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General infortamtion

Most users trust their systems boundlessly and they doubt that their data can ever be stolen and fall into the wrong hands because they are not aware of the risks.


Firewall protection systems have accompanied the development of network since the late 1980s. Starting from simple packet filters through statefull firewalls, they have evolved to become the current Next Generation Firewalls and Unified Threat Management (UTM) integrated systems.

A breakthrough in the market of firewall systems, which occured in recent years, consisted in the increase in their efficiency. As a result, they ceased to be the systems installed only at the point of contact with the Internet or in segments with small data flows. The introduction of firewalls with the capacity of several dozen or several hundred gigabits (Gbps) makes it possible to install them in the cores of many networks – thus creating another layer of protection of IT resources. At the same time, it greatly simplifies security management. Instead of many dispersed security points that have been installed in the access layer so far (which was caused by their low efficiency), it is possible to concentrate the inspections at the level of the cluster in the core of the network.

"By 2020, around 60% of businesses providing online services will suffer heavily because of the lack of solutions and skills of IT teams that would enable them to counteract such threats."

Gartner

NGFW

Nowadays, firewalls are no longer isolated islands, but have become part of a coherent infrastructure of network security and user management. The standard devices, that enabled traffic control at the level of open/closed TCP/UDP port, are being replaced by Next Generation firewalls, which enable traffic control at the level of a given user or group through integration with directory services (LDAP, Active Directory, etc.). As a result, the problem known to many administrators, for example, opening the TCP 80 port which allowed not only for http traffic but also enabled tunnelling of many applications that were harmful to business (e.g. communicators, peer-to-peer traffic), disappears. Currently, it is possible to choose which applications can work using port 80 and to control who and when can use particular applications (based on user data obtained from directory services).

Firewalls are also more and more often integrated with NAC (Network Access Control), SSL VPN and IPS systems – thus enforcing security policies (enforcers).


UTM

If the budget for a security system is limited, the UTM (Unified Threat Management) systems are used more and more frequently. These are devices which, in addition to the firewall function, offer also:

  • SSL VPN,
  • anti-virus and anti-spam protection,
  • Web access control (web filtering),
  • Intrusion Prevention System (IPS),
  • number of protected segments,
  • actual hardware efficiency with policies that protect network-critical traffic and number of sessions in protected networks,
  • protection against failure,
  • IPS system fine-tuning – to minimise the number of False Positive alarms (IPS signals an attack that did not take place), while preventing False Negative situations (an attack took place, but the IPS system did not react),
  • efficiency and number of detection methods – a good IPS system should implement at least a few detection methods. In addition to basic detection based on signatures, heuristic algorithms that are able to block the so-called "zero day" attacks (for which signatures have not yet been created) are required,
  • outbound traffic protection – when the IPS systems come into contact with the Internet network, they usually focus on threats related to inbound traffic. However, their ability to control traffic in order to detect attacks coming from inside of the network is important (e.g. detecting traffic from keyloggers, blocking traffic from BOT-type networks that comes from infected in-house computers),
  • IPSec VPN – a solution built into almost all Firewall solutions available on the market. It is required to configure a VPN client at the station that is granted access,
  • SSL VPN - an increasingly popular access technology based on the SSL / TLS protocol, for which the basic client used for the purpose of connection is a web browser
  • defining detailed rules regarding access to network resources,
  • workstation configuration control,
  • data compression,
  • compatibility with different authentication methods depending on the type of access.

UTM systems are often used in the case of multi-branch companies with dispersed access to the Internet. The frequently non-deterministic efficiency of the UTM systems is their drawback – especially when running an advanced antivirus scan and IPS.


IPS SYSTEMS

The Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS) constitute an indispensable element complementing the firewall in protecting key network segments. They are usually more complex to configure and less deterministic in terms of the supported bandwidth.

The process of selection and configuration of the IPS system should take into account, among others: a well selected and implemented IPS system is not only a security device but it is also a system that helps in inventorying the network and creating the so-called baselines for a properly functioning network. Later on, deviations from baseline characteristics allow to identify worrying trends and events occurring in the network.

Remote access to company's resources (SSL VPN)


For many companies, the capability to provide employees and partners with access to data and applications at any time and in any situation is indispensable in order to operate effectively. Such access requires providing a wide range of functionalities as well as ensuring full control over the transmitted data and the best control over the environment used to establish the connection.

There are two basic technologies for providing such access:

  • IPSec VPN – a solution built into almost all Firewall solutions available on the market. It is required to configure a VPN client at the station that is granted access,
  • SSL VPN – an increasingly popular access technology based on the SSL / TLS protocol, for which the basic client used for the purpose of connection is a web browser


In addition to creating an encrypted and authenticated tunnel, the leading VPN solutions provide a range of functionalities that enhance the usefulness and security of remote access:

  • defining detailed rules regarding access to network resources,
  • workstation configuration control,
  • data compression,
  • compatibility with different authentication methods depending on the type of access.


Benefits

The use of the described solutions assures:

  • protection against known and unknown threats,
  • reduction of the area where potential abuses may occur,
  • full transparency of network traffic,
  • enforcing security policies for local and mobile users.

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