11 things your company firewall absolutely must do

by | Jan 29, 2016 | Security

Do you know the role of your company firewall?

With the proliferation of cloud computing and Web 2.0 technologies, a company firewall now has another challenge to contend with—application control.

Traditional stateful packet inspection firewalls focus on blocking network layer threats by evaluating the ports and protocols used by network layer traffic. The latest Next-Generation Firewalls utilize deep packet inspection to scan the entire packet payload to provide advanced intrusion prevention, anti-malware, content filtering and anti-spam. Many applications are delivered over the Web sharing common ports and HTTP or HTTPS protocols. This effectively leaves traditional firewalls blind to these applications and unable to prioritize productive and secure versus unproductive and potentially insecure traffic. Next-Generation Firewalls provide insight into the applications themselves, providing a critical capability for networking professionals.

This additional control enhances compliance and data leakage prevention by identifying applications based on their unique signatures rather than ports or protocols.

This is accomplished by visualizing application traffic to determine usage patterns and then creating granular policies for applications, users or even groups of users, as well as time of day and other variables, for flexible control that can fit any network requirement.

1ST THING YOUR COMPANY FIREWALL SHOULD DO:
CONTROL THE APPLICATIONS ON THE NETWORK

You want to make sure all of your employees are using the latest version of Internet Explorer. Your mission is to ensure all employees launching IE6 or IE7 are automatically redirected to the IE8 download site and restricted from all other Web access. Your possible solutions include:

  • Physically check every system each day for the Web browser version
  • Write a custom script to automatically check browser versions
  • Set up a policy with Application Intelligence and Control—and stop worrying

Create a policy to redirect IE6 or IE7 users to download the latest IE browser, and block Internet access for IE6 or IE7

  1. The Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) engine looks for User Agent = IE 6.0 or User Agent = IE 7.0 in the HTTP header
  2. The policy redirects IE6 or IE7 users to the IE8 download site, while blocking access for IE6 or IE7 to any other Web sites

2ND THING YOUR COMPANY FIREWALL SHOULD DO:
MANAGE THE BANDWIDTH FOR CRITICAL APPLICATIONS

Many mission-critical applications, such as Live Meeting, Salesforce.com and SharePoint, are cloud-based, or run across geographically dispersed networks. Ensuring these applications have priority over unproductive Web surfing improves business productivity.
Create a policy to give bandwidth priority to the Live Meeting application

  1. The Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) engine looks for the application signature or application name
  1. Assign the Live Meeting application a higher bandwidth priority

3RD THING YOUR COMPANY FIREWALL SHOULD DO:
BLOCK PEER-TO-PEER APPLICATIONS

Unproductive peer-to-peer (P2P) applications such as BitTorrent are often used to download unlicensed versions of copyrighted media, and can quickly consume bandwidth or transmit malware. However, the creation of new P2P applications, or simple changes (e.g., version numbers) to the existing P2P applications happen all the time so it is difficult to manually block any single P2P application.
Create a policy to block the use of P2P applications

  1. The Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) engine uses pre-defined P2P application signatures from the application signature list
  2. Choose the P2P applications from the predefined signature list
  3. Apply the policy to all users
  4. Block P2P applications through bandwidth and time-based restrictions

4TH THING YOUR COMPANY FIREWALL SHOULD DO:
BLOCK UNPRODUCTIVE COMPONENTS OF APPLICATIONS

Social networking applications such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have become new channels of communications for individuals and for companies. While it might be counterproductive to block all social networking applications, you may want to control how they can be used in the workplace.

For example, you may want to let marketing personnel update the company’s Facebook page, but not allow them to play Facebook games like Farmville or Mafia Wars. With application intelligence and control, you can create a policy to allow access to Facebook, but block games.
Create a policy to allow Facebook, but block Facebook games

  1. Select “All” users
  2. Select Facebook games applications as a category
  3. Create a single rule to “Block” all users from accessing games within Facebook

5TH THING:
VISUALIZE YOUR APPLICATION TRAFFIC

What’s happening on my network? Who’s wasting my bandwidth? Why is my network so slow? Have you ever asked yourself any of these questions? You could use a combination of separate tools to try to get answers, but this process is time consuming, and will only provide you with information after-the fact. With real-time visualization of application traffic, you can answer these questions instantly, quickly diagnose issues, detect out-of compliance network usage, create appropriate policies and immediately see the effectiveness of these policies.
View all traffic in real-time by logging into the  Application Flow Monitor

  1. View real-time graphs of all application traffic
  2. View real-time graphs of ingress and egress bandwidth
  3. View real-time graphs of Web sites visited and all user activity
  4. Create your own filtering that gives you the most relevant Information

