software, and application management. Advanced network security appliances (NGFWs) also examine SSL-encrypted traffic. However, the combination of these operations in some NGFWs might significantly reduce network throughput. To maintain acceptable network service levels, security teams may thus switch off various threat prevention policies when application counts and traffic volumes rise.
Organisations cannot afford to make this sacrifice. The overall average organisational cost of data breaches in the U.S. has reportedly already surpassed $7.35 million, according to a recent survey. 1 NGFWs must provide best-in-class threat prevention without compromising performance at the enterprise edge and in the data centre. NGFWs must address the enterprise’s scalability, cost of ownership, and environmental issues while operating inside a comprehensive, integrated, and automated security architecture.
Identifying Your NGFW Needs
From the network edge to the data centre, across internal segments, and in the cloud, NGFWs are crucial for threat protection. To deliver advanced threat protection wherever it is required and to obtain insight into people, devices, apps, and threats on the network, security teams rely on their NGFWs.
Enterprise edge or data-centre NGFWs should be chosen based on six crucial criteria:
1. Effectiveness of threat protection
A measure of an NGFW’s performance under complete threat protection is called threat protection performance (firewalling, intrusion prevention, antivirus, and application control). The NGFW should be able to maintain performance even when complete threat protection is enabled. However, performance deterioration can occasionally be severe.
For instance, according to Fortinet internal research, signature-matching, an IPS feature, can slow some NGFWs by as much as 30%.
The claims made by several NGFW suppliers on the effectiveness of their threat protection are unclear. It is essential to review documented performance claims carefully to ensure they represent testing under load and with threat protection.
2. The enterprise-wide SSL examination.
Additionally, an enterprise NGFW must function adequately when SSL inspection is on. Today, most business network traffic is encrypted. 2 Malware is being inserted into encrypted packets by cybercriminals taking advantage of the inherent trust and low inspection priority some accord to SSL communication. Through SSL decryption and inspection, such malware can be discovered.
Reduced throughput is the cost of SSL inspection, though. In certain instances, the slowness is severe enough to affect applications that impair customer satisfaction and corporate efficiency.
While all NGFWs incur some throughput effect when SSL is enabled, the better ones will have predictable performance and endure little speed loss. When comparing data sheets, look for openness in the vendor’s SSL performance parameters. They must provide evidence of testing using industry-mandated cyphers (standardised algorithms used to encrypt and decode sensitive information), ideally verified by independent third parties, including AES256-SHA and TLS 1.2.
3. Number of sessions.
Most NGFW appliances have a maximum session capacity of a few million sessions. To support peak connectivity, which in big companies may surpass 100 million concurrent sessions, session capacity is essential as traffic volume and the number of devices connected to the network continue to soar.
NGFWs created for enterprise-scale traffic include a load-balancing architecture that supports high connection rates and provides failover for robustness to achieve high-throughput performance. This is a more economical option than passing traffic via several small-capacity firewalls.
4. Price, performance, and additional operational factors.
Some suppliers scale performance by raising the price and size of their NGFWs, which has the opposite effect. This could not be in line with business trends toward smaller technological footprints. Choose an NGFW that offers the necessary performance in the smallest possible package. This lowers the total cost of ownership (TCO), conserves space and uses less energy, two crucial goals for businesses that care about the environment.
The TCO should also consider the NGFW’s maintenance and support expenses. In this regard, mature technology has an advantage, as does a product from a vendor that has made significant research and development efforts. Owners of NGFWs in this category should anticipate easier installations and a decrease in support requests.
Pay attention to power redundancy and support for 40 GbE and 100 GbE network ports while evaluating the NGFW hardware. These will facilitate migration to higher-capacity networks and promote resilience.
5. Validation by an impartial third party.
Even if the field of network security is continuously developing, no business can afford to take the chance of unproven security advances. Architects should obtain third-party reviews from reputable organisations like NSS Labs rather than only relying on vendor promises. The latter provides thorough test findings and suggestions for NGFWs across a range of use cases, including a data-centre intrusion prevention system (DCIPS), a data-centre firewall (DCFW), and a next-generation intrusion prevention system (NGIPS).
6. Management of a single pane of glass.
Many security architects have selection challenges at the management interface. The management system’s functionality and user interface may have been well-designed. Still, if it is only compatible with NGFW, security teams will have to switch between many dashboards to identify vulnerabilities and counter-attacks. Suppose the NGFW is a component of a significant, integrated security architecture across which it can exchange threat information with other network devices and automatically receive threat intelligence. Is end-to-end visibility and control conceivable?
In addition to being more secure, single-pane-of-glass management is more operationally effective, saving time in administration and money in training.
Making a Priority Checklist for NGFW
Potential trade-offs between security and performance may be on the minds of security architects when they examine NGFW systems. And it’s true—crucial it’s to be able to offer complete threat prevention and SSL inspection with no performance effect.
But there are other things to think about. Compact NGFW solutions that minimise space requirements and are adaptable enough to be deployed in the data centre or on the network edge should be prioritised due to power and space constraints.
The capacity to integrate the NGFW into the broader security architecture, offering end-to-end visibility and the power to communicate threat intelligence between devices automatically, should also be considered by security architects.
Every enterprise security solution is built around the NGFW, which is essential for safeguarding business and customer data. When weighing their alternatives, security architects will be happy to find that one NGFW stands out visibly from the competition.
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Article posted by Global Reports