6TH THING YOUR COMPANY FIREWALL SHOULD DO:
MANAGE BANDWIDTH FOR A GROUP OF USERS

What do you do if your CEO complains that the business news videos that he wants to watch every morning are choppy and won’t play correctly?  After investigation, you determine that it’s due to a company-wide bandwidth management policy that you implemented for all streaming video? You could ease off on the bandwidth restrictions for everyone, but now there is a better answer: group-based bandwidth management.
Create a policy to exclude the executive team from streaming video bandwidth management

  1. Choose the executive group imported from your LDAP server
  2. The Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) engine uses pre-defined streaming video application signatures from the application signature list
  3. Apply bandwidth restriction to traffic with that header
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE:  Don't Become the Next Cybercrime Statistic

7TH THING YOUR COMPANY FIREWALL SHOULD DO:
BLOCK VIRUSES FROM ENTERING YOUR NETWORK

Network security must be at the forefront of any IT administrator’s focus. The ability to prevent malware such as viruses, spyware, keyloggers, Trojans and intrusion attempts from entering the network at the gateway relieves the organization from great risk and spares potentially wasted resources.

Next generation security services, running on the high-performance and ultra-low-latency architecture firewalls, are capable of blocking millions of threats from entering the network, before they become a danger to your users. If your users connect an infected laptop to the network, if setup properly, next generation firewalls are capable of blocking the propagation of that malware within the department and within the rest of the organization.

8TH THING YOUR COMPANY FIREWALL SHOULD DO:
IDENTIFY CONNECTIONS BY COUNTRY

Is a connection to an IP in a foreign country from your local neighborhood office or a branch site just a benign connection from somebody browsing on the Web, or is it botnet activity? You can use application intelligence as a powerful forensics tool to identify exactly what’s happening on your network.


View connections by country or create country specific filters

  1. Check which applications are connecting to IPs in other countries
  2. See which users and which computers are connecting to IPs other countries
  3. Create filters to restrict traffic to countries specified by you, with exclusion lists

Once you know the answer to the question, you can talk to the user, inspect the machine with the offending IP address, or enable a packet capture utility on the firewall to analyze exactly what’s going over that connection. With application intelligence  and control, you can identify and address problems that you might not have been aware of otherwise.

9TH THING YOUR COMPANY FIREWALL SHOULD DO:
PREVENT LEAKS OVER EMAIL

In some companies, outbound email does not pass through their Email Security system, or that system does not check the content of email attachments. In either case “company confidential” attachments can easily leave the organization. Since outbound network traffic goes through your firewall, you can detect and block this “data-in-motion”.

Create a policy to block email attachments, which contain the “company confidential” watermark The Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) engine looks for:

  1. Email content = “Company confidential” and
  2. Email content = “Company proprietary” and
  3. Email content = “Private proprietary”, etc.

10TH THING YOUR COMPANY FIREWALL SHOULD DO:
PREVENT LEAKS OVER WEB MAIL

Now, let’s assume your existing anti-spam protection can detect and block a normal outbound email that contains “company confidential” information. But what if an employee uses a Web Mail service, such as Yahoo or Gmail, to send out “Company Confidential” information?

Create a policy to block “company confidential” attachments in Web traffic

  1. The Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) engine looks for “company confidential” on files transferred via http or https
  2. Block message and notify the sender that the message is “company confidential”

11TH THING YOUR COMPANY FIREWALL SHOULD DO:
MANAGE BANDWIDTH FOR STREAMING AUDIO AND VIDEO

Access to streaming video from sites such as YouTube.com is sometimes useful, but is often abused. Blocking these sites might work, but a preferable approach is to limit the total bandwidth given to streaming video, regardless of where it comes from. This also applies to streaming audio sites such online music radio stations and personalized music playlist sites. This traffic doesn’t necessarily need to come from well-known sites, but can also be hosted by blogs. Thus, the goal is to identify this traffic by what it is, rather by its origin. Deep Packet Inspection excels at this process.

Create a policy to limit streaming audio and streaming video by predefined signature list 

  1. Select Streaming Video and Streaming Audio as application categories
  2. Set the amount of bandwidth that you want to allocate to these application categories (e.g., 10%)
  3. Create a rule that enforces Streaming Video and Streaming Audio to consume a maximum of 10% of bandwidth for everyone (perhaps excluding particular department groups, such as those in the training group)
  4. Optionally, schedule the rule to be effective during standard business hours, but not during lunch hours or after 6 p.m.
  5. Confirm the effectiveness of your new policy with real-time Visualization by logging into the Application Flow Monitor

Want to learn more about optimizing your company firewall? Contact us today.

Tracy Rock is the Director of Marketing at Invenio IT. Tracy is responsible for all media-related initiatives as well as external communications—including, branding, public relations, promotions, advertising and social media. She is one busy lady and we are lucky to have her!

subscribe

Business Continuity Newsletter

Join over 17,000 subscribers and receive weekly business continuity news, tips & advice to protect your business.

You have Successfully Subscribed